Monday, August 3, 2009

Manager to Leader Or When You Come To The Fork In The Road, Take It

No doubt that many of you have heard the euphemism “Managers manage process while leaders lead people.” And, while that may be a cliché, it has its roots in truth. At the lowest levels of management it is all about the process:

- how to do things better
- how to be more efficient
- how to be more accurate
- how to produce more widgets

As you climb the leadership ladder, this begins to change for you. And this has been the theme of our last few blog entries.

How do you make the shift from manager to leader?

Or more importantly, WHEN do you make the shift from manager to leader?
The shift from thinking about process to thinking about people is a shift that happens subtly for most managers. In your first managerial job you will likely think little about the people and a lot about the process. This is especially true if you were promoted from inside your current department, as most new managers are. You are a technical expert with a substantial amount of detailed process knowledge and you got your promotion because you consistently demonstrated your knowledge of the subject matter.

When you take your second managerial job you don’t know nearly as much about the detail because this is a new department for you and you’ve never worked on the front line. Never the less, having again been rewarded for your detailed knowledge of the process, you tend to dig into the details and try your best to become a technical expert again. But this time you find that a number of people in your new department are much more technically adept than you are.

Although it goes against your nature, this is actually your first clue that you need to focus more on people and less on process.


Because the people who are now working for you are much smarter about the process than you are and, try as you might, you will never understand the detail as well as they do, because they do this work every day. At this point, the most effective use of your time is actually understanding the process at a little higher level, and understanding the people at a little deeper level.

As you begin this experiment, you discover the inherent strengths and weaknesses of all of the people who work for you. And you discover that by using their strengths effectively you can get more accomplished than ever before. You will also understand what motivates them, what they enjoy doing, and what they fear in their job and in their life. When you understand these things, you begin to understand the real person.

And that is when you begin to transition from being just a manager to starting down the path of leadership.

Until next time….

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

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