Inspired by a fellow blogger

I’m sure that many of you have already heard of Kevin Burns ( and if you haven’t go and have a look at his blog, I’m sure that you’ll find his weekly videos interesting!  Kevin’s videos talk a lot about the role of managers, but the more of them that you see, the more that you’ll come to realise that he’s not talking about managers, but he is talking about leaders and leadership.

A few weeks ago, he spoke about managers being visible, being actively involved in the activities of the teams that they manage.  He came up with a phrase which struck a chord with me:  we’re managers not ‘meetingers’.   The last word made me stop and think about what I’ve been doing personally for the last few weeks.  Have I made time to be with my team, or have I been a meetinger.  With great sadness, I have to report that I’ve been heading towards being a meetinger!

What can I do?

The answer is simple, or it sounds simple enough!  For each meeting that was in my calendar in the week following the ‘meetinger’ revelation, I asked myself two questions:

  • What will I contribute to the meeting?
  • What would happen if I didn’t attend the meeting?
The answer to these questions, particularly the last one helped me to free up more than 50% of my time that week.  If I was asked to attend a meeting where I was merely going to be supplied with information, I sought alternative ways to obtain the information: much of it was available electronically as PowerPoint files or minutes!  I can read!!

What did I do with the newly-found time?  I spent it with my team, understanding the challenges that they face, and helping them by removing some of the simple barriers for their activities that week.

…and next week?

Next week, I’ll be doing the same again!

Meetings culture

The organisation that I work for knows that the number of meetings that it holds is a problem, yet it still faces the challenge that individuals ‘like to be seen’ in meetings; it is their opportunity to raise their profile.  What this results in is the reduction in capability of such an organisation to deliver.  The staff are too busy with meetings to find time to carry out their actions that they agree to in meetings!  A vicious circle that needs to be broken.  Time for some Leadership!

There are simple steps that can be taken to break out of this pattern, but the leaders have to lead, particularly in the meetings that need to take place.  One of the most obvious causes of unproductive meetings is a lack of purpose or lack of focus.  There’s nothing worse than a meeting that is poorly chaired.

I’ll leave you with a simple suggestion about holding better meetings:

As a leader, try having an independent chair or facilitator in your next meeting.  That will provide more structure to the meeting, and allow you to contribute as a participant, rather than chair, secretary and participant!

Confusing management with leadership

I am not someone who is motivated by grand job titles, so it confused me somewhat when a part of a company that I worked for changed the job title of some of its supervisors from “Team Leader” to “Team Manager”.  I suspected that the decision was made by someone who thought that being a “Manager” sounded more important than being a “Leader”.  I can already find myself disagreeing with this point-of-view.  At that point in my career, I don’t think I understood the difference as I do now, but one of the Senior Leaders in the part of the business that I worked in didn’t follow the trend.

What is a Manager?

There are numerous ways in which you can describe the role of a manager.  Managers carry out things like

  • performance management
  • work allocation
  • reward decision-making
  • hiring and firing
  • delivery of the corporate messages

Although this is not a comprehensive list of duties, what you will see is a list of activities that impact their staff.  The manager in such a situation is expected to be the vehicle through which the company interacts with its staff.

What is a Leader?

This might be a more difficult question to answer, but here’s a few ideas about what leaders might do:

  • coach others to achieve their best performance
  • be an expert, can lead from the workplace
  • can share workload, ensuring that everyone plays to their strengths
  • can interpret corporate messages, delivering meaning

You might think that I’m suggesting that managers can’t be leaders, by choosing different styles of words for the two categories, and maybe I am!

The real differences between leaders and managers

What really separates leaders from managers is simple:

Managers have to push their staff into delivering whereas people will follow leaders and deliver more!

A simple statement may start you thinking about how you are working today.  Are you a leader or a manager?  I’m sure there are merits in both camps, but I have worked for people managers as well as leaders, and I have a strong preference for leaders.  If I think back over my career, I see only a few leaders who got the best out of me; these people created space and opportunities for me to grow as a person, as well as to be able to deliver value to the business.

If you’re an aspiring leader, feel free to comment on this post!

First steps in turning managers into leaders

I hope to convince you, as you read this blog, that there is a better world out there, if only we can move our businesses away from control by managers, towards an era where leadership not management is king.

I’ll start you thinking with a simple thought:

The majority of people that go to work in your business just want to be able to do a good job!

If this is true, then I wonder how much you spend on complicated reward and performance management systems in your business?