The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

TO MANAGE OR TO LEAD? THAT IS THE QUESTION...


A manager mobilizes others to act in order to accomplish a defined goal or objective.  Managers identify (and communicate) expected results then train, direct or tell others what must be done to accomplish specific tasks.  The shortcoming with managing, however, is that doing things “by the book” and “as expected” inhibits innovation, creativity and change.  Unfortunately, many managers put what is accomplished above how it is done, inadvertently demonstrating that the ends are more important than the means.  Managers who dictate who does what, how is it to be done and what is an acceptable outcome can accomplish much BUT will rarely inspire others to greatness nor improve upon “what is” by discovering “what could be.”  Through the application of a specific and highly honed skill-set, managers successfully:

·         Identify objectives
·         Communicate expectations
·         Monitor progress and modify processes and
·         Acknowledge results

We know that when someone moves into their first management role it is common to do what their favorite manager did OR intentionally act differently than their worst supervisor.  Far too often, however, employees are promoted into management because they were great “performers” and are expected to pass their exceptional abilities on to others (without being equipped with the tools necessary to make this transfer).  Managing tends to be accomplished through “carrot and stick” directives – with an emphasis on the stick and a minimization of the carrot.  These traditional methods of managing people at work, however, are being challenged by social and cultural factors within today’s workforce.  Some Managers get frustrated with this emerging reality as they keep behaving the way they always have (believing that if they show consistency of style and predictability of reactions employees will eventually adapt) expecting to motivate a different workforce. 

A leader accomplishes transformational change through people.  While great leaders are typically good managers, a strong manager does not necessarily have the ability to lead.  Leaders accomplish change by inspiring others to act (without fearing failure) rather than expecting them to act as directed.  Leaders are able to leverage the strengths of employees having diverse backgrounds, experiences, values and expectations to achieve a common goal or shared outcome.  A Leader must be willing to change course while keeping sight on the objective, recognizing that anything worth accomplishing often presents risks and challenges that must be overcome – that changing conditions, new information, or unexpected obstacles are temporary obstructions in life’s pathway to success.  Leaders who embrace change and welcome different perspectives are open to new ideas and often accomplish much more than could have been done individually.  Successful leaders must periodically reflect upon “how” things are done rather than focusing solely upon “what was done” and must work with (rather than through) others in order to achieve success.  A great leader accomplishes much by consistently:
  •         Building and maintaining relationships
  •         Identifying and satisfying the needs of all those invested in an outcome
  •         Motivating and rewarding individuals while acknowledging the contributions of a team
  •          Establishing trust and showing respect
  •          Setting goals, communicating expectations and providing feedback, and
  •          Allowing people to learn from (rather than punishing them for) failure

It is difficult to get employees to act independently and take accountability for their actions – embracing both the lessons of their shortcomings and the success of their accomplishments – if they are “told” how to do what they have been assigned rather than being “sold” on why something must be done and allowed to participate in choosing how it might be best accomplished.  The days of an autocratic and directive management style are long gone, replaced by a need for adaptability, responsiveness and oversight.  A good leader NEVER lessens the requirements or expectations of a job nor diminishes individual performance standards or overall results.  Today’s leader must, however, understand how to leverage (and acknowledge) individual strengths to accomplish corporate objectives.  Clearly communicating expectations then effectively engaging others to establish processes and procedures that will accomplish required objectives then monitoring and measuring activities while staying out of the way of progress are the keys to successful leadership.  While managers can still help to identify problems, strong and effective leaders become a vital part of most new and innovative solutions.