Most people don’t want to be managed.  Dr. Alan Zimmerman, CSP explains that people “resist management because it’s too much like being ‘controlled.”  People want leadership, not more management.  Good leadership is not bestowed; it is earned, developed, and demonstrated through actions, then repeated.

Similarly, one of the hardest parts about being a manager is that pesky human factor.  Ask a manager about the worst aspects of their responsibilities and they’re very likely to answer:

  1. Not enough time or too many people to manage;
  2. Having to give negative feedback; and
  3. Managing around different personalities.

This is according to a survey of over 37,000 managers conducted by Bruce Tulgan, author and founder of RainmakerThinker, Inc. on the Top Ten Hardest Things About Managing People.

In one way or another, everyone, regardless of title, role, or responsibility participates in leadership.  You have to lead and manage your customers, your peers, yourself, a project, and even manage up to your boss.  Designated leaders and managers (by title, role, and responsibility) who understand this concept can coach and leverage their team of leaders – amazing things can happen as a result!

Think:  Lead People

Look to lead your people rather than manage them.  Appeal to the leader within them. This will create empowerment, a critical component in an organization’s culture.  Leading people, instead of managing them may begin a culture shift within the department, perhaps the entire company.  This will begin minimizing the challenges that plague most managers.  Give vision; get feedback; empower results.

Think:  Manage Process  

Savvy leaders understand that in order to lead people effectively, systems and processes must be developed, defined, and refined with clear definition where employees’ responsibilities lie.  This is where systems and processes now create accountability, thus minimizing the need for over management, or the dreaded, micro management.

So, where do you begin?

This can be overwhelming to think about.  This does NOT have to be an entire overhaul of a company’s systems and processes, which may not be realistic; it may just start with you, or perhaps your team, department, and so on.  Simply start by identifying your needs and ideas with desired outcomes, which will spark curiosity and more ideas.  In my article, “Ideas are for Show, Execution is for Dough,” I give a framework around taking an idea and moving it through strategy and into execution – do this, and now you are bringing solutions, not just identifying challenges.

Here’s an example of applying this concept:

I was hired to take over our company’s Bay Area, California region and operations center. I quickly discovered there was a need to overhaul the operational systems and process flows in order to expand the region, support our stakeholders, and improve efficiencies.  Like all businesses, there are many complexities and variabilities within the operation, and you can’t just stop the machine, rebuild, then start again…we have a business to run!

I started with a vision to retool our workflows and systems (like a manufacturing line) in order to simplify the process, increase production velocity, and leverage technology that would allow us to scale.  I consistently communicated this vision with direction and desired outcomes – including the objective of having a process that holds everyone accountable.

The intent and subsequent result of repeatedly communicating vision was alignment amongst our employees.  Then, through open forums for feedback, we garnered commitment and buy in.  Now, everyone is aligned and committed to the vision with shared fate in each other’s success.

Lastly and naturally, we built employee accountability with defined responsibilities into a new and improved workflow and process that everyone has a stake in, understands, and clearly sees the results.  Less need for ongoing over management, more opportunity to lead and refine for better outcomes – we moved the needle.

The results were beyond our expectations in every category:

  • Actual and measurable results
  • A better culture of empowerment
  • Higher levels of employee satisfaction
  • Improved job performance across the board

The processes improved because everyone was accountable to it, and we could measure it.  Our managers improved because they could focus on leading their teams, not micro managing them.  Amazing how managing those pesky human factors became a little more, well, manageable…

What refinements or shifts can you make or lead, personally or with your team, that will facilitate the concept of lead people, manage process?

Go Forth and Succeed!  

Craig Davis


Carol Gingold · February 27, 2018 at 10:36 pm

Craig – I agree wholeheartedly with your actions and your suggestions! I also think it would be helpful for organizations to rid themselves of the ‘project manager’ title and free experienced PMs to apply project leadership throughout the lifecycle of the initiative. Think of us as more than ‘deployers’. Enlist your current talent pool to unleash their strengths!
Thanks for sharing!

    Craig Davis · February 27, 2018 at 11:36 pm

    Thanks Carol! Really good feedback, especially coming from your purview.

    I agree, and to your point, this also facilitates a culture of empowerment supported by leadership, versus a mandate to ‘get it done.’ Speaking from my own experiences, I think of our objectives like projects, and rather than having a specific project manager, I get the village together who are effected by the objective/project, and together, we go into project management mode with clear rules and objectives, I empower everyone as leaders despite “titles”, and we’re all accountable to the process with desired and agreed upon outcomes. I do have roles that are tailored towards ongoing projects, like Technology rollouts, but they are not on an island as PM’s, and they still follow the same project management pathway as above. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

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