Leadership Connection: The Key to a Winning Workplace: Less Management, More Leadership
Each Leadership Connection article is approved for 1 hr CE for CDM, CFPPs and 1 CPE hour (level 1) for RDs and DTRs.
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(reprinted from Dietary Manager, June 2009)
If you are like most people picking up this magazine, your training is primarily in the field of nutrition. It’s what you went to school for. It’s your specialty, and maybe even your passion. So you got a job as a dietary manager, where you could use your expertise to nourish some of the people in our society who need it most.
Unfortunately, the job came with some challenges you may not have expected. I doubt you have nutrition-related issues stressing you out and keeping you up at night. You probably never bargained for the difficult, never-ending, pull-your-hair-out challenge of managing people. It’s hard to focus on nutrition when you spend your days acting as referee, camp counselor, and zookeeper to employees that seem to stay up at night thinking up new ways to make your life difficult.
The good news is there’s a way to interact with your employees that will reduce your stress while getting your team to perform at their best. You might even be able to create an environment where your best employees want to stay and your worst employees want to leave (how would that be for a dream-come-true?). The secret is Less Management, More Leadership.
The words management and leadership are often used interchangeably, but most people know, deep down, that there is a difference. Most people love to be led, while nobody likes to be managed. By looking at some of the different behaviors characterized by these approaches, you can see how becoming a better leader could make all the difference.
Managers evaluate talent. Leaders evaluate potential.
There is nothing wrong with evaluating the skills of the people on your team and making sure they are in the right role. In fact, a realistic understanding of what you have and don’t have is an important place to start. Leaders, however, also look closely for hidden talents and potential ability. It’s almost a certainty that some of the people on your team are capable of great and possibly extraordinary things. They just need someone with the wisdom and patience to bring it out. How’d you like to be the newspaper editor who fired a young Walt Disney because he “didn’t have any good ideas,” or one of the coaches who cut Michael Jordan from the high school basketball team? How many future all-stars do you have sitting on the bench?
Managers rely on control. Leaders inspire trust.
The easiest way to get what you want (in the short-term) is to make people do what you want with the threat (or implied threat) of losing their jobs. Unfortunately, what you really end up with are resentful people who spend a lot of time trying to think of new ways to get around your rules. Leaders earn respect over time by demonstrating that they care about the lives, interests, and goals of the people on the team, and explain why doing things a certain way helps everyone to win. It’s just like with your kids. It’s easier to say “because I’m the mom!” but the extra time invested in helping them learn to think is what makes them trust your judgment.
Managers have subordinates. Leaders have followers.
I can tell whether someone is a manager or a leader in one minute by listening to how they talk about the people working for them. Are they your “staff?” Your “employees?” Or, God forbid, your “subordinates?” I have some news for you: unless you work at a cemetery, you don’t have anyone “under you.” You probably have more education than them, and you certainly make more money than them, but that doesn’t make you better than them. Treat them as equals. You’re all members of the team. Everyone has a role, and you might be the quarterback, but you can’t win by yourself. Treat them with respect, set a good example, and see who follows. If no one is following you, you’re not leading; you’re just going for a walk. It’s hard to work for someone you don’t respect, and it’s even harder to respect someone who doesn’t respect you.
Managers expect problems. Leaders expect opportunities.
And guess what those opportunities look like? Problems. The question is, do you look at them as fires that need putting out (which makes for an exhausting day), or opportunities to learn and grow? Optimists see the glass as half-full, while pessimists see the glass as half-empty. (Administrators, however, say “That glass is way too big. Who authorized buying such a big glass?)
Managers fear failure. Leaders utilize failure.
Nothing will stifle innovation, creative thinking, or teamwork more than a workplace atmosphere where people are constantly afraid of making mistakes. Quick question —What is the opposite of “failure?” I bet you said “success.” Wrong. No one has ever succeeded at anything significant without failing a lot along the way. Failure isn’t the opposite of success; failure is the prerequisite to success. It’s not just OK to fail, it’s necessary. And it’s not enough to understand what failure is. Your team needs to know you understand it. Loosen up, chill out, and start helping them learn when they make mistakes.
Managers try to change behavior. Leaders try to change themselves.
Most managers spend an enormous amount of energy trying to get people to change their behavior. Unfortunately, change is an inside job. Those of you who are married, have you ever tried to change your spouse? How’s that project going? The only person you can change is you. The Saturday Night Live character Stuart Smalley once said, “It’s easier to put on slippers than to carpet the world.” Invest your time into your own change and growth, and not only will you be happier, so will everyone else. Reading this article is a good start. What else are you doing to make sure you are a better leader (or spouse, or parent) tomorrow than you were yesterday?
Just because the word “manager” is in your title (or your industry’s association name) doesn’t mean you can’t be a leader, too. Making the leap from manager to leader could be the most rewarding thing you’ve ever done. Go for it. You’ve got nothing to lose except some stress.
by Jeff Joiner
Jeff Joiner is a popular speaker and trainer throughout the foodservice industry. He was a presenter at ANFP’s Regional Meetings this Spring. Joiner works for Midwest Regional Sales, a premier food broker organization in the Midwest.