Section 2.7 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Coaching. Section B reads, “Skill in coaching supervisors and managers on methods and approaches for supporting employee development.”
I have always had a keen interest in coaching of supervisors and managers. I believe their role is pivotal, and their situation is often challenging. Throughout my career, I spent roughly 40% of my time actually working with supervisors in groups and individually to develop and sharpen their skills.
Successful Supervisor Series
From 2016 to 2018 I wrote a series of 100 blog articles specifically aimed at creating more successful supervisors. I am sharing an index of the entire program hereso you can view the topics covered. The index has a link to each article on my blog in case you may be interested in reading up on certain topics. Note: After you call up the document, you will need to click on “enable editing” at the top of the page in order to open the links below.
Use for Training
You may wish to select articles at random or as a function of your interest, or an alternative would be to view one article a day for 100 days. You could use the series as a training program for supervisors.
In that case, I recommend having periodic review sessions to have open discussion on the points that are made. There will likely be counter points to some of my ideas that apply to your situation.
Some examples relating to Employee Development
Most of this series deals with the development of the supervisors themselves, but many of the articles deal with supervisors supporting employee development. I will share links to 10 specific articles here as examples from the series:
I hope this information has been helpful to you. Best of luck on your journey toward outstanding Supervision and Leadership.
Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.
I’m sure you realize that we all negotiate every day of our lives. From the moment the Doctor slapped you on the bottom and you started to cry, you started to negotiate.
Some people envision that to negotiate means to sit across a small table at a car dealer. Of course, that is, but the principles of negotiation are in play in pretty much everything you do.
This is especially true for leaders. The most important test of a leader is how well he or she does at influencing other people to do what needs to be done. In this brief article I will describe my fix on how you can tell the level of your negotiating skill. It is one of my favorite measures for the quality of leadership.
Most leaders exist in a kind of sandwich. They report to someone at a higher level and also supervise other people at lower levels in the organization. Great leaders are experts at negotiating the needs of both groups.
They interpret the needs of the organization from above to the people below in a way that makes most of them understand and appreciate the policies of the larger group.
Simultaneously great leaders advocate well for the needs of individuals reporting to them to levels above in the organization. It is this give and take role that requires constant attention and skill at negotiating well.
Effective negotiating is a science. You can take graduate level courses on this topic or there are numerous books and seminars outlining the various stratagems. You can study the tactics and countermeasures for months and still not be very skilled at negotiating well.
A key attitude for successful negotiations is to recognize that the best ones are where the parties seek out solutions that work for both of them. Too many leaders seek ways to win in negotiations at the expense of the other party. That implies that the other party loses.
The best negotiators keep working to find solutions that work to the advantage of both sides. It is always possible to find ways to have both parties better off.
The most important ingredient for effective negotiating within an organization is credibility. Leaders who are believable to their people and to upper management have more success at negotiating needs in both directions effectively.
So, how does a leader become credible? Here are some tips that can help. (I apologize in advance for the clichés in this list. I decided that using the vernacular is the best way to convey this information succinctly.)
1. Be consistent – people need to know what you stand for, and you need to communicate your own values clearly.
2. Show respect for opinions contrary to yours – other opinions are as valid as yours, and you can frequently find a common middle ground for win-win solutions. This avoids unnecessary acrimony.
3. Shoot straight –speak your truth plainly and without a lot of spin. Get a reputation for telling the unvarnished truth, but do it with compassion. Do not try to snow people – people at all levels have the ability to smell BS very quickly.
4. Listen more than you talk – keep that ratio as much as possible because you are not the fountain of all knowledge. You just might learn something important.
5. Be open and transparent – share as much information as you can as early as possible.
6. Get your facts right – don’t get emotional and bring in a lot of half truths to the argument.
7. Don’t be fooled by the vocal minority – make sure you test to find out if what you are hearing is really shared broadly. Often there are one or two individuals who like to speak for the whole group, and yet they do not share the sentiments of everyone.
8. Don’t panic – there are “Chicken Littles” who go around shouting “The sky is falling” every day. It gets tiresome, and people tune you out eventually.
9. Ask a lot of questions – Socratic and hypothetical questions are more effective methods of negotiating points than making absolute statements of your position.
10. Build Trust: Admit when you are wrong – sometimes you will be.
11. Know when to back off –pressing a losing point to the point of exhaustion is not a good strategy.
12. Give other people the most credit – often the smart thing to do is not claim victory, even if you are victorious.
13. Keep your powder dry for future encounters – there is rarely a final battle in organizations, so don’t burn bridges behind you.
14. Smile – be gracious and courteous always. If you act like a friend, it is hard for people to view you as an enemy.
These are some of the rules to build credibility. If you are familiar with these and practice them regularly, you are probably very effective at negotiating within your organization.
Once you are highly credible, the tactics and countermeasures of conventional negotiating are much more effective.
Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 585-392-7763.
One measure of the greatness of any leader is how well he or she connects with people at all levels.
Some leaders are great at managing relationships upward but lousy at engaging the people who work for them.
This measure is easy to use and is truly indicative of excellence.
Connects Well with People
A good way to evaluate the quality of a leader is to watch the way he or she connects with people both upward and downward. Great leaders are known for being real rather than phony. People describe the great ones as being “a nice person” or “approachable” or “like a friend.”
The idea is the leader does not act aloof and talk down to people. There is no pedestal separating the leader from people in the organization.
There are numerous ways a leader can demonstrate the genuine connection with people. For example, John Chambers, longtime CEO of Cisco worked from a 12X12 foot cubicle and answered his own phone. There was no executive washroom and no corporate plane. He was a master of connecting with people as he roamed the halls of Cisco passing out candy and ice cream.
A more current example is Rich Sheridan of Menlo Innovations. Rich’s latest book “Chief Joy Officer” gives chapter and verse of a culture where the CEO is truly connected to everyone in the organization. If you have not read his incredible story and the impact he is having, pick up a copy of his book.
Other leaders dress more like the workers in jeans. I know one CEO who is more comfortable in a tiedye t-shirt than a suit and tie.
Probably the most helpful way to be connected to people is to walk the deck often. There is a telltale sign that shows whether you are getting enough face time with people.
When you approach a group of workers on the shop or office floor, watch their body language. If they stiffen up and change their posture, you know that your visit is too much of a special event. If the group continues with the same body language, but just welcomes you into the conversation, then you are doing enough walking of the deck.
They used to call this habit MBWA – short for Management By Walking Around. It is, by far, the most enjoyable and easiest way to stay connected with people. I used to love walking up to an employee and asking “What’s the latest rumor.” The neat part is that the employee would tell me.
Likewise, the great leader knows how to stay connected with the people higher in the organization. In this case MBWA does not work too well because there is no real “shop floor” for upper management. Being accessible helps, so know the layout and drop by on occasion to check in, but do not be a pest – there is a fine line.
One suggestion is to experiment with the preferred modes of communication of your superiors. For example I can recall the best way to keep in touch with one of my managers was through voice mail. Another superior would rarely reply to voice mail or e-mail, so I would make sure to stop by to see her in person.
One tip that was helpful to me was to arrive very early in the morning – before any of the upper levels were present. Most executives arrive at work before the general population to prepare for the day and get some quiet work done before the masses arrive.
I would always be in my office working when my manager arrived. There were many occasions when something had to be done to help the manager very early in the morning. Since I was the only one around, I had the opportunity to do little favors for my superior to help her out. Over time, that practice does a lot to enhance trust.
Beating your superior to work consistently demonstrates a kind of dedication. Your manager has no way of knowing when you arrived. You could have gotten there just 5 minutes before her or already been hard at work for an hour.
I always enjoyed having my car make the first set of tracks in the snow of the parking lot. Over time, that built up a helpful reputation for me that paid off in terms of demonstrated dedication.
Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations.
One of my MBA students made a comment once that really caught me off guard. He said “I am the type of person who always does what he thinks is right.” The statement sounded perfectly logical until I thought about it a little more. I wonder if there is a person alive who could not make that same claim.
Invariably, people are going to do what they believe is right at that moment. If there is a better alternative action, then they will do that. Human beings instinctively rationalize all data to come up with the best option now, “all things considered.” In essence, we all wear an invisible “I AM RIGHT” button all day every day.
I started weaving this concept into my leadership classes, because it represents some insight that can help leaders build higher trust, if they understand it. The challenging part is to become smart enough to practice it in the crucible of everyday events. This article will describe the process to become enlightened and how to implement the concept in your life. The ideas in this paper can reduce conflict regardless of one’s position in life, but I will focus the remainder of this article on how leaders can use the concept to increase trust within their span of influence.
Sometimes I run into a leader who claims to not have this problem. He might say, “I have always been a highly participative manager and do not form opinions until I understand what my people are thinking.” Regardless of how much information is gathered in advance, once a leader reaches an understanding of the “right” decision, he then owns that point of view. (Note: In this article, I will use the male pronoun to avoid the awkward “he or she” language, but the logic is gender neutral.)
Another way leaders try to be participative is to send out “test balloons” that sound like this: “I am wondering what you all think about reducing the level of overtime for the next couple months.” The problem here that by simply broaching the question, the leader has put his thumb on the scale, so everyone already knows what he considers the “correct” answer.
Once a leader has reached a conclusion, regardless of how he got there, he owns that opinion, so if someone else has a dissenting point of view, the leader instinctively believes that person is “wrong.” Human nature then takes over, and the leader pushes back on the person who disagrees. This pushback is not reinforcing to the person who disagrees. The leader in some ways punishes the dissenter for having a different opinion.
According to behavior theory, being rewarded for an action will cause more of that behavior in the future and being punished tends to extinguish that behavior in the future. People quickly learn not to cross the leader once his opinion is known. It is just not safe to do it because the leader has positional power and the ability to inflict future pain in numerous ways. This is where the link to trust is critical.
In my leadership work, my favorite quote is, “The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.” My observation is that trust between people will grow easily in an environment of no fear. Creating a culture where people know the leader is not going to punish them for having an opposing view is the best way to reduce fear in an organization.
This is where the I AM RIGHT concept has so much power. If the leader can picture that the person who is not in agreement is also wearing the button, then it reminds the leader to modify his behavior when another person brings up an opposing point. The leader recognizes that he believes his way is right, but also recognizes the other employee believes his view is the correct one.
That understanding can change the conversation from one of defensive pushback and punishment to one of curious inquiry, deep listening, and understanding. The opposing employee will feel rewarded rather than punished. If the leader changes his stance based on the input, then the reward is direct. If the leader considers the alternate seriously but goes with his first instinct, the employee still feels he is rewarded because his points were heard, he was treated like an adult, and he was shown respect. So, regardless of the final decision, trust has been enhanced rather than reduced.
Leaders need to know that the first instinct to defend their initial position may be working against higher trust. They can modify the approach to suspend their own judgment when there is a question or alternate view and truly listen to the opposing view. Asking others what they think about the question will also help to reinforce the nay-sayer, and the trust will still grow. Discussion can also help the employees understand the full set of considerations that went into the decision and therefore appreciate the wisdom of a broader view.
The essential ingredient in this formula for building trust is for the leader to recognize he is wearing the I AM RIGHT Button, but that everyone else has on an invisible I AM RIGHT Button too. The ability to do that is a game changer for leaders who want to have a culture of high trust.
I call this skill “reinforcing candor,” because it is a key behavioral change that has huge impact on the culture. To be able to calmly accept a dissenting view and treat the employee with respect often goes against the gut instinct behaviors. That is why it is so uncommon in real life. If you can learn to do this, you will become one of the elite leaders of our time. It takes practice to do this, so start today and watch the trust level in your organization rise steadily.
Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 600 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, email@example.com or 585.392.7763
In my work, I do a lot with the contrast between leaders and managers. The topic takes on a special meaning for supervisors because the vast majority of time they are called upon to be great managers.
In this article I will contrast the difference between a manager and a leader, then I will make a case that supervisors need to be good leaders as well as managers for at least part of the time.
Here is a set of bullets that help describe the pure Manager’s mindset:
• Managers try to be a stabilizing force
• Make sure all rules are followed
• No waste – process perfection
• Minimize conflict
• Try to make people happy/satisfied
• Would like to be popular/liked
• Clone everyone
• Main tools – budget, MBO, accountability, process control, 6 sigma, lean
• Main objective – accomplish the mission
• Focus is on today
The mindset of a pure leader is very different. Here are some bullets on the Leader’s focus:
• Often a destabilizing force
• Are we following our destiny?
• Are people rising to their potential?
• Not afraid to be unpopular
• Get people out of their comfort zone
• Strives to be respected/trusted
• Always looking for potential – what could we become?
• Main tools – benchmarking, next wave, balance sheet, technology, resources
• Main objective – reach the vision
• Focus is on the future
If my contrasts are correct, the world of the pure leader is a very different place from the world of the pure manager. Supervisors naturally gravitate toward the management mindset because of their role.
Supervisors try to maximize the productivity of existing resources most of the time. They want everyone to show up for work on time. They want everyone to follow the rules, so the process runs exactly how it was designed.
Supervisors sweat the details of making sure everyone gets paid on time and that all workers are properly trained on their function. They also think about bench strength and make sure there is an adequate level of cross training.
Supervisors become the mediators when workers quarrel. They do the reinforcing and coaching of workers so they understand when they are doing well or need to pick up the pace.
Supervisors give the performance feedback and help to set organizational goals. All of these functions are management roles.
It would be a mistake for a supervisor to stop at this point, because there is so much more that could be accomplished by the same group of people if some leadership skills were also employed.
Supervisors are not usually tasked with creating a vision for the organization, however they should be driving how the vision applies to the group being supervised.
In other words, the translation of the big picture vision into a vision for the shop floor is incredibly important.
In reality all supervisors take on management roles at certain times and leadership functions at other times. If you picture a scale from one to ten with one being pure manager and ten being pure leader, supervisors will be at three (dealing with a habitual attendance problem) one minute and then bounce all the way over to eight (envisioning a new method of cross training) the next.
It helps to picture this dynamic variety and recognize it when going about daily tasks.
By the nature of her work, a supervisor will spend more time on average doing tasks on the management end of the scale, but there will be ample time to function in the leader role.
Try to pay attention to the roles you play during your average day, and you will be surprised with the variety of tasks you do. It will enrich your job understanding and satisfaction as you do this little visualization exercise.
Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or 585.392.7763
Is it ever a good leadership to bribe your employees? I recently asked that question in an online leadership class. We got into a very interesting discussion that highlighted the difference between four words that are often confused by managers. Those words are bribe, incentive, reward, and reinforcement. The world will not come to an end if these words are mixed, but since they represent different concepts in motivation theory, it would be wise to use them correctly.
All four of these words have the connotation of influencing people to do the things we would like to have them do. The distinction is that two words typically apply before an action is taken while the other two words usually apply after the action.
The word bribe is a well-known and loaded word. In common usage, it means we are offering people something they want in pre-payment if they will do something that they would not normally do. For example, in some cultures it is expected that airline passengers going through customs will give the customs officer some kind of “tip” in order to process their bags without hassle. That is a bribe, although we would never use the word in front of the customs officer. We have all heard stories of individuals arguing with a policeman about a potential speeding ticket and trying to offer some kind of bribe to have the ticket waived. These individuals often find a bribe is not only unsuccessful, it can lead to dire consequences.
The second type of pre-agreed payment is called an incentive. This is where a leader will challenge people to do more than expected, and they are promised a specific payment if they do it. Usually with incentives, there is no stigma associated with doing something wrong; it is merely an encouragement to do more of what is right.
Sometimes the incentives are built into a compensation plan such that they really don’t appear as separate incentives, but certainly have that same feel. For example, commissions paid for certain levels of sales are types of incentives. They are a promise made ahead of time to pay a certain amount based on the employee performing at a certain level.
When employees perform better than expected, for any number of reasons, leaders often give them extra compensation after the fact. These payments are called rewards. Often, the compensation is a token amount in recognition of the actions by the employee and are not intended to fully pay for the extra effort. Instead, they are a kind of thank you for going the extra mile.
The area of rewards can be a minefield, and there are numerous books on the potential mistakes when trying to reward people. For example, if a leader rewards an individual for a job well done, often other people feel slighted because they expended as much effort or provided more benefit to the organization than the person being rewarded. There are numerous other problems that can come up that can be devastating. It is not uncommon for well intentioned supervisors to create ill will by applying rewards poorly.
A final category is called reinforcement. Like rewards, reinforcement is something that is usually applied after actions have been taken. Reinforcement is more general than rewards. It seeks to make people feel appreciated and thanked for the things they have been doing. Usually reinforcement takes the form of verbal or written praise as opposed to tangible gifts or direct compensation. Reinforcement takes hundreds of different forms and can be as simple as a “thank you” or as complex as a group-wide celebration.
The words discussed in this article are sometimes used inappropriately. One might refer to what was intended as an incentive as some kind of bribe. Or someone might think of a form of reward as being simple recognition. It is instructive to realize there is a difference in behavior modification between promising an incentive ahead of the act versus providing a reward after the act has been completed.
To be an accurate communicator, it is important to use the right words for each application. If one of the four words described above is used in the wrong context, it can send mixed signals about a leader’s intent. That will cause a lowering of trust within the organization, and it will eventually show up on the bottom line.
Be careful when using these words to use them accurately. The concepts involved in behavior modification are critical to having people experience higher motivation as a result of reinforcing actions by leaders. They are powerful concepts, but they can be easily misused.
We are all familiar with the word “toxic” and recognize that toxic substances are known to cause human beings serious injury or death. We are also aware that some individuals have mastered the skill of being toxic to other people. When a toxic person is the leader of an organization, the performance of that unit will typically be less than half what it would be under a leader who builds trust. There is documented evidence (see Trust Across America statistics) that high trust groups outperform low trust groups by a factor of two to five times.
Thankfully, the majority of leaders are not toxic. One estimate given by LTG Walter F. Ulmer in an article entitled “Toxic Leadership” (Army, June 2012) is that 30-50% of leaders are essentially transformational, while only 8-10% are essentially toxic. The unfortunate reality is that one toxic leader in an organization does such incredible damage, he or she can bring down an entire culture without even realizing it.
Why would a leader speak and behave in a toxic way if he or she recognizes the harm being done to the organization. Is it because leaders are just not aware of the link between their behaviors and performance of the group? Is it because they are totally unaware of the fact that their actions are toxic to others? Is it because they are lazy and just prefer to bark out orders rather than work to encourage people? While there are instances where any of these modes might be in play, I think other mechanisms are responsible for most of the lamentable behaviors of toxic leaders.
Toxic leaders do understand that people are generally unhappy working under them. What they fail to see is the incredible leverage they are leaving off the table. They just do not believe there is a better way to manage, otherwise they would do that. If you are in an organization, there is a possibility you are in daily contact with one or more toxic leaders. There are three possibilities here: 1) you have a leader working for you who is toxic, 2) you are a toxic leader yourself, but do not know it or want to admit it, or 3) you are working for a toxic leader or have one higher in the chain of command. I will give some tips you can use for each of these cases.
Toxic Leader Working for you – this person needs to become more aware that he or she is operating at cross purposes to the goals of the organization. Do this through education and coaching. Once awareness is there, then you can begin to shape the behavior through leadership development and reinforcement. It may be that this person is just not a good fit for a leadership role. If the behaviors are not improved, then this leader should be removed.
You are a toxic leader – it is probably not obvious to you how much damage is being done by your treatment of other people. They are afraid to tell you what is actually going on, so you are getting grudging compliance and leaving their maximum discretionary effort unavailable to the organization. The antidote here is to genuinely assess your own level of toxicity and change it if you are not happy with the answer. This can be accomplished through getting a leadership coach or getting some excellent training. Try to read at least one good leadership book every month.
You are working for a toxic leader – in my experience, this is the most common situation. It is difficult and dangerous to retrofit your boss to be less toxic. My favorite saying for this situation is, “Never wrestle a pig. You get all muddy and the pig loves it.” So what can you do that will have a positive impact on the situation without risking loss of employment? Here are some ideas that may help, depending on how severe the problem is and how open minded the boss is:
1. Create a leadership growth activity in your area and invite the boss to participate. Use a “lunch and learn” format where various leaders review some great books on leadership. I would start with some of the Warren Bennis books or perhaps Jim Collins’ Good to Great.
2. Suggest that part of the performance gap is a lack of trust in higher management and get some dialog on how this could be improved. By getting the boss to verbalize a dissatisfaction with the status quo, you can gently shape the issue back to the leader’s behaviors. The idea is to build a recognition of the causal relationship between culture and performance.
3. Show some of the statistical data that is available that links higher trust to greater productivity. The Trust Across America Website is a great source of this information.
4. Bring in a speaker who specializes in improving culture for a quarterly meeting. Try to get the speaker to interface with the problem leader personally offline. If the leader can see some glimmer of hope that a different way of operating would provide the improvements he or she is seeking, then some progress can be made.
5. Suggest some leadership development training for all levels in the organization. Here it is not necessary to identify the specific leader as “the problem,” rather, discuss how improved leadership behaviors at all levels would greatly benefit the organization.
6. Reinforce any small directional baby steps in the right direction the leader inadvertently shows. Reinforcement from below can be highly effective if it is sincere. You can actually shape the behavior of your boss by frequent reminders of the things he or she is doing right.
It is a rare leader who will admit, “Our performance is far off the mark, and since I am in charge, it must be that my behaviors are preventing people from giving the organization their maximum discretionary effort.” Those senior leaders who would seriously consider this statement are the ones who can find ways to change through training and coaching. They are the ones who have the better future. Most toxic leaders will remain with their habits that sap the vital energy from people and take their organizations in exactly the opposite direction from where they want to go.
Another key reason why toxic leaders fail to see the opportunity staring them in the face is a misperception about Leadership Development. The typical comment is, “We are not into the touchy-feely stuff here. We do not dance around the maypole and sing Kum-ba-yah while toasting marshmallows by the campfire.” The problem here is that several leadership training methods in the past have used outdoor experiential training to teach the impact of good teamwork and togetherness. Senior leaders often feel too serious and dignified for that kind of frivolity, so they sit in their offices and honestly believe any remedial training needs to be directed toward the junior leaders.
To reduce the impact of a toxic leader, follow the steps outlined above, and you may be able to make a large shift in performance over time while preserving your job. You can even use this article as food for thought and pass it around the office to generate dialog on how to chart a better future for the organization.
If you do not have at least one active mentor, you are missing a lot. In my experience, having a strong mentor at work made a huge difference in my career. Even in my ripening old age, I am still gaining benefits from the lessons and ideas planted in me by my mentor when I was younger.
There are obvious benefits of having a mentor in an organization.
1. A mentor helps you learn the ropes faster
2. A mentor coaches you on what to do and especially what to avoid.
3. A mentor is an advocate for you in different circles than yours.
4. A mentor cleans up after you have made a mistake and helps protect your reputation.
5. A mentor pushes you when you need pushing and praises you when you need it.
6. A mentor brings wisdom born of mistakes made in the past so you can avoid them.
7. A mentor operates as a sounding board for ideas and methods.
Many organizations have some form of mentoring program. I support the idea of fostering mentors, but the typical application has a low hit rate long term. That is because the mentor programs in most organizations are procedural rather than organic.
A typical mentor program couples younger professionals with more experienced managers after some sort of computerized matching process. The relationship starts out being helpful for both people, but after a few months it has degraded into a burdensome commitment of time and energy. This aspect is accentuated if there are paperwork requirements or other check-box activities. After about six months, the activities are small remnants of the envisioned program.
The more productive programs seek to educate professionals on the benefits of having a mentor and encourage people to find their own match. This strategy works much better because the chemistry is right from the start, and both parties immediately see the huge gains being made by both people. It is a mutually-supported organic system rather than an activities-based approach. It is pretty obvious how the protégé benefits in a mentor relationship, but how does the mentor gain from it?
Mentors gain significantly in the following ways:
1. The mentor focuses on helping the protégé, which is personally satisfying.
2. The mentor can gain information from a different level of the organization that may not be readily available by any other means.
3. The mentor helps find information and resources for the protégé, so there is some important learning going on. The best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else.
4. While pushing the protégé forward in the organization, the mentor has the ability to return some favors owed to other managers.
5. The mentor gains a reputation for nurturing people and can thus attract better people over time.
6. The mentor can enhance his or her legacy in the organization by creating an understudy.
Encourage a strong mentoring program in your organization but steer clear of the mechanical match game and the busywork of an overdone process. Let people recognize the benefits and figure out their optimal relationships.
I often get into conversations in my Leadership courses about the difference between leaders and managers. This article suggests a visual scale that can help you understand your natural tendencies and how you like to operate.
Most of us have heard the old adage (first uttered by Peter Drucker, I believe) that “Managers do things right, and Leaders do the right things.” In leadership classes, I work with groups to develop a list of characteristics that typify managers and leaders. Generalizing the lists, I find that pure managers and pure leaders have completely different mindsets as follows:
The Pure Manager
The manager wants everything to go smoothly. He or she wants every process to run the way it should to get the maximum productivity. There must be no waste. The manager wants everyone to follow all the rules and be there every day motivated to do good work. In essence, the manager wants to stabilize things and clone everything to be exactly right. The manager is all about doing things right, and is most closely associated with the mission of the organization (what they are trying to accomplish today). The manager works with the process, the equipment, the schedule, and the people in terms of what they should be doing. Managers are now oriented.
The Pure Leader
The leader is often a destabilizing force. He or she is most interested in where the organization is going rather than optimizing today’s processes. That may mean making people unhappy for some time in order for the greater good. It often means balancing the needs of different constituencies with opposing needs. For example, satisfying social responsibility needs may mean a short term hit for shareholders, or working to optimize shareholder needs may require unpopular actions for the workforce.
If people are too complacent and do not see the dangers, the leader is there to create a burning platform. Leaders understand the need to sometimes be unpopular, or as Colin Powell likes to say, “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.” The idea is to do the right things, which may mean some pretty difficult decisions. The leader is all about the vision of the organization (where they are trying to go). The leader works with the balance sheet, the strategic plan, the product line, and the people in terms of what they can become. Leaders are future oriented.
This person is able to combine the best of both worlds and act in both roles. All of us act as leaders and managers at times, but each of us favors one mode or the other. A good balance between the two extremes is often the best place to be. In general, the world has far more competent managers than competent leaders, so if you have leadership tendencies, that is a good thing to have. Really great leaders do not mind being average managers. They recognize their limitation and surround themselves with outstanding managers to handle the details.
I think of the leadership – manager issue as a kind of sliding scale. On one extreme is pure leadership, and on the other extreme is pure management. We all operate somewhere on the sliding scale every day. Based on our personal style, we move from one point on the scale to another depending on current needs. Let’s be more specific with the metaphor. Suppose pure leadership is a 10, and pure management is a 1.
I may be writing an e-mail encouraging people to pay attention to our future vision in the actions we take today. While I am writing that note, my mind is operating at about 8 on the scale. I am having a bit of management thought because I am referring to current actions, but the thrust of my note is about following our vision, which is pure leadership.
I finish the note and look up to see a supervisor at my door with an issue. There is an employee with a significant attendance problem that is out of control. I discuss what the supervisor wants to do. He asks for my opinion, and I offer my advice. Here I am operating at about 1 or 2 on the scale because maintaining control and following the rules is pure management.
All day I do things that are partially leadership and partially management. I will share that my personal comfort zone is about 7-8 on the scale. That is where I would naturally spend most of my time if given the chance by circumstances. This metaphor has two important things that can help you:
1. Pay attention to where you are on the scale in any conversation or action. That will help you clarify your role.
2. Learn where your “Sweet spot” is on the scale. If you are a natural 2, then you need someone who is a 7-8 to balance you. If you are a natural 8, then get a 2 to help manage the place.
When coaching other leaders or managers, try to help them see where they are operating at the moment, because it can aid in the dialog. If someone is too near the edges of this scale for too long, that person may be operating with blinders on. Consider mental exercises to bring the person closer to the center of the scale for at least part of the time. Try to align the work you are doing most of the time to play to your strengths, and you will end up doing a better job.