Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Leader or Manager: Who are YOU?

 The terms ‘management’ and ‘leadership’ are often used interchangeably, but don’t be fooled – they are unique and distinct in a multitude of ways. While both are critical to any organization or business, they require different capabilities and talents.  

Leaders and mangers: both are important and both are necessary. Which one are YOU?

Consider the roles or tasks you feel most naturally drawn or inclined to. What kinds of work do you choose to do, when the choice is yours to make? What tasks or roles do you enjoy the most?

You are probably more comfortable and more experienced in one or the other. Once you know where your natural comfort and skill is found, think about how to build up the other. 

Do you have some leadership muscle, but need to build up your management strength? 
  • Read and become familiar with the concepts of project management and process improvement for your industry.
  • Identify and list all the ways you could better organization your office, your department, or your business/organization, and tackle one organization project each week.
  • Find a colleague who you deem competent in budgeting and ask to shadow them as they work on budget-related tasks.

Do your management skills shine while your leadership skills need some polishing?
  • Develop broader knowledge of your business or industry. Look to and learn about other departments, partners, or sectors, both internally and externally, to become more ‘generalist’ than ‘specialist.’
  • Focus on relationships – with subordinated, peers, clientele, and managers. Building relationships help you gain influence in meaningful, multidirectional ways.
  • Find ways to partner with others. Sharing responsibilities, risks, and rewards will help you gain trust and support others in their success.

Mastering all of the skills for both leadership and management is a tall order. It may not be accomplished quickly or easily, but knowing the differences – and above all, knowing YOURSELF – can help you build your leadership AND management capabilities. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Leadership vs. Management: KNOWING the difference can MAKE a difference

Are you a manager, or are you a leader?

The terms ‘management’ and ‘leadership’ are often used interchangeably. Some people approach leadership and management as synonymous, considering them “one in the same”. There certainly are similarities. Both typically have influence over employees or constituents, and both possess some level of authority or power.

Aside from these similarities, leadership and management have a great deal of distinction.  So what are the differences? Let’s first take a look at how to define each of these important roles.

Management usually deals with making systems, people, and resources work together over time. This might involve several different functions, from planning and budgeting to organizing and staffing. Administering and evaluating projects, maintaining order, and taking a problem-solving approach are all key roles of a manger. A good manager will assure order and consistency while getting the job done, and getting it done right.

Leadership, on the other hand, is focused less on planning and organizing and more on visioning and setting direction. A leader needs to be strategic and motivated, aligning the right people around the right opportunities for the future of the business or organization. Possessing a long-range perspective, a leader is innovative and creative when approaching the future.

Leadership sets the course, while management navigates it. Leadership builds trust with the team, and management provides accountability and structure. Leadership dreams and develops “what might be” in the future, while management maintains and strengthens “what is” in the here-and-now. Leadership’s eyes are fixed on the horizon, while management’s eyes are fixed on today.

Do all leaders make good managers? Probably not. Do all managers make good leaders? Not necessarily.

If not the same person, it is ideal that leaders and managers cooperate with each other. Leaders might establish long-term and visionary goals, while a manager is tasked with planning and organizing the organization around those goals. While managers focus on the logistics of a team, leaders focus on the relational and interpersonal aspects of a team. Organizations and businesses need both management and leadership to succeed.

So, we’ll reflect again on the opening question: Are you a manager, or are you a leader? Knowing your own strengths and matching them to the needs of your organization or business will help you develop in your leadership and management roles.


Monday, December 3, 2012

To COMPETE, or to COOPERATE ... is that the question?

Our society has been touting the benefits of good ol’ fashioned competition for centuries.

We laud being competitive because “…it brings out the BEST in us,” we’re told. “Competition makes us smarter, faster, and stronger,” they say. “You must compete to win…!” is a phrase I’ve heard more times than I can count.

Competition is important, I certainly agree.

But does it really bring out our best?  Sometimes ….while other times it can bring out our ‘beast’, our worst qualities and characteristics.

Are we really getting smarter, faster, and stronger through competition? Possibly … but how fast can you run when you are looking over your shoulder at who is closing the gap?

Do we really need to compete to win? Maybe … but what if ‘winning’ isn’t always the goal? Striving to do well might not always result in a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’.

In many cases, competition might spur personal and professional achievement.

However, decades of research in business, education, economic development, health care, and even professional athletics are demonstrating that something else drives innovation, creativity, profitability, and overall success even more than competition.

That “something else” is cooperation.

Usually seen as the antithesis of competition, cooperation is becoming the hidden secret to success in a variety of interesting ways.   

Business leaders who rate high on scales of cooperation and openness are seeing faster rates of growth and profitability in their companies. Students who are learning in cooperative learning environments are scoring higher on standardized tests and demonstrating higher rates of learning retention.

Corporations that are viewed by the public as cooperative and community-oriented have a greater sense of public trust, and a greater market share to go with it. Professional athletes who train cooperatively with a partner or team rate higher on overall scales of fitness and longevity in the sport than their counterparts who train solo. 

So what does being cooperative in today’s society mean? How about some good ol’ fashioned cooperation – instead of, or in conjunction with, competition – to REALLY benefit our personal and professional pursuits?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cooperation in a Competitive World

To paraphrase Sigmund Freud, “Competition is the royal road to success.” 

However, businesses and organizations that are known for their cooperative efforts rather than their competitiveness do better on most scales of success: faster growth, increased profits, stronger sense of public trust, and longer sustainability.

Cooperation in a competitive world is difficult to understand and even more difficult to execute. Can you have both … can your business or organization be cooperative while remaining competitive in the world today?

It may not be easy, but it certainly is worth it. From the corporate board room to the pee wee football team, cooperation can be encouraged in a number of ways.

Place your highest priority on doing your best.  Doing your best and winning are two different things. One requires focus on your own performance, while the other requires a focus divided between you someone or something else. Concentrate on you or your team’s top performance as your ultimate goal so you can maintain focus on things you can control.

Be patient and allow ample time. Cooperation takes more time than going solo. If being cooperative is your intention, known that it doesn’t happen quickly. It may seem like a “waste” of time to go at a slower, cooperative pace. But if you consider how much time disagreement, failed negotiations, resentment and misunderstanding can take, cooperation isn’t such a waste of time after all.

Share the leadership responsibilities and rewards. When there is an increased sense of ‘ownership’ by all members of a group or team, the environment is more cooperative and typically more productive. Delegating or having team members select which parts of a project they will lead creates instant buy-in from more of your team, and buy-in is necessary for

Reinforce and reward team efforts. Rewarding individual stand-outs might make one team member more competitive, but praising the entire team promotes everyone’s cooperation and, in the long run, everyone’s success. Maximize a productive team by recognizing group efforts that require the input, energy, and cooperation of your team, department, or committee.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

GETTING the best customer service

A majority of our shopping memories – both positive and negative – comes from the experience we had in customer service.

Customer service can be a make-it-or-break-it factor in a shopping experience turning out fabulous or frightening. The focus of “good” customer service is usually on the person giving the service; we rely on the salesperson, store clerk, call center employee, or service manager to GIVE good customer service.
But, as a customer, your role on the receiving end of customer service is important, too! How can you increase the likelihood of GETTING good customer service? Here are a few ideas:

Be nice. A polite demeanor and positive attitude will set you apart from other shoppers. A study done by Penn State University found that customer service representatives were cursed at, belittled, or threatened on the average of seven times  a day. If you are a customer that is NOT cursing, belittling, or threatening, but instead sharing a warm and friendly presence, it will likely be noticed. And possibly rewarded.
While being nice might increase your chances of getting good customer service, it’s simply the right thing to do – after all, didn’t our mothers always tell us to “Be nice!”??

Be honest. Tell the truth when speaking with a customer service professional. After all, they’re in a position to help YOU; lies or half-truths make that a nearly impossible. If you are returning or exchanging an item that is damaged or malfunctioning, say so. If you are returning or exchanging an item that you simply don’t want or had buyers’ remorse after purchasing, say that, too. Getting good customer service requires disclosure and honesty on behalf of the customer; telling a lie or covering up the truth can almost guarantee that in that moment or later on down the road, you’ve set yourself up for a poor customer service experience.
You want to be on the same team as the clerk, the cashier, or the salesperson. So act like a team by sharing the same goals, advocating for each other, and being honest.

Be vocal when things go well. Complaining to other customers around us, telling your friends of an awful experience, posting a ‘rant’ on Facebook or Twitter … these are all ways we are vocal when things don’t go our way as a customer. If we were wronged or offended by a customer service experience, we make sure to spread the word.  

I wonder what would happen if we were just as vocal when things go well? What if we raved to other customers around us, told your friends of your fabulous experience, and posted ‘kudos’ on Facebook or Twitter every time things went well? Or, what if we were in the habit of sharing our appreciation directly with the employee and his or her manager? Being vocal on the positives of customer service could set a tone for consistently great customer experiences.