This blog is a revised and updated version of a previously published blog.
Oftentimes people confuse managing with leading. I often struggle with managing; I am not a manager; I am a leader. I enjoy empowering my employees, prompting them to utilize their skills and strengths to make decisions, impact projects and overall, make the organization better.
But I struggle with managing their productivity. I have found my approach often leads to work not being accomplished, to employees’ feeling they can waste away the day and not meet deadlines. I have reflected upon this and tried several different approaches.
When assigning a task, I will tell you what needs to be accomplished, when it needs to be completed and in what format. If needed, I will also provide a budget and any other resources needed to successfully complete the project. If coaching or training is needed, I will provide that as well. Then, I will follow up with daily questions about progress and if any help is needed. I will schedule meetings to report and check in prior to the due date. I will also provide assistance and help as needed. Yet, in the past I have often had employees not meet their deadlines.
Reflecting upon this, as well as conversations with coaches, mentors, and peers have revealed I am perhaps a bit too nice, but my overall approach is good. I struggle with being empowering and uplifting versus overbearing and controlling. So, where does this leave me now?
I am in an interesting place, owning my own business rather than running an organization. Because of previous hurts and a series of unprofessional employees, I have been very selective in who I bring in and hire. I have had family work for me, contract employers, and partnerships with other consultants. Currently, it is just me. I work on projects through my company and in partnership with other companies. To be 100% honest, I prefer it that way. I truly struggle with boundaries, and after a series of horrible bosses, struggle with how to hold people accountable in a kind way. At the moment, I am the only employee. After more than 5 years in business, I needed a break from managing and wanted to focus on growth. For me, this is the right decision, for others it could be the wrong decision.
With that in mind, I find myself once again reflecting on my leadership style. My reflection has been prompted by a school project my daughter was assigned. As a freshman in high school, she was asked to write, direct and film a 10-minute-long original movie. Having struggled working with a group during the first semester, the teacher placed her in a group with upperclassmen, and she opted to work alone.
The magnitude of the project left me staggering as a parent. My daughter was also overwhelmed, the lack of guidance by the teacher left her in tears. I am a planner, a doer, a get up and get things done kind of girl. I knew if I didn’t manage the project my daughter would fail, not because of lack of skill or drive, but because she is simply too young to understand how to take something apart and create workable pieces.
With this knowledge, I sat down with my daughter and showed her how to break the project apart and how to create due dates for smaller pieces which would yield a successful end-product. Together, we created a timetable and wrote it on the family calendar. With this plan in place, we have remained on target, and no one person has been overwhelmed.
I am proud of my daughter and what she has accomplished. But it has left me floundering, why did my approach work with her and not with previous staff? Where did I go wrong? Or, am I simply more confident in my role as mom versus my role as a leader? The questions are endless. But one lesson I have learned through all of this about my husband, he is a procrastinator, he always will be and he will always wait until the last minute. As his wife, I can accept this and learn to manage his style of working to my own.
Lessons in leadership can be found everywhere. I have learned a great deal about myself, and realize I still have a long way to go.