Recently I noticed a post saying similar to this: “Managers make themselves feel important and leaders make people feel important.” There are many messages similar to this one floating around all over social media. Do you agree? It is tempting to want to believe it at face value. However, when you give it some thought, you may realize this is not only a lie, it is toxic and dangerous thinking.
In my book Viral Leadership, I make it a point to call out and confront these misleading and toxic messages. I say these messages are misleading because they are comparing bad managerial behaviors and attitudes with the behaviors of great leaders – not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.
The fact is that there are great managers and there are horrible managers, just as there are great leaders and bad ones too. After all, Hitler was a leader. So was Osama Bin Laden. Should we start bashing the concept of leadership based on their example? If we are going to make comparisons, let’s at least be fair about it.
But before we even start making comparisons, let’s be clear about one thing. Management and leadership are two sides of the same coin. To be a great leader, you must also be a great manager. What good is a leader that does not respect a budget or deadlines? On the other side of the coin, we observe that to be a great manager you must also show great leadership skills. Managers who can’t inspire their teams won’t get far.
So why do we feel the need to give the word “manager” a bad reputation? To make ourselves feel good when we say we rather be leaders? Imagine the damage this message causes to the image of thousands of great managers who are out there doing a fantastic job with their teams.
For this reason, I say this ridiculous comparison between the concepts of management and leadership is toxic and needs to stop. Instead, give your good managers and leaders the respect they deserve, and build up the skills of those who need improvement. And most importantly, teach them to be viral. Teach them to pass on these great skills to the rest of their teams, and build up a viral chain of performance improvement.
I also encourage you to share your stories of managers and leaders, good or bad, who may have left an impression on you and shaped you into the professional you are today. Enter your story and you’ll earn a chance to win a Free Webinar (up to 50 participants) for your team. To enter, FOLLOW THIS LINK.
This is a hypothetical scenario based on a real-life situation where the relationship between a manager and an employee could have led to a stronger bond and perhaps even higher productivity. However, the result was unfortunately not as productive as it could have been. Let’s look at the scenario from the perspective of both key protagonists: Marta, the VP of a local manufacturing company, and Amber, the Quality Coordinator.
The Boss’ Perspective
Let’s start with the VP’s perspective. Towards the end of the day, the Marta finds out that a meeting with a client has been pushed up to tomorrow afternoon instead of the end of next week. The VP is responsible to provide an update on production schedules and a quality report of the customer’s custom order.
Marta will need the assistance of her recently promoted quality coordinator to gather the necessary data for the presentation. The former coordinator was a trusted resource, but he left last month to another department within the company. Marta wastes no time. She sends an email to Amber with detailed instructions and marked as highly important. A minute later, there is no response. Marta’s former coordinator would have sent an acknowledgement by now.
Marta can see the quality coordinator from her office window and decides this change in circumstances and the upcoming project is too important to ignore, so she walks up to the coordinator’s office to discuss the email. She notices that Amber is on the phone. It is almost the end of the day and customers usually do not call at this time, so it is likely that the call is a personal call. Marta feels it is appropriate to interrupt the call given the importance of the upcoming project.
Amber puts the caller on hold just long enough to say she was talking to IT about something and that she could not stay after the call to talk about anything because she had to leave right away, but that she was going to check her email first thing in the morning. Then she got back to her call. At this point Marta said, “Well, I guess I will just find someone who can help then.” Before closing time, Marta is able to get a hold of her former coordinator, Daniel, and asked him to come back to help with this project for a few hours and make sure Amber got everything together that would be needed for the presentation.
- What did Marta do well?
- What could she have done better?
- What is your reaction to what Amber did?
- How would you have responded if you were in the VP’s shoes?
The Employee’s Perspective
Let’s look at the same situation, but this time let’s view it from Amber’s perspective.
It is late in the day, and Amber has been dealing with computer issues all day. She has to work on several important reports tomorrow afternoon, and she has IT support on the phone now. She knows if she hangs up now, she might not get a hold of them again until the day after tomorrow. To make matters worse, she has to pick up her child from the daycare center on time or else she faces paying a steep penalty charge that she simply cannot afford.
While on the phone, she notices an email coming in from her VP and marked as highly important. Amber needs to focus on the call because the IT support people are asking for very detailed information, so she cannot look into the email right away.
A couple of minutes later, Amber hears a loud knock on her window. It is the VP saying she wants to talk about the email she sent. Amber asks the person on the phone to hold for a second and proceeds to explain to Marta that she cannot postpone this call, and that she has to leave right away after the call. She promises to look at her email and meet with Marta first thing in the morning. As Amber gets back to her call, she overhears Marta say she’ll go find someone else to help.
On her way home, Amber gets a call from Daniel, her former boss and the person she took over for. He wants to know what’s going on and why Marta asked him to come in and help her (Amber), with a project in the morning.
- What did Amber do well?
- What is your reaction to the VP’s actions?
- How would you feel if you were in Amber’s shoes?
- What could she have done better?
Forbes recently reported that about half of employees leave companies because of their bad relationship with their manager. The research conducted by Gallup only provides us half of the picture.
The US Census estimated that 2.5 million people in the USA quit voluntarily every year. Estimates indicate that it can cost between $22,297 and $222,975 to replace an employee. At least half of that loss is caused by bad managers!
Let’s look at the same issue from another angle: Half the people that leave are a symptom of a bad manager somewhere making bad leadership decisions. You’ve probably experienced or witnessed this yourself. You simply cannot afford to have ill prepared managers on staff. But firing bad managers does not guarantee the next ones will be any better.
Here is what we can do. Immediate action can help stop the bleeding, and it starts with awareness and training. Managers need to step up their leadership game and understand that what they do is contagious both in a bad way and in a good way. Yes, good leadership can be contagious too! The best way to keep these managers with bad leadership skills from infesting our teams with bad attitudes is to teach them how to become a positive Viral Leader. The sooner you do this, the better.
In our book Viral Leadership, we discuss three key obstacles that keep managers from having a great relationship with their employees: Clarity, Waste, and Conflict. Once managers master how to overcome these obstacles, they can pass these skills along to their teams. That is how the chain reaction begins: from manager -to supervisor -to team leader -to front-line employee… this is Viral Leadership at work and it can save your company thousands.
But why stop there? Why not teach them also how to inspire their teams to perform better? Imagine instead of bleeding money every time an employee leaves due to a bad manager, after training that manager, now you get to keep a more engaged and productive employee than what you had before.
Share your stories of good and bad leadership examples and earn a chance to win a Free Webinar! We look forward to hearing your stories.
We all have encountered examples of exemplary Viral Leaders. Viral Leaders are infectious and leave an impression on us that is hard to forget. This infection can be positive or negative.
Share with us some of your own experiences with great leaders and managers in your life and tell us also about those not-so-great bosses you had to deal with.
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The First Edition of the Book Viral Leadership is scheduled to release in the Fall of 2015. The book is a resource for emerging and experienced managers who want to take leadership skills viral and start an outbreak of higher performance.
What if the principles of excellence could spread like an epidemic throughout your organization?
Viral Leadership reveals the secret to positively infecting your employees with strength, creative thinking, and respect, which in turn transforms your business into a productive powerhouse known for its quality and customer service.
- New and emerging leaders: being a great employee is no longer enough; now it’s time to develop the necessary skills to lead great employees.
- Experienced managers: discover what you’re doing well and where you can improve as you gain fresh strategies to reach your younger employees.
- Entrepreneurs: learn how to inspire your team and exponentially multiply the impact of your leadership skills.
Let’s go viral with good leadership!
This paper-back edition will be available at Amazon.com and Kindle soon.
The book content and models were developed by Learning4Managers, a division of Accolade Institute Inc.