Leadership. It’s a blessing, and a responsibility. Many of us relish the benefits – advancing in our career, joining the upper echelon of big thinkers, and garnering larger paychecks. We delight in our big titles, expanding influence, and the increasing respect we garner from our peers. In fact, our jobs would be perfect, if it weren’t for one pesky thing – those people we have the responsibility to lead.
I cringe when I hear leaders refer to the people on their team as if they’re a burden. And much to my dismay, I hear it way more than I’d like. Over and over when I ask what the hardest part of their job is, the part they like the very least – they tell me it’s managing people. And yet, that’s a big part of what leaders do, isn’t it? How in the world did we come to disdain the very people we are called to serve?
Perhaps it’s because so many in leadership are exhausted, and stretched way too thin. With so much on their plate, they have precious little time for fostering the human capital that is essential for every organization’s success. The unfortunate result of that lack of investment is a disturbing trend I’m observing in companies across the country – an increasing gap in our leadership pipelines. Our young and mid-level professionals that are incredibly talented are walking away from organizations frustrated and jaded, because their talents and leadership abilities have been undernourished, overlooked and abused. If we don’t make some changes quickly, we’ll miss the opportunity to grow and cultivate rich and ready talent pools from within.
But I know that’s not what we want. When we joined the leadership ranks our dream was to build a team that exceeded our wildest expectations, and experienced career success that was more than they could imagine. But the issues that have caused some of us to dread people management have literally sucked the wind right out of our sails. We need our mojo back, and I believe with a few changes in the way we do business, we can get it. Adjusting the way we approach hiring, resource allocation, and how we do our own jobs can free up more time on our schedule, and make a big difference in our ability to attract, retain and develop future leaders.
Check out the three things I think are tripping us up!
Number One: We’re hiring the wrong people. We select amazingly talented people, but we pick them for the wrong reason. Here’s what I hear us saying:
I need to hire my replacement. No you don’t. No one can replace you. You are unique. So is the person you’re looking for to fill your open position. Like you, they will play a pivotal role in your organization’s success. But they likely won’t do it your way. So stop looking for your carbon copy, and instead seek out someone who can successfully fill the role.
I need someone who can help me. Yes, you probably do. But that’s not the way to approach writing a job description for a new position. Because when you do that new job becomes a collection of functions from your old job that you don’t like or don’t do well, instead of a robust career opportunity that allows your team member to grow.
I need someone I can trust. Absolutely! The challenge becomes when we interpret this to mean someone we already know, such as our friends, or people we’ve worked with in the past. Which may not be a bad thing, but it’s not always the best thing either. Because when it’s time for feedback, our friendship may get in the way of honest dialogue. A better idea may be to look for people with a track record of integrity, and let trust grow over time.
Hiring from any of these perspectives leads to a team of followers, not future leaders, and often you end up doing their job and yours. My mentor once told me you should never be the smartest person in your circle. As a leader this is especially true. You want talent on your team that is constantly growing and evolving. But you won’t attract or retain those people, if you stuff them in the box of being your sidekick. Hire people who can do their job, and then one day grow beyond you.
Number Two: We have the right people in the wrong position. I see this nearly everywhere I go. There’s a person on the team that isn’t performing at the level we expect. We’ve given direct feedback, and even sent them to training – but nothing seems to help. As leaders we’re frustrated, because on paper this person looks outstanding. They have great education, experience and personality – but really poor performance. What happened? It could be one of three things occurred.
I know you’re not exactly right for this position, but you’re such a great team fit. Uh oh…we’ve fallen in love with a candidate, and lost sight of ALL the qualifications needed for success within the position. So we hire them, which eventually leads to dissatisfaction for everyone, as we place a person in a role that was never right for them.
I know this is not why we hired you, but the role has changed. Our businesses are evolving, and the skill set needed to achieve success in certain areas is too. Only problem is – the majority of people are staying the same – thereby creating a gap that eventually makes people not a good fit for their redefined role. But instead of moving them, we become magicians, trying to make them be who they aren’t.
I know this is not exciting anymore, but you do it so well I hate to move you. Just as jobs evolve, so too, do people. Life experiences and changing personal circumstances can make a job people once loved, over time bore them to tears. It’s no longer a challenge, and as a result their work suffers, because they stop paying attention to the details.
All of these scenarios highlight why it’s so important that we, as leaders, are placing people in positions that allow them to maximize their strengths for collective success. Otherwise, you end up with high turnover and/or low performance. Either way, it’s not an environment that fosters leadership growth from within the ranks, and it certainly causes more work for you.
Number Three: We’re not letting the people we hire do their jobs. You went into sales because you love it. There’s nothing like the high of closing a big deal. And now that you’ve done so well, you’ve been promoted.
But leading a team of people is not what you thought it would be. Instead of doing more of what you love, you now spend over half your time managing people – up and down. You miss that rush from sales more than you could have imagined.
So instead of empowering your rock star sales people to do their jobs, you keep them on a short leash and “help” them along – inserting yourself in every detail until the deal is done. Then of course when it’s time to celebrate you make sure to let senior management know that you and such and such did a great job, together. What a bunch of baloney!
Listen, if you have to micro-manage your team then mistake number one or two are likely at fault. And if it’s number two, then it’s probably time to do some soul-searching to determine if it’s you or your team member that is out of position. There is never a good reason to micro-manage, and there’s nothing worse than having a boss who still wants to do your job!
Don’t squash the leaders on your team by stifling their growth. And don’t let the paperwork and people management issues rob you of the joy of leading others to be their best self. Eliminate the time sucks in your life, and let’s be the servant leaders we were called to be, always, always leading with love. For the greatest dividend in this life is paid from investing in the lives of others.
Leaders, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are you doing in your organization that’s getting great results? Any other course corrections you’d recommend? Leave us a note in the comments below so we can learn and grow together!
Sending you Big Hugs and Love! ❤