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June 11, 2014 - In Featured, Leadership in Management - No comments yet

All organisations whether in the private or public sector employ people as managers.  Managers are responsible for the results generated by their people; the people who report to them.  In recent years there has been a great deal written and talked about leadership.  This is because leadership is the element of a manager’s job which is about the way he/she relates to their people to get the work done.  The way managers lead their people offers substantial opportunities for the delivery of performance improvements by both the manager and his/her staff.

It is important to remember that a manager’s job also involves managing non-human resources like budgets, facilities, materials and administering the organisation’s policies, some of which may be to do with their people.  Leadership is the part of a manager’s job to do with how they involve their people in achieving the results the organisation needs from them.

To deliver effective leadership, that works, it’s worth focusing on a few big things for the people who report directly to the manager.  Here we highlight:

Setting Direction   For each person for whom they are responsible, the manager needs to discuss and agree the overall direction of the person’s work and the performance expectations for task accomplishment.  Where there are things that are more important than others, discussing and agreeing the priority tasks is a critical communication.

How the manager goes about this interaction will distinguish it as leadership or not.  If the manager approaches their staff member in a positive way and engages them in discussion about the work to be undertaken, the results to be achieved and requests and listens to their contributions, then the staff member is more likely to become committed to achieving the right results.  Stimulating such commitment is widely regarded as effective leadership.

Developing Performance   Helping individuals to improve their ability to complete agreed tasks successfully and achieve good results is another important aspect of effective leadership.  To do this, managers need to observe, where possible, and monitor performance by all means at their disposal.  Talking to the person concerned is most important as this, done properly, will build confidence and trust and so enable any difficulties and ideas to be shared with the manager.  Obtaining feedback from others about the individual’s performance is important for the manager in understanding the impact the individual has in going about their work.

Focusing on providing balanced feedback about performance is important to build trust and start fostering engagement.  Discussing performance and encouraging the individual to come up with their own evaluation and resolutions to shortfalls helps develop confidence and competence.  Illuminating knowledge, skills and behaviours to be developed and how the individual may be supported to do this is an important area of leadership in managing people.             

Creating Common Purpose   For managers who have a number of people reporting who need to work together effectively to produce the required results, setting direction collectively is important.  This does not obviate the need to agree specific objectives and measures for individuals.  As in all leadership activities, a manager needs to ensure that they have a robust and clear understanding, with their own manager, about the results to be achieved by their people.

With such clarity about expected results, the manager can open discussions with all direct reports about the focus of work for the forthcoming period.  The key aim of these discussions is to involve everyone in contributing to create common purpose.  The discussions need to be undertaken with everyone involved together.  Common purpose is more powerful when everyone can see that their colleagues are engaged in achieving the group’s results.  This requires the manager to be successful in leading a group meeting where everyone can feel that they were able to participate successfully by making contributions and having any concerns addressed.

Leading the creation of such common purpose can provide the foundation for developing a team where the productivity of the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts.  (For further information, please see our article ‘Build Organisational Capability through Team Effectiveness’

Facilitating Interaction with Other Groups   The effectiveness of the whole organisation is ultimately the responsibility of the CEO and the board.  The effective organisation maximises results in the competitive external environment.  With this in mind, all managers can contribute to organisational effectiveness if they ensure that their people interact positively, collaboratively and helpfully with the groups that they need to work with for various aspects of achieving results.  Some of these interactions may be critical, especially with groups that are situated before or after them in the value chain that delivers the product or service to the customer.  Others are functions, such as Finance and Human Resources who aim to support the smooth running of the organisation.

The manager who is successful in facilitating positive interactions with other groups is helping people to understand the connectedness and integrity of the organisation’s work.  Demonstrating this understanding contributes to strategic leadership and will be appreciated by enlightened senior management.

Leadership is often at its most effective when it is enabling and focused on assisting people perform at their best.  This needs the manager to deploy a general approach that involves their people in contributing ideas and talents and developing commitment to the higher purpose of the organisation.

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