The Manager by Design blog seeks to provide great people management tips and awesome team management tips. The focus of the blog is on management, but the question is – what is the difference between leadership and management? There are hundreds of great books on leadership, and there are many resources that work to delineate the difference between managing and leading. For there purposes of this blog, here is the model I have that demonstrates the difference between managing a leading.
Let’s take a look at the model:
In this model, I’ve put out a grid that puts managing on the x-axis and leading on the y-axis to demonstrate their inter-relationships and where they separate.
In the lower left quadrant (“Individual Producer”), you have a role that requires neither managing nor leading. I call it the individual producer. If that individual producer produces something (analyses, a product, a sale), then that person has done her job, and is doing well at the job. This person is neither managing nor leading, but still producing, and contributing. Every organization needs lots of this!
In my previous article, I provided four uses for how a manager can use a team strategy document (example here). Today, I provide four more! Today, I focus on the internal uses – within your team — of the team strategy document.
1. Use it as a basis for improving processes, workflows and operational innovation
When you have a team strategy document, it allows you to better understand what the team is trying to achieve. With this, now you can start looking at your team processes and workflows. It also affords the opportunity for you and the team to discuss areas of innovation and opportunity that your team can perform to better achieve the goals. With a strategy in place, you and your team are less likely to meander in the status quo and more likely to strive toward a higher level of performance.
2. Use it as a guideline for strategically placing work assignments and identifying gaps in team capability
The team strategy document identifies who is on your team. You can also add some biographical and work interest info about each member. For example: Walter – management consultant, performance improvement, innovative instructional design. With this info, you can look at the strategy, and think about the job roles of the people on your team, and identify the strategic placement of where the people on your team perform their job. If you have someone who is outgoing, and makes excellent connections with people on their first meeting, and if you have as strategic need to make new connections outside your team, perhaps you should put that person on the task of developing new relationships. Read more
In my previous post, I discussed how it takes a lot to compare and stack rank employees, and really the best you can do is to come up with some limited scenarios where you compare similar jobs, with clear rules, consistent evaluators and transparency. With that done, you now have determined the winner in a limited context in a given time frame. So it doesn’t really tell you who is the “best”, but who was the best in that context. If that context comes up a lot, then you can get trends and be more predictive, such as the case in answering “who is the best athlete,” but still leaves a lot open for debate. In the contemporary workplace, these conditions happen less and less.
In the contemporary workplace, employees are asked to adapt to constantly shifting situations, new technologies, new projects, and new skill sets. Instead of who is the “best” at something, it is the who is the “best” at adapting to new situations, which can go in many different directions. You need people who are great in different facets of the work, and who can adapt and improve and strive toward meeting the organizational goals. This makes it very unlikely that you can have some sort of conclusion who is the “best” and who is “on top”, since there is a diversity of skill sets needed to achieve these goals, and they are often shifting.
So instead of “stack ranking” employees, which implies that one employee is inherently better than another (and makes a not-so-subtle argument that it is forever that way), managers need to strategically place employees in roles and projects based on what the managers and employees assess they are good at and their ability to execute. It’s less about who’s the best, and more about what is the best placement to get the work done.
Let’s take a look at the What/How grid to be as a way to be more strategic with a team’s strengths. This grid shows an analysis by a manager of a fictional team, based on “what” the team member produces and “how” they work with others. Other analyses could be performed based on your organizational needs.
In this grid, the manager has assessed that Elizabeth and Thomas as skilled in both productivity and ability to work with others. But the manager also has Harry who seems to get along with lots of people, but doesn’t produce much, and Jill who seems to work really hard but isn’t as focused on relationships. So now the manager, instead of saying, “Elizabeth and Thomas are my top performers”, the manager should say, “What can I do with this group to get the most out of my team?”
I’d put Harry in a role that requires relationships to be forged. I’d make sure I’d give Harry some expectations for what we are looking to get out of those relationships (new leads? sales? higher customer satisfaction? socializing a new program across groups?) and rate him against these expectations. I’d put Jill in a role that is not customer-facing but requires a lot of work output where relationships are less crucial for success, and rate her against what she produces (and diminishing the importance of “how” she produces). Ideally, this most likely feeds to Harry information that makes him better. If I need more customer-facing work and relationship building, I’d put Elizabeth on that, and if I need more work output, I’d put Thomas and Elizabeth at that.
Elizabeth and Thomas are more flexible, which obviously has value, but if the value of customer relationship building is super-important for the team, then perhaps Harry is more valuable than Thomas for now. It isn’t a permanent thing, but a thing that is based on the context of the team’s needs, and not on the context of the employees inherent abilities.
With Alex, I would try to figure out where Alex is most likely to be needed in the near future, and work on giving performance feedback and coaching in the direction where your team is likely to need it. Perhaps Alex can be a back-up to Harry in the follow-up with customers.
With Jim, he rates lowly in two dimensions, which looks like a net-negative to the team, so I would look at the performance management process for him, because it doesn’t look like he’s helping the team at all, and unless he improves (which is entirely possible with the performance management process) there is likely someone else out there who could do his job better.
So instead of saying, “Elizabeth and Thomas” are the most important employees, the manager should first focus on trying to maximize where all employees can most help the team to achieve its goals. This treats all employees as valuable, and is likelier to achieve overall team performance.
This is where the management energy should be spent first and foremost. The shifting dynamics of the team context should be the greater concern, not the ranking of individual employees against one another, since you need the entire team to perform to be successful.
Also note that once placed on this grid, the people are not permanently located there. Any one of them can shift around based on changing circumstances, work stresses and pressures, and individual development.
In this article, I use a very simple “What/How” grid to identify the strengths of the team and to assist with illustrating how a manager can use this simple tool. Another common method is to use the Strength Finder tool from the book Now, Discover Your Strengths, which has many more dimensions and areas of insights and one I would highly recommend any manager do to identify the areas of strengths on the team and then make strategic decisions accordingly.
How much energy does your management team spend in strategically utilizing employee strengths? How does this compare to the amount of time ranking employees?
How to use the What-How grid to build team strength, strategy and performance
Providing expectations for how the team operates is an important skill for any manager or leader. It doesn’t matter what level of manager you are, this is an important early step to establishing yourself as a manager and leader, and to set the right tone that reflects your values as a manager and your team’s values for how it executes its duties.
In previous posts, I’ve discussed the following artful elements of providing expectations:
Today I’ll discuss how to tie in the act of providing expectations with the larger strategy of the team and organization.
Providing expectations is different from defining the larger strategy of a team. The larger strategy of a team or group dictates more what the team is working on and the resources it devotes to working on it to create a result greater than the individual work items. The strategy should indicate what it is the team is actually producing. The expectations should be consistent with the strategy and be the next layer down that translates more closely to the behaviors you expect and the areas the team should be working on.
So the expectations should feed into the larger strategy of the team or group. If you don’t have a strategy, perhaps it’s time to get one! It’s kind of a big topic, but let’s try to tackle it!
Let’s take a look at some examples of expectations that feed into a team or org strategy:
’ve recently posted several articles providing guidance on how managers can keep a performance log of their employees. You can either go beginner level (start tracking behaviors to check for trends and impact), intermediate level (track your performance feedback), and advanced level (track the change in behavior and impact after the feedback).
But how do you get started? Here’s an easy tip: Focus on documenting the behaviors that you like and praise.
Let’s not dwell on that negative stuff right now. Instead, seek out and identify the stuff that your employees are doing well, and be sure to praise the employee directly for this. Praise is quickly given and easily performed. It is cheap and it is well-received. Now, ideally, you don’t just say, “good job” or “I like that.” You have to say why it is a good job, and, if possible, what the impact is. And it still needs to use behavior-based language.
But it is also easily forgotten!
So after you perform the praise, stay on top of your game and document it in your performance log. Here are some good things that can happen:
Another example of how to switch from the dreaded strengths and weaknesses discussion to a strategic, productive discussion
I have been writing a lot lately about how managers are requested to discuss and document employees’ strengths and weaknesses. My conclusion: This is absurd and damaging. However, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your team is a necessary and important part of people management indeed. So instead of putting your team member on the spot to list out strengths and weaknesses and then documenting these with a development plan, I propose instead engaging in a strategic discussion with the employee on what’s best for the organization and the employee. Today, I’ll demonstrate how to transition from the dreaded annual review discussion of strengths and weaknesses to a more appropriate strategic discussion that provides value for you, the organization and your employee. Let’s go! Read more
In my previous posts (here and here), I explored the often absurd and damaging results that often occur when pursuing discussions about an employee’s weaknesses. In many cases, managers are formally requested to discuss with their employee’s strengths and weaknesses during the annual review process, with confusing, if not angering results.
Absurd, damaging, confusing, angering – these are pretty harsh words. But surely, Walter, there have to be times when discussing weaknesses with an employee is appropriate? Of course there are! They should be strategic and collaborative discussions that are designed to drive the organization forward using the abilities of the employee.
Instead of having a discussion about the employee’s strengths and weaknesses, the discussion should be centered around where the employee’s skills – whether strong or weak – best fit in the organization’s needs, and how they can be leveraged to the maximum benefit for both the organization and the employee.
Here are some example situations. Read more
A common mistake for managers is to assess team members by their technical ability or production alone. That is, the one with the most technical ability or volume of output is the primary rating that is taken into account. For example, let’s say you have someone on your team with a unique skill that is very valuable to the team. They can do the skill very well, and having this expertise is highly prized and appreciated. Thank goodness for having this person on the team!
A second common mistake for managers is to assess team members by their ability to work with others on the team. That is, one with the most ability to get along and interact is the primary rating that is taken into account. For example, let’s say you have someone on your team with the unique ability to interact with others. They can do this very well, and having this positive influence is highly prized and appreciated. Thank goodness for having this person on the team! Read more