People infer our thoughts and beliefs from our actions. It’s all the things we do that tell people what we think, value, and who we are.
What if I just said I cared about something but did little else? What if I said I’m passionate about contributing to wellbeing by creating an authentic and sustainable world of work, but I didn’t provide solutions? And, what if I didn’t work with individuals and organizations to help them change? What if I just kept saying, “It matters!” but didn’t do anything else? Wouldn’t you think that it must not really matter to me? Would you say that I’m all-talk and no-action?
leaders can’t be all-talk
When it comes to performance management, change management and leadership development, many organizational leaders defer to Human Resources, and HR is often happy to accommodate. But it’s really leaders in the business, outside of HR, who need to do the heavy lifting. Yes, there is often collaboration, but leaders can’t be all-talk. Being able to do these three things well must become core skills of all leaders. Leaders who care about their staff learn to do them well.
Performance management: Good leaders know what each of their direct reports needs to deliver. Your staff delivers to your customers and to the rest of the organization when they deliver to you. Since you are held accountable for their performance, you need to monitor and manage performance. You need to say what’s needed, who needs to do it and by when. Setting these expectations for your direct reports is not micro managing. You need to assess their behaviors and approach. You need to have the difficult conversations. If you’re not good at this already, get there. If you’re not actively managing performance, you’re acting like you don’t care about what your people do. They need you to care.
Change management: The world of work, our organizations, and we as individuals are constantly changing. No matter what we do, change happens. Paradoxically, even resisting change causes change. Resistance to change is a response to loss. In the workplace, leaders need to understand what their staff is losing if they want change to be successful. The problem is that each person is different and people may not advertise their loss. What might be a loss of independence for one person could be a loss of time, competency, money, privacy, social interaction, etc., to others. But once you know what people are losing, you can develop strategies to mitigate the loss. To do all of this, you need to, first, learn how to manage change. Once you know how to manage change, you can manage the performance of a dedicated change manager. A Change Manager is not the Leader, but a leader can manage change.
Leadership development: There are usually three reasons why leaders don’t develop other leaders: they are unaware that they should; they want to, but don’t know how; or, they don’t want to because they would rather focus on their own career. I only know one place were the last reason is completely unacceptable: the military. Soldiers know that leaders create leaders. They also know that the best leaders are great followers of their own leaders. Leadership development is a mentoring and coaching relationship between two people. It stretches vulnerable people on both sides of the relationship. If leadership development in your organization looks more like leadership training, or team-building fun and games, you’re probably developing people managers, not leaders.
we become leaders when we help others become better than ourselves
What is the difference between people managers and leaders? People managers will ensure that adequate human resources are assigned to a task. They will monitor and manage performance to ensure execution quality. They will also attempt to forecast future tasks and manage risk. Sounds good, doesn’t it? What’s missing is the nurturing of an inspirational relationship that supports everyone to creatively grow their role and themselves, to contribute to others and grow the organization beyond their initial boundaries and expectations. We stop being people managers and become leaders when we care enough to help others become better than ourselves.