Business mentoring tip #77 – The leader versus manager debate…

September 7, 2012Post by Laura Humphreys

In my last tip I was pretty tough on us entrepreneurial types, stating boldly that if our employees were under performing it was our fault not theirs.  I do believe this is true in very many cases, although of course not all.  Some employees do simply suck and I’ll talk more about this in future tips.

However, there is a further distinction to be made on the subject of staff performance (in fact there are many distinctions and an expert in HR is the right person to make them, not me).  I’ve been noticing this one a lot recently as I observe so many small business owners struggle with growth.

The thing about growing is that it means employing people.  And when you employ people you need to manage them.  This is where the potential pit fall lies for many small business owners.  Typically someone who has the gumption to start their own business is likely to be a driven personality.  In the workshop with nine different businesses I held last weekend, nearly all could be described as ‘A’ type, dominant, strong and determined people.  All in my view had leadership quality.  They had vision, enthusisam, confidence, personality… they had ‘mana’.  They were the type of people other people want to follow.

So why would they struggle with growing a high performance team?  Because they are leaders, not managers.  There is a big difference between the two.  Another client recently told me she was going to invest $8,000 in a leadership course.  I looked at her vibrant, powerful personality and the amazing business she had built and asked her why.  She told me it was because she was crap at management.

And in that moment I saw the problem.  She was a good leader already – sure she could learn some new skills and talents in this area – but this course wasn’t going to help her with her management skills, nor with the lack of motivation engulfing a few of her team members.  She needed someone with different skills entirely to help her.  I suggested she spend that $8,000 on an independent HR consultant who could help her implement a more people driven culture.  Regular reviews, clear expecations, set KPI’s and measurements.  These are things that she neither has the time nor the inclination to spend time on herself, but are critical to the success of her growth plans.

The same issue came up for nearly every business owner at my workshop.  As we assessed the business growth plans we could see a distinct lack of planning around the processes that would be required to manage the people.

So I have now become the world’s biggest advocate for independent HR advisors.  Wonderful people who love to manage people and know exactly what you need to have in place to bring out the best in them.  I would engage one of these people to help with your growth from the minute you think about employing people.  You can always learn to be a better leader.  But if your staff have left because no one ever cared enough to manage them properly, you won’t have anyone to lead.

Get your processes in.  Learn how to manage.  Then lead the way.  In that order.

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and experts in small business exit strategies.