Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Manager vs. Leader

I recently took a self assessment quiz as one of my assignments for class and found it to be enlightening. Go ahead and  take the quiz - I’ll still be here when you get back.

What did your results say about you? When I took this quiz I scored myself an 8 in People and a 6.8 in Task. Overall, that put me within the Team Leadership category. This quiz, however, made me reflect on my journey to that category. If I were to take this quiz two years ago, I don’t think I would have fallen in the same area. Instead, I would have been more in the middle of the road or, perhaps, a socialite.

I wasn’t surprised that I scored higher in the people category because, let’s face it, I’m a people person. I once thought I wanted to go into archives until I did a semester-long internship that proved sitting in an office alone was not the best choice for me.  My current position in a public library has proven that people centered jobs are no cake walk, either. In fact, finding the path to effective leadership in a middle management position with little power and a lot of responsibility can be difficult.

I struggled as a new supervisor, at first, because my main motivation was for people to like me. I skirted around the tough issues because they were uncomfortable to address. I found myself making excuses for team members regarding issues such as low productivity or poor prioritization of tasks because the alternative meant that I was not leading the team effectively. In truth, I was afraid to sit down and speak with underperforming employees because I did not want to hurt feelings. When I realized that my non-communication was being unfair to the employee and causing the team to suffer, I bit the bullet and began the tough conversations.

What it comes down to is understanding that tasks and people equally make a business run. The tough conversations have to be had, but completing tasks and losing sight of the people who perform those tasks can be disastrous. Once I decided to have a conversation with an employee regarding performance, I had to decide how I was going to start the conversation. I could just as well state the facts, assume no responsibility, and refuse to listen to excuses. Or, I could present my observations, ask question about my observations, listen, and collaborate on a solution.

Tasks are important, but people are important, too. Clark summarizes the questionnaire perfectly in his notes when he speaks of “People and Mission.” Some of the questions seem to be paradoxical because they hold both people and task as the most important. How can two things be the most important? Clark puts it best:

“nothing is more important than accomplishing the mission and nothing is more important than looking out for the welfare of the people. A good leader can do both!”