Over the past couple years I have served as the Program Manager at WinShape Teams.
When I was first preparing myself to step into a managerial position, I primarily focused my efforts on areas regarding process management, organizational skills development, and job function training.
I thought I needed to improve upon managerial skills in order to be a better manager. However, as I started integrating more of these tactical practices into my daily routine, I began to notice something unexpected. Many of the people around me were becoming disengaged and less effective in their roles and in their contributions to our organizational community.
I was frustrated and confused by this. I had put so much effort into organizing the team, delegating tasks to the appropriate people, and creating standards for operations. I really thought implementing these managerial practices would make the team better. But it didn’t.
Finding the Line
I realized that more management wasn’t necessarily going to help our team reach its goals. I observed that what my team needed was not for my people to be managed. They wanted to be led. I had tried so hard to manage the team better that I missed an opportunity to lead people better.
I wanted so badly for everything to be organized and done the right way that I neglected to cast compelling vision, invest in relationships, and work with my team’s best intentions in mind. I put myself behind my computer screen rather than in front of human beings. I forgot that while a lot of things require management, people require leadership.
Focus on Leadership
I learned from my early managerial years that true leaders steward their influence to serve and add value to those around them. Leaders engage with and know their people well enough to speak to their needs and passions. Leaders are risk takers and innovators. Leaders think beyond their current reality toward a more preferred future, then get others on board to help make it a reality. They cast vision and unveil purpose. They empower people to unleash their potential and work toward something meaningful.
As the French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, stated, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
Organizational skills are vital, process management is essential, and task orientation is critical for productivity to take place – but these are tools for managers to make things happen with consistency and regularity. The goals I was trying to accomplish with my team could not be accomplished by the completion of tasks or the fulfilment of processes alone. I needed to cast vision, create purpose, and lead others in improving our team and organization.
If we need our organizations to do the same thing we’ve been doing, then management will suffice. But if we want to innovate, inspire, strengthen, spur on health, and reach fulfillment, we need leaders. Effective management often results in better productivity, but effective leadership results in better people, and ultimately better organizations.
You don’t need a title to be a leader, but having a title doesn’t necessarily make you a leader either. It’s important to be intentional about developing both leadership and managerial skills. Learn to steward your responsibility as a manager and your influence as a leader. Here are four great places to start.
Start by Serving
Servant-leadership guru, Robert Greenleaf, said, “The great leader is seen as servant first, and that simple fact is the key to their greatness.” Service is one of the greatest active forces within human engagement. Serving benefits both the servant and the one being served. The servant finds fulfillment in the service of others; the one being served feels valued and is more likely to become a servant. Great leaders serve first.
Managing people gets the job done, but inspiring people accomplishes more. Leaders who inspire a shared and compelling vision are able to create meaningful and lasting purpose behind every task, great or small. If you can give people a reason for their efforts, a reason for their contributions, and reason for their sacrifice, they will embrace and promote the vision.
Leaders understand that relational capital is more valuable than any other incentive. When people feel cared for and emotionally invested in, they are more likely to be engaged and feel connected to the vision. Being relational is more than getting along with people; it’s creating a caring and safe environment for people to live out their passions and giftings. Don’t ask your team to check their humanity at the door.
Establish processes, systems, and frameworks that help people manage the work. Do the nuts and bolts of effective operations. These are tools that are made to serve you, so that you can be free to serve those you lead. Be on time. Don’t overload yourself or those you lead. Always be sure to define roles, tasks, and deadlines.
Remember, effective management often results in better productivity, but effective leadership results in better people, and ultimately better organizations.