February 2017

Lead or Manage?  Yes to both.

Ask anyone if there’s a difference between managing and leading. Most will say yes – but many will have difficulty defining the difference or identifying when each is appropriate. We’ve all heard the classic response – you manage things and lead people.

Way too simple?  I think so. 

I've covered this topic before, and it continues to be a key focus area with many of my leader clients.   They struggle to let go of doing the work of the team, or telling the team how to do the work.  Most leadership promotions are still awarded to the best doers and achievers.  Re-framing and re-defining success within the leadership role is necessary - which involves knowing what to let go of (typically of being the expert), and understanding how to balance the skill of managing with effective leadership.

Balance between the dance floor and the balcony

Recognizing how to shift between managing tasks and stepping outside of the details to lead the team is essential.  Here's a helpful analogy beautifully described by Heifetz and Linsky in their book, Leadership on the Line. Imagine a dance floor with a large balcony above it.  When you’re dancing on the floor, you’re focused primarily on your partner.  Your perspective of the dance is based on your performance and perhaps a few couples nearby.  But until you’re on the balcony and off the dance floor can you look across the floor to gain new perspective.  You’ll see important patterns like - who is dancing in sync, who is sitting the dance out, and who needs more help than others.

Good leaders are able to recognize when to dive into the details on the dance floor and when to step up on the balcony to observe and distance themselves from the details to effectively lead and guide the team strategically.

Questions to address From the Balcony:

  1. Are you focusing on broad patterns, finding connections, looking out to the future and shaping the vision to create the engagement and motivation to move your team to achieve?
  2. How are you creating a work environment that encourages learning and development versus simply creating control and compliance?
  3. How are you consciously impacting the emotional energy around you? Are you aware of the real impact you have on others? 
  4. To what extent are you focused on the what and not just the how?

If you're not sure whether you're spending time both leading and managing, try these ideas:

  • Take a few moments at the end of each day to determine how your time was split between the ‘dance floor’ and the ‘balcony’.  
  • Then schedule some quiet time each day (even just 10 minutes) to step outside the daily activities and conduct a strategic planning meeting with yourself.  Despite overwhelm and chaos, there’s always the opportunity to stop, and reflect before acting.

"Achieving a balcony perspective means taking yourself out of the dance, in your mind, even if only for a moment.  The only way to gain a clearer view of reality and some perspective on the bigger picture is by distancing yourself from the fray... The challenge is to move back and forth between the dance floor and the balcony, making interventions, observing their impact in real time, and then returning to the action." - Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky

Are you achieving the results you want?
The best leaders make simple shifts or practical changes for big results.  I work closely with leaders to create practical solutions to achieve real success. Let me help you discover what's possible. Visit my website www.terrihughes.com for details.

Simple Shifts - Buy on Amazon

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