Doing It Right Versus Doing It Well

Your Management Style Can Affect Outcomes In Your Business

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about management and leadership, and I want to share an important take-away: managers aren’t necessarily leaders, and leaders aren’t always good managers, either. If you own a business, you are more likely to already have management skills, but leadership brings out the best in your team. This is a learnable skill once you understand the difference between the two.

The Difference Between Managers and Leaders

Many new business owners got their start in management roles. To ensure predictable outcomes, they developed rules and procedures and made sure that employees followed them. There are definitely reasons for doing things in a specific way. Product quality and even safety spring to mind. In a nutshell, managers manage the work and make sure that it is done right.

Doing something right is not necessarily the same as doing it well, which requires engagement and creativity. Since leaders lead the people who do the work, they inspire team members to look beyond the right way and find ways do something better than ever. This is the distinction between right and well.

Management and leadership both play important roles in daily business activities. Without the rules and procedures governed by management, your product and service quality can run out of control. Without leadership, however, the procedures will be less effective  — and team spirit and general morale may suffer. When leaders respect employee input and creativity , they inspire the team to create better processes that are actually easier to manage.

Empowerment Creates Company Spirit

Not all employees qualify to join your upper management team, but they all have unique perspectives based on their daily exposure to the details of their jobs. You can dictate precisely how they should do their jobs, but give them the chance to express their viewpoints and ideas — and run with them — and your operation often becomes more efficient and accurate.

Just as important, this type of empowerment also improves morale by creating engaged employees. Personally, I haven’t seen any factory robots that display any allegiance to their companies (well, at least until they start running their own companies).

Leaders recognize that the first step in empowerment is plugging employees into the company goals and mission. Rather than setting a 100-widget-a-day goal, their employees are partners in the satisfied-customers-through-quality-and-service mission. This type of partnership creates a company spirit that drives them to view their jobs as part of the big company picture. They work harder to meet and exceed company goals.

Leaders Get the Best Performance From All Members of Their Teams

Small business owners are more like parents of close-knit families. Unlike CEOs of mammoth companies (Jeff Bezos of Amazon springs to mind), they have a personalized knowledge of their team members. The more you know about each employee, the better you can use each one’s uniqueness to figure out the best ways to get things done.

Let’s say that you employ two equally-talented programmers who develop your software products. Jamie is a big-picture person who likes to write programs quickly and fix the bugs later. Tracy is a detail nerd who insists that each line of code be correct before moving on. Neither programmer will create the best programs by following the other one’s methodology. As a leader, you give them the latitude to follow their own best methods. As a manager, you make sure that their efforts remain coordinated.

Whenever possible, leaders release employees to use their unique skills and methods to get things done. Managers, on the other hand, know how to coordinate activities to ensure that too much freedom doesn’t cause the loss of time or money. Your job is to know when to switch hats to get the best job done.

Practice Creates Leadership … And an Empowered Team

If you came from the management world before starting your business, then you have plenty of experience in managing work and getting it done right. You shouldn’t let go of those skills when becoming a leader; just practice two other skills to make the leadership jump.

  • The first skill is communication. Take every opportunity to plug your employees into the company goals. When they recognize their importance in meeting those goals, they will come up with big picture ideas beyond their individual roles.
  • The other skill is listening. Your employees have a unique understanding of the company’s daily operation, so learn to listen to their ideas with an open mind. This skill empowers your team to take action on those ideas and meaningfully contribute to the company’s goals.

The Right Balance Gets Things Done Right and Well

Sometimes, leadership sounds like more fun. Empowering employees makes you popular, while cracking the whip and insisting on tight standards can turn you into Gordon Gekko.

Employees look to you for both types of guidance. They need to know what you expect from them when they perform their jobs, but they also want a degree of latitude that allows them to use their talents to meet your expectations. Similarly, the right amount of empowerment shows your trust and respect, while too much empowerment leads to confusion and chaos.

The right balance between management and leadership gets the job done well. Too much of one without the other can lead to imbalances between motivation and results.

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