There’s a difference between managers and leaders, according to Harvard Business Review. Managers manage work while leaders lead people. When you start and grow a business, you’ll often find yourself doing both.
Every entrepreneur starts off as a manager and strives to become a good leader. It takes time to cultivate effective leadership qualities and think about your company’s vision rather than the mere execution (i.e., management) of different tasks.
When you make a deliberate and intentional choice to become a better manager and leader it is one of the most powerful things you can do for your business. Everything else you do will flow from this decision, and, without question, you’ll make the shift.
David Deacon, author of The Self-Determined Manager: A Manifesto for Exceptional People Managers shares several insights that can help set the course for entrepreneurs who desire to be great managers and aspire to ultimately excel at leadership.
1. Leverage the power of amplification
By virtue of leading people, your words and actions are amplified. Every statement you make may be repeated, every action you take may be emulated, and every expectation you set will be reflected in the work of your team. Amplification can be good or bad, so make sure you remain aware of how anything you are “putting out there” is being received and interpreted.
2. Set high standards
Set your own high standards and strive to live up to them. You are the one who defines professionalism and sets benchmarks—and when you do this, you will be recognized as a role model for others. Remember, however, that recognition is a by-product, not a goal. Do great work because that is the point. Be proactive about developing skills that will help you create the best culture possible for your team.
Each week ask yourself and your team: What can we do better? Set for yourself, and others, high standards of performance and conduct. “Just be sure to always balance the high expectations with encouragement and a positive approach,” says Deacon.
3. Treat your employees like adults
Work is not school. Adults do their best work when they are treated as adults. Therefore, great managers don’t bully, shout, patronize, belittle, name-call, behave aggressively, or condescend. To cultivate a company culture of trust and respect, you must create an environment where adults can do great things.
4. Stop playing favorites
It’s easy to give certain people time and attention, but offer little contact or guidance to others, based on personal preferences rather than focus purely on business dynamics.
This is a problematic approach because a) those in favor can do no wrong regardless of how much (or little) they do or the quality of their work; and b) those out of favor learn to moderate their efforts and simply do enough to stay out of trouble. The result? Employees focus on staying in favor, not on high performance. Resist any urge to have favorites among your team.
5. Have a plan in mind for your team
Do you have a good sense of where each of their people should be headed in their career path with your company? For each employee, look forward and consider:
- Where might they be in a few years’ time: perhaps a bigger job, a different role, or a larger team?
- What they will need to learn now and in the future to support their future growth
- Your own sense of responsibility and accountability to help them make progress
“With great managers, the plan is mainly in their heads, and they can tell you instantly what it is,” says Deacon. “Not in the language of career frameworks and competency models, but in words that show what they see and appreciate and hope for and worry about for each of their people.”
6. Manage your own energy
Pay attention to your energy levels and develop habits that help you sustain them. Focus on fitness, nutrition, and stress management. Be alert to signs of burnout, taking on too much (or too little), and not giving yourself breaks. “Remember, one of the most powerful outcomes of maintaining your energy is how it enables you to be positive,” says Deacon. “If you feel good, you will show it and transmit it!”
7. Learn to like your employees, even the unlikable ones
If you discover that an employee is unlikable, find something to appreciate about them. Interestingly enough, a UCLA study concluded that likability “had nothing to do with being gregarious, intelligent, or attractive (innate characteristics). Instead, the top descriptors were sincerity, transparency, and capable of understanding (another person).”
First, it changes the nature of all interactions and maximizes the chance that you’ll be successful in building a positive relationship. You will cultivate a less cooperative, less inventive, and less engaged relationship with someone you do not like. Secondly, it furthers the chance that your team will overlook your unlikable traits and focus on your best qualities as well. Everyone responds well to being treated well.
8. Create a collective sense of purpose
Without a sense of purpose, it’s hard for employees to make a greater effort, direct their energies, and self-correct. Further, they will struggle to connect their actions to company performance, substituting instead other purposes, such as pleasing their boss or only doing work that interests them.
David Deacon is the author of The Self-Determined Manager: A Manifesto for Exceptional People Managers. He has been a human resources professional for over thirty years and passionate about how managers manage for almost as long. He has worked for a variety of the world’s leading companies, including Credit Suisse and MasterCard, and has lived and worked in the US, the UK, and Asia. Recognized by the Best Practice Institute as a “Best Organizational Practitioner” in 2014, he continues to drive impact through leading world-class talent management approaches in the companies where he works. Learn more at selfdeterminedmanager.com.
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