Leading vs Managing — An Introduction

(This is the first in a series of posts on “leading vs managing.” If you want to keep up, signing up for the newsletter is the best way. /shamelessplug)

leading-vs-managing-ab-1-728There is a great site on the interwebz called Big Dog and Little Dog’s Performance Juxtaposition. It’s Don Clark’s site about leadership, learning, training, and performance improvement. There is a quiz on there about today’s topic, and the quiz includes two statements that you have to rate in importance:

Nothing is more important than accomplishing a goal or task.
Nothing is more important than building a great team.

Of course, everyone taking the quiz asks how both of these can be true, and Don answers from his Army days —

One of the mottos of the U.S. Army is “People and mission first.” That is, 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!

That, in a nutshell, is the these for today’s article: A leader’s job is to Lead the People and Manage the Work, and you have to do both well to be successful. Let’s explore this.

Managing the Work

This part of the job is simple to understand: you have been given a team in order to deliver a certain body of work or accomplish a certain goal, and if you don’t lead them to do that, then you have failed on this part of your job. Every annual assessment addresses this in some way, whether it is “Drives for Results” or “Focus on Tasks” or whatever. And, in most organizations, those leaders whose teams deliver get promoted, and regular failure to deliver is a sure path to a quick exit from leadership.

The problem is, quite frankly, that many leaders got promoted not because they could get others to do the work, but because they were so good at doing the work themselves. We look at someone who turns out great work in large quantities, and what do we do? We move them into leadership, and assume their skills will transfer. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Many excellent individual contributors are so good because they are working in their comfort zone — that place that combines passion, talents, skills, and strengths. The work comes so naturally to them that they have never had to think about how they learned to do it, or even more, how to teach others.

Then they suddenly have a team, and they have to learn a whole new skill set: resource allocation, work tracking, project management, delegation. And, they have to stop what they are good at: doing the work themselves!

I’ll have more to say about managing the work in future leadership posts, but for now let’s just say this:

If you are a leader of a team, part of your job is learning the skills and practices necessary to get the most production out of that team over time.

Now let’s turn to the other side of the coin — the side that many leaders forget to do.

Leading the People

You may be asking yourself, “If I lead the people to deliver, isn’t that leading the people?” Short answer: no, that’s just managing the work. Long answer: no, and if you don’t figure out this part of the job, eventually you’ll have no people to deliver the work.

“Leading the people” is short-hand for all of the human-person-centered skills, tasks, and processes that you need to learn and do in order to both build a great team and build up the people on that team. Here are just a few examples:

  • Developing and communicating a mission and vision
  • Career and development planning and execution
  • Team development, including team dynamics
  • Relationship-building with each person on your team
  • Coaching, feedback, recognition

If you are reading that list and feeling uncomfortable, don’t feel bad — many people who go into leadership get there because they were great at the work (as noted above), not necessarily because they were great at people skills. And, most leaders, even the ones who are naturally extraverted and gregarious, still have to learn to do these things well.

But here’s the bottom line: You can get a fairly quick bump in work delivery by being demanding, or a martinet, or focused only on the next deliverable or report. However, that bump is as fleeting as the weight loss on a fad diet. If you want to have a team that becomes great and stays great over time, you have to learn to lead the people at the same time you learn to manage the work. You have to do both, or ultimately you will fail.

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What about you? Are you good at leading the people, managing the work, or both? How did you learn to do them? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Worship As B-Roll

We had an interesting moment in worship this morning. I was in my usual place, sitting with the choir in the loft, when I looked up and noticed a TV camera crew in the back of the sanctuary. The camera man was shooting some B-roll, while the reporter was just standing there, watching the service happen. They recorded for about ten minutes or so, and when I glanced back there again, they were gone.

B-roll,” for those of you who haven’t done video production, is video shot of backgrounds, buildings, and other scenes. It is used as intro and outro shots, or to have something on the screen during a voiceover. Since our church is been indirectly in the news this week due to the marriage equality ruling, I wasn’t too surprised to see the TV crew. As I was watching them, though, the thought occurred to me:

How often do we approach worship as B-roll? Continue reading

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What If Gandalf Doesn’t Show?

(a Lection Reflection on Psalm 130 and Mark 5:21-43)

There is a scene in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers where Gandalf is leaving Aragorn to go get help. As he mounts up and prepares to leave, he says

“Look to my coming, at first light, on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East.”

And with that bit of foreshadowing, Gandalf gallops away.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know the rest. The orc army attacks Helm’s Deep, breaks through the defenses, and is poised to massacre all the forces of good — when, at the darkest moment, the sun rises on the fifth day, Gandalf appears in shining white, and with him is an entire army on horseback, ready to turn the tide and win the battle for the good guys.

What brought this sequence to mind is a verse in this week’s Psalm (Psalm 130): Continue reading

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Is Jesus Calling Us To Be Superheroes?

(a Lection Reflection on Mark 4:35-41)

I have a guilty habit to share: I enjoy reading adventure novels. Jason Bourne, Dirk Pitt, Jack Ryan — I buy them in paperback, and usually read them in a couple of days. They’re brain candy, empty calories, but I still get a kick out of them.

The heroes in these books share at least one thing in common: they’ve learned to manage their fears. Over and over again, when faced with situations that would paralyze most of us, they are able to think through their options, make a plan, and execute that plan. And, of course, they ultimately come out on top. (Hard to have a series if you kill off the hero.)

So here’s my question for this week’s Gospel lection:

Is Jesus calling us to be superheroes?

Continue reading

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Of David, twigs, and seeds — a lesson about the Kingdom of God

(A Lection Reflection on 1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13, Ezekiel 17:22-24, and Mark 4:26-34)

I love the Onion. So, when they put out a faux compilation of their work across the 20th century entitled “Our Dumb Century,” I had to have a copy.

On the last page, there is a news story entitled “All Corporations Merge Into Omnicorp.” It makes you laugh (ruefully) because you know that becoming bigger and more powerful through merger is a common tactic in business. Why do companies do this? Because size=might and might=right. It’s self-evident in our world: if you’re big, it’s because you’re the best, and therefore you should be in charge.

I can hear some readers now, saying “I don’t think that way.” No? Who gets asked to speak at your meetings? Who does workshops on successful church work? Who gets written up in magazines? The pastors and staff of the mega-churches, right?

Note that I’m not saying that big=bad, or that growth and success cannot be trusted. Instead, I’m just pointing out the central truth of our lections this week: Continue reading

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