How to Put People Problems in the Past

How easy your working life would be if the only person you had to manage was yourself! Small business owners and managers rate people problems as one of the biggest challenges they face.

What if you could free up hours of your time each week to run the business instead of running after employees?

If you’re frequently battling staff issues, the good news is, you have the fix at your fingertips.

Leadership Versus Management – What’s the Difference?
The single biggest cause of stress for managers and staff alike, is misunderstanding the difference between leadership and management. That sounds like simply a semantics issue, but it goes way beyond that. The two terms are used inter-changeably and that is the root cause of most people problems.

Many managers manage when they should be leading and often don’t lead at all because they think management is leadership. It’s quite unfortunate that we use the term “manager” in the first place, because if you think your job as boss is to “manage” people, you’re creating a very painful rod for your own back and making things tough for your staff.

Understanding The Difference
Here’s why understanding the difference between leadership and management is important:

People willingly follow a boss and throw themselves into their work if they can see there’s something in it for them beyond a pay cheque. The key word there is “willingly”. It’s hard work to continually have to coerce your staff to do what you want. If they willingly did it and did it well, your job as a boss would be a lot easier. And your staff would be a lot happier and more productive.

In 2009, as part of an ongoing research project surveying tens of thousands of working people around the world, Harvard Business Review reported that 88% of employees responded well to a leader who could articulate a vision for the future that shared their own aspirations1. It’s the old “what’s in it for me” syndrome. It applies to us all. The WIFM syndrome even applies to charity volunteers and donors – the reason some people happily work for free or donate to a charity is because it makes them feel good.

The key to having people willingly do their job well is to show them a shared vision for a future that is good for them and for the business. And it’s not just about money. Nor is it a matter of saying: “If you do your job well you won’t lose it”. Threats are never a long-term motivator; in fact, they essentially de-motivate. The days of people being prepared to work at something and somewhere they don’t enjoy just to get a pay cheque, are long gone. Most people these days want – among other factors we’ll look at in a future article – to feel they’re making a valued contribution to something worthwhile.

Leading With Vision
Many studies show that people want to understand the leader’s vision and, importantly, to share the journey to realising that vision, feeling they’re making a valued contribution to its achievement. If achieving the vision will make the staff member feel good, that staff member will willingly contribute to the best of their ability. If it doesn’t make the staff member feel good, then that staff member is probably in the wrong job.

A good leader will take the time to share their vision for the business with their employees, and to show the difference the business is and/or could be making. And a good leader will take the time to understand what each employee really wants and will support them in getting that through their work while contributing to the achievement of the shared vision for the business. Everyone wins.

It doesn’t take long to work out what you want to say and to sit down with your staff and discuss what you all want from the business. Bring in an outside facilitator if you’re not sure or uncomfortable doing it. You won’t regret the hour or two. It could free up that amount of time for you every week, or for some, every day! And be prepared to genuinely listen and perhaps to hear some tough truths. That part’s seldom easy but will repay you in spades.

How Does Management Fit In?
It’s all very well having a vision for the future of the business, but the realisation of dreams and aspirations requires some structure. That’s management.

Management is developing and co-ordinating the processes and systems that support staff in their roles and allow the business to operate. The better the systems and processes are designed, the easier it is for staff to do their jobs, and the better the business will run.

Lead People, Manage Processes
To sum up, here’s how I see leadership and management:

  • Leadership is inspiring and supporting people to achieve a shared vision.
  • Management is controlling and monitoring processes to achieve a set outcome.

You lead people, and manage processes.

And here’s the real benefit of all this: If you lead well, you’ll need to manage less. That’s because if your staff are inspired and motivated by a shared vision for the business and their role in it, once they understand the systems and processes, they’ll usually implement or even develop them without the need for you to be constantly looking over their shoulders.

Written by John Carroll

John Carroll is a Leadership, Management and Marketing Consultant with Health Information Australia. He is also a leadership and business speaker, advisor, trainer, and coach. He has worked with some of Australia’s and the world’s leading names including ANZ Bank, Capital Chemist, Captain Cook Cruises, Caterpillar, Johnson & Johnson, Omnicare (Aged and Disability Services), P&O, Reckitt Benckiser, and Unilever.