Photo: Amy Hirschi
Every company needs people who can lead and people who can manage. They don’t have to be the same. They are likely not the same.
Some of the best leaders cannot manage very well. Some of the best managers are not even good leaders. Yet both stimulate good-to-great performance. Both generate successful, profitable results. Both contribute to an employee engagement culture.
So how are they alike? How are the different? And when it comes to employee engagement, so what?
Here are three key areas where your leaders should demonstrate specific style and skills. In those same areas, your managers should demonstrate different skills that complement the leaders’ skills. In other words, you want them to be different, yet similar.
Envision or Observe
A leader envisions the big picture, the strategic vista, the long-term success. A leader views the organization and all that impacts it — now and in the future — with more than her mind. She actively sees with business insight, with personal intuition, with professional insight, and with emotional intelligence. That combination provides a leader interactive know-how that gives employees reasons to engage their time, energy, skills and creativity for the success of the organization. The leader’s know-how combines tools such as empathy, personal attention, individual interest alongside corporate commitment, and 20-20 sight that combines macro and micro vision. This power to envision is only as meaningful as the leader’s ability to convey what she sees. Wordy words and corporate communication often don’t cut it. The engaging leader conveys what’s envisioned in words and messages not merely understood but seen and felt and owned by every member of the organization.
A manager observes the issues and actions occurring here and now. He pays day-to-day (if not hour-to-hour) attention to workers’ performance and results. He focuses on seeing that all employees know what is expected in every part of their assignments. After that his focus turns to seeing how much excellence each employee brings from those expectations. The manager observes with knowledge of each worker, awareness of specific tasks, connection of each worker’s role to every other worker’s, and the efficiencies to be derived. How well these lenses are combined determines how eagerly employees engage themselves to their specific jobs. The key to a manager’s success is expressing what’s expected, updating that as situations change, and conversing openly about how much, how well the expectation is met. The engaging manager’s ability to communicate expectations — what, how, why, when, where — gives meaning to what he observes.
Value or Evaluate
The leader generates good business karma by expressing meaningful values to those throughout his organization. Business culture comes from clear and sincere positioning of the company’s values. The company that demonstrates its commitment to customer satisfaction, to community value and to employee well-being — from the executive offices to the service desk — puts its values out for all to see. And appreciate. Employees who clearly identify and accept their company’s values connect themselves to the business, to their teams, and to their assignments. The more often and the more vividly a leader speaks and shows, applauds and acclaims what the company values, the more employee engagement he will generate.
The manager generates good management persona by evaluating her employees fairly, effectively and with concern. Evaluation can happen more often than the usual two times a year; it need not always be formal. The more often and the more conversational a manager’s effort to discuss performance, the better. Discussion may occur in a sit-down meeting or in a brief, off-the-cuff conversation. It may cover whole-job performance or specific issues. The manager is the major reason an employee stays with the company or leaves. The manager’s commitment to successful performance evaluation encourages the good employee to stay. As the manager provides performance feedback openly and frequently, the employee engages in improving that performance.
Inspire or Motivate
A leader inspires her company’s personnel. She shares a vision so clearly that others see it for themselves. She expresses it so vividly that others desire to achieve it. A leader’s success at inspiring those in the organization is by making the end result so appealing that others are willing and eager to commit to accomplishing the result. As true leaders seek continually to improve themselves, they impel others to similar self-improvement. Inspiration is a pull, a lure, an attraction to something desirable. A leader’s ability communicate to the level of inspiration is her distinguishing feature.
A manager motivates his employees. He gives employees reasons to accomplish results by a certain time with a certain level of quality. Typically these motivators are either carrots or whips, rewards or penalties. However, there are more effective, work-positive motivators. The savvy manager takes advantage of praise and recognition of an employee’s hard work. An open-door policy backed up by a willingness to listen motivates employees to trust their manager. That trust strengthens team engagement. Motivation is a push tactic, encouraging employees to apply their full efforts to the job at hand.
Leaders and managers: different and alike. In different yet complementary ways, both can contribute to the business culture that generates a more fully engaged employee base.