When you first join the workforce as a rookie, you are asked to do certain tasks. At first, your mentors train you and, quite frankly, you are not all that productive. In fact, it costs your company more to train you than any benefit they receive as a result of your work. You finally get the hang of your profession and start producing. Eventually, you become such a great producer, your bosses decide to promote you to manager. Although you have wanted this promotion for quite a long time, you wonder if you’re prepared to LEAD.
The Management Transition
As a high-talent producer transitions to management, he/she will struggle with lots of things. But the biggest source of struggle will be with the value they place on PRODUCTION (DOING). When you are promoted to management, you are quite used to being rewarded for high levels of PRODUCTION. As a leader, you’ll be rewarded if your team PRODUCES. Here are the PRODUCTION pitfalls for the newly promoted manager:
- I’LL HELP: When you feel the pressure for your team to produce, your intuition will tell you that you need to pitch-in and help your team. Let’s say you used to produce 110 widgets a week. Now, you’re in charge of managing a team of 10 and they’re supposed to produce 800 widgets per week. You think this is a “slam-dunk”. After all, you could do 110 by yourself. You then become aware that the average weekly production of your new team is only 70 widgets per person. If you do nothing, your team will produce 700 widgets and you will get yelled at by your boss for falling 100 widgets short. You think, “If I produce my typical 110 widgets, we will beat our weekly goal by 10-widgets.
- I’LL TEACH: After you have decided that it would not be very MANAGERLY of you to produce widgets, your next inclination is to tell your workers how to produce more. After all, you could produce a lot as a worker; and so you should probably tell your new team members how they can produce more, if they do things your way. You notice one of your workers, George, is making a widget all wrong. He’s wrapping wire around the widget clockwise instead of counter-clockwise (the way you used to do it.). You tell George to wrap the wire counter-clockwise and it will help his production numbers. George gives you a strange look and you bark, “Hey, George… do it or else you’re fired!” George complies and his weekly production drops from 70 widgets to 50 widgets. When you visit with George, you find out he is left-handed and was quite clumsy when he tried your right-handed method for wire wrapping.
- I’LL PUNISH: You now think that your workers are simply slacking off. They don’t respect you as the new manager, and so you need to show them WHO IS BOSS. You tell your workers they’ll need to stay at work on Friday until they have produced at least 80 widgets each. How could this fail? You’d have your 800 widgets, guaranteed. Right? Unfortunately, the Widget Worker’s Union tells you that you can’t make your widget workers work overtime and not get paid more. So, there goes your punitive plan that would guarantee your widget output.
These three ideas are usually the first ideas tried by most new managers. Some managers never make it past these three failed tactics. As a coach, I hear managers say things like:
“I can’t find good help!”
“No one cares about my company except for me.”
“My workers are constantly taking advantage of me and don’t understand why they need to work hard.”
I’m guessing that you maybe able to sympathize with this rookie manager.
Why Do New Managers Struggle?
The challenge most new managers have is that they have been conditioned to produce. This natural instinct to produce means they must be DOING something in order to feel like they are of value. This inclination clearly contributes to the first tactic “I’LL HELP”. It is also present in the second tactic, “I’LL TEACH”. Teaching is not all-together bad as a manager. However, most teaching is actually a type of indoctrination into a way of DOING that is completely your way of doing whatever it is that you are doing. Almost everyone does their job differently than another, and so teaching needs to be done in a way that allows for creativity on the part of the worker. Although, the discipline in the “I’LL PUNISH” tactic seems quite authoritative and managerial, this tactic is born out of frustration that all of your DOERS are not DOING the task the same way that you DID it when you were a worker. You believe that your workers are not DOING their task out of spite; and so you believe that spite from you will balance the scales.
How Do You Overcome DOING?
Ironically, the three tactics of the DOER are not necessarily wrong. However, they need to be done as a LEADER and not a DOER. Let’s see how a LEADER does things:
I’LL HELP: As the new manager, you see that your production may fall short of the weekly goal by 100 widgets. You get your team together and communicate the production goal to your workers and ask if they have ideas on how they can produce more. After they stare at each other in bewilderment. You then ask, “As your manager, how can I help?” The answer to this question can be anything that doesn’t involve you joining in the production. You then work with your team to execute your team plan to succeed.
I’LL TEACH: You see one of your team members struggling with his production goals while another one of your team members is beating her production goals. Once again, you convene a team meeting and ask your top producer to share some of her insights to beating her production goals. You then share best practices among your team so that everyone can benefit from the tips and tricks of the collective group (including your insights).
I’LL HOLD ACCOUNTABLE: (Yes, I changed this one) Once again, you schedule a team meeting and let everyone understand your collective team goal; and inform your team that you are all in this together. You then ask, “Given that our goals are important to our collective team, how do you want me to hold individual team members accountable?”
While the ideas are clearly similar between the DOER and the LEADER, the execution of each idea is quite different. It is these subtleties that make the difference between a great leader and a terrible boss. As a coach, I hear strong leaders say things like:
“I’m always looking for new ways to help my folks.”
“I’m amazed at how much ownership my team takes in our collective goals.”
“You should see the innovative ideas my team members came up with this week.”
If you are a manager and thinking these differences are completely dependent on your workers, you may want to re-think the way you’re managing your people.
The Biggest Problem of the DOING Business Owner
I’ve talked briefly about three key management tactics and how they are approached differently by a DOING manager and a LEADER. I now want to discuss the biggest problem I see in my business owner clients. Business owners start as the ultimate DOERS. They are great at wearing all the hats they need to wear in order for their company to survive. As their company needs to grow, business owners are often reluctant to let go of hats. Even when their company needs to grow in a completely new area they’ve never experienced, they believe they are the only one qualified to engage in this new experience.
This problem is part ego; but mostly fear… and often leads to a very busy business owner; and a staff feels like spectators. The business owner is convinced that no one else can do tasks as good as he or she can do them. Unless this thought process can be overcome, the business will stall… and eventually collapse when the business owner cannot physically keep up with this excessive work load.
In order to overcome this DOER trap, business owners need to value the production of their employees greater than their personal production. They need to prioritize planning, leading and communicating above DOING. Often, what I find is just when a business owner breaks away from one kind of DOING, they feel bored and try to latch on another type of DOING; instead of engaging with their team.
As a business coach, I help business owners move from EXPERTS to ENTREPRENEURS. I am so impressed when I see my clients embrace their leadership roles and witness their company’s explosive growth. If you want to experience similar results, I’d love to talk with you.
Note from the Author
My name is Jeff Schuster. I am a certified Life and Business Coach serving small business owners, corporate executives and others who want to transition from “expert” to “entrepreneur”. I have been a small business owner for most of my 30-years in the workplace. I grew an energy efficiency and renewable energy engineering and construction company from nothing to over $10-million/year and sold it in 2013. I now help other business owners make amazing progress toward their own dreams of business ownership independence and success.