The Difference Between Managing and Leading (Hint: We want Leaders, not Managers)

When you think of managing, what does that imply? For me, it suggests that someone needs to be managed.  There’s an underlying belief or assumption that the subordinate may not be as resourceful as you (the manager) are.  They need direction because on some level, they lack their own initiative or ability.  When you think this way, it leads to doing for others or telling them what to do.  If you’re feeling stressed, you might even get angry or frustrated with them for being lazy or incompetent.

What if your underlying beliefs as a manager are the real issue?  What if your real opportunity is to help your team think more clearly?  The next time one of your employees comes to you with a problem, consider this option.  Rather than telling them what to do, taking over the work or getting annoyed with them, help them think more clearly.  Focus on asking better questions to help get them focused on solutions instead of the problems.  Here are a few tips to doing this more effectively:

1)   Think long term.  How much is your need for control getting in the way of developing your team?  What might you do differently if you took a long term approach?

2)   Look in the mirror.  How would you respond to a boss that was acting like you are?  If there’s an adjustment to that image that you would like to make, take a moment to check in with yourself and respond consciously vs. reacting unconsciously.

3)   Reflect on the power of being believed in.  How inspired into action are you when someone really believes you are capable?  What if they cast a vote of no confidence in you?  Be clear about the message you’re sending and whether it’s working for you.

4)   Remember old habits fade as new ones are practiced.  Maybe you have been the one with all the answers in the past.  Shifting to being the one with all the questions will feel unnatural in the beginning.  With enough practice, your new strategy can become your first response.

5)   Ask with curiosity, not judgment.  Here are some examples:  What do you think is really going on?  What’s another way to look at the situation?  What does your gut tell you?  What do you think would help?  In general, avoid asking “why” questions, which can put people on the defensive.

« Back to Blog