If one moment you’re the boss and the next you’re the buddy and the transition is a bumpy ride, you risk sharing quite the mixed message with that team you have the privilege of leading. In fact, a rough transition, even from say manager to leader will downright confuse the team. New managers often struggle with this when they’re promoted, but not prepared and it will create a feeling of not knowing exactly where you’re coming from.
Let’s examine the two roles of manager vs. leader. Managers track numbers, quotas, vacation time, and maybe budgets. They’re focused on the tasks of the job and getting them done, measured, and accurately calculated. Leaders develop people and this effort takes different skills in communication and motivation, as well as a different level of interest. In fact, managers who struggle with leading have usually become stuck in the transition and are trying to maintain a treatment of people that works well with numbers. Meaning, they act as if people are going to respond the same as line items on a P and L or hash marks on a spreadsheet and that’s where we get the idea of Human Capital. The truth is people talk back, hash marks don’t. Thus, when leading people and making the smooth transition, you might find it more helpful to have a conversation that sounds something like this:
“Bob, in looking at your attendance, I see that there is an excess of days on which you’ve been late”
“Yah, Marcie and I are trying to solidify child care for the children and it is causing me to have to drive farther than normal right now, making it really tough to be here on time.”
“I understand and that’s a priority in your life. What can we do to make sure both priorities, getting the children to the right day care and getting to work on time, are being met?”
This kind of dialogue validates the concern of the team member and reminds them of the need to address both priorities, without disregarding the importance of one or the other. The question then also involves “Bob” in the solution. If you can come up with a solution together, he’ll own the idea even more so than if you gave him the solution without his input, or even more so than if you gave him an ultimatum, acting as the manager of the attendance metric.
Caring about those you lead becomes contagious and as a contagious leader, when you care about them and their needs, you might be surprised how much they then care about what you need.