Be most thankful for the leaders in your life who give guidance and feedback, but who let you/require you to lead and do the work.

I remember a moment 15 years ago when I told my boss, and told him with conviction, that I realized my job was for him to not to have to worry about what I was doing at all.   My job was to eliminate the need for him to have to manage me or any part of the business I was running.   The reaction was a genuine expression of relief on his part and we have operated under that creed without wavering for the last 15 years.   The other thing it did was allow him to go focus on other ventures and continue growing (This is what I would call nirvana for a leader; to have other leaders impacting growth in an exponential way).  Another vivid memory from an event that occurred in the last 3 years was when a new and very strategic team member came on board.  That person said the same thing, except this time it was directed a me; I was relieved and rejuvenated; it is what I wanted and needed.

Managers lay out a plan and tell their folks what to do.  They inspect, coach, and make sure the results are being realized.   The team members they manage expect them to do these things, which often limits strategic thinking, leadership development, and overall growth all the way down the food chain.   Organizations really only get the boost and the growth when managers transition to leaders and have more expectations from their teams, and of themselves.  It is on the existing leaders in the organization to stop doing what they have always done, and let/require the up and coming managers/leaders take the reins.   This requires acceptance that mistakes will happen, which is alright as long as new/different inspection systems are put in place so that mistakes are not detrimental.   This also requires managers to subscribe to the leadership concept of “if it is to be, it is up to me”, and the underlying principle that their job is to make sure their leaders do not have to develop strategy, worry, or handle execution for the area they are in charge of.   It is also on the manager/up and coming leader to not let their leader do their work.   Leadership development is a two-way street, especially in high growth organizations where everyone is growing and replacing themselves.

Regardless if we are thinking about Management or Leadership concepts, everyone needs to feel supported.   Even the President/CEO needs to feel supported by their Board, Leadership Team, etc..  However, there is a huge difference when it comes to support expectations and how they differ between Leaders and Managers.  In summary, the less managing/leading you need yourself, the more of a leader you have become.

Manager’s (Someone who has not crossed the Leadership Chasm) beliefs on the type of support they need:

  • Leadership training
  • Guidance
  • Feedback on performance
  • Assistance with personnel matters
  • Assistance drafting strategy
  • Assistance creating inspection systems
  • Assistance in motivating team members
  • Accountability

Leader’s beliefs on the type of support they need:

  • Feedback/Accountability from their Leader/Board – Primarily when they ask for it.
  • Validation of the plans, inspection systems, culture/people/motivation strategy that they put together

So if you would classify yourself as a Manager or an Up and Coming Leader, who is trying to get cross the chasm into full leadership, have you looked your leader in the eye and said – “I got this and I understand and am committed to doing what it takes so you do not have to worry about my area”?  If you are not ready to say this – don’t.  And only say it if you really understand what it means to fully lead and ready for that awesome responsibility.   Also know that your leader wants you to do this, expects you to get there, and that it is your growth path.   Own it – Crush it!

Effective Leadership (strategy, praise, admitting mistakes, etc.) is done verbally; Transacting/Formalizing is done via written communication.

The first email account I had was in college and the first text message I sent was at the age of 27 – in order to get a first date with Kristen (my bride).   For this reason and regarding leadership development, I believe I had an advantage over the folks that are in their 20’s today;  mainly because verbal communication was the primary option back then.   I only had to learn how to text (on my Nextel “beep beep” phone – note that the first iPhone was 2007) because Kristen would not answer my calls or respond to voicemail.  Comparing my experience with the younger generation who has had email and text messaging since they can remember, it has likely made leadership an even tougher endeavor for them given that face to face and verbal interactions are key to effective leadership.

I was listening to a TED talk last week and the presenter stated that the #1 benefit from a training program they delivered to their up and coming leaders was focused on communicating effectively.   It made me remember the most practical and highest impact course I had to take a long time ago when going through an MBA program, which was “Effective Communication in Business”.   I distinctly remember an exercise where they had us go through the archive of our business emails and pull the three worse examples of communication and then present them to the class.  They weren’t just teaching us how to write, the medium we should use, or self-awareness in regards to the perception others have due to our actions; they were teaching us leadership.

Regardless of what/who we are trying to lead, large advancements in what we are trying to achieve only happen with a more intimate form of communication.   The quicker/easier/less stressful way to communicate is to text/email/send a letter, etc., which is also why it is typically the wrong way to handle more strategic matters.   Written communication is still an important step, but only as a follow-up to formalize and/or confirm what was discussed.

Some examples (based on my opinion only) of when to use certain channels:

Verbal/In Person Communication Written Communication
Strategic planning Meeting notes
Consulting with customers/team Conveying supporting information
Recognition for large achievements Confirmation of understanding
Reflection on and learning from mistakes Formalizing next steps
Apologizing Reporting/inspecting what is expected
Training/mentoring Conveying general information
ANY sensitive matters Business transactions