Saturday, June 16, 2012

Filling the Leadership Void

So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work. - Peter Drucker

A story is told of a man flying in a hot air balloon who realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots a man down below. He lowers the balloon and shouts, “Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?”

The man below says, “Yes, you are in a hot air balloon hovering about thirty feet from this field.”  “You must work in information technology,” says the balloonist. “I do,” replies the man, “How did you know?”

“Well,” says the balloonist, “everything you have told me is technically correct, but it is of no use to anyone.”
The man below says, “You must work in management.” “I do,” replies the balloonist, “but how did you know?”

“Well, says the man, “you don’t know where you are or where you are going, but you expect me to be able to help you. You are in the same position you were before we met, but now it’s my fault.”

That humorous story illustrates not just the difference between IT and management, but the stereotypes people have about management. Stephen Covey said, “Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.” And while Covey’s definition is an applicable one, a recent study reveals that we’ve lost much ground as of late.

In a story by John Eccleston in Personnel Today, he cites research from The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development revealing there is a “reality gap” between how good managers think they are in their roles and how effective they actually are.

The research reveals that three-quarters of employees report a lack of leadership and management skills, and believe that too many managers have an inflated opinion of their management abilities.  The research highlighted contrasts between how managers said they manage their people and the views of their employees.

Six in 10 said they meet each person they manage at least twice a month to talk about their workload, meeting objectives and other work-related issues. However, just 24 percent of employees say they meet their managers with such frequency. In addition, more than 90 percent of managers said that they sometimes or always coach the people that they manage, but only 40 percent of employees agreed.

The glaring disparity between what managers believe they are doing verses what employee’s say they are is revealing. When asked about the disproportion, Ben Willmott, head of public policy at CIPD said, “Too many employees are promoted into people management roles because they have good technical skills, then receive inadequate training and have little idea how their behavior impacts others.” And he is right. So what steps can be taken to bridge the gap between the necessity of good management and strong leadership? Here are a few tips.

Focus on relationships. Whether you are in management in your office or in another form of leadership within your organization- relationships are critical. Relationships are the gateway to successful coaching, mentoring, and staff development.

The mechanics of office management are what they are and can be mundane, but good relationships are the key to team development. Get out from behind the desk and get to know your people. 

Grow leaders. At the end of the day, it’s leadership that matters. Want to be a good manager? Grow as a leader. Want to be the best salesperson? Grow as a leader. The secret to your success and that of your organization is found in leadership development. 

John Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership” He’s right. The day you discover the secret of leadership is the day every other dimension of your organization begins to improve. How are you developing the leadership skills of your people? 

Be intentional. Think of all of the required components of the operation of your organization. Careful thought and planning goes into goal setting, staffing and payroll, taxes, budgets, etc., but how much time and emphasis is placed on leadership development? John D. Rockefeller said, “Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” 

An average manager becomes superior when shown a better way; the same for average employees. In what ways are you being intentional in the development of your team?

By no means is this an exhaustive list of steps that can be taken, but it’s a start. We do know this, there is a gap between management skills and strong leadership and the gap between the two is taking a toll. It’s time to fill the leadership void.

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

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