Leaders versus Manager a Comparison

Lately I have been working on a project to create an environment to learn about leadership.  But I am finding that organizations often do not differentiate between a leader and a manager.  We often see a manager as a leader, but yet they are two distinct skill sets, leaders are often seen as someone who directs and instructs people and makes important decisions for the organization.  In fact a leader may have some of those attributes but a leader is much more than that.

Reh (n.d.) states that “At the most basic level, a leader is someone who leads other.”  This is a pretty fundamental statement, if a leader does not have a follower, then you are not leading.  I have said the same thing about a manager, a manager without direct reports is an employee not a manager.  I have worked in jobs where I had a title like Data Manager, but in fact I managed data not people, so in fact I was not a manager at all, perhaps the job is really Data Management.  Of course companies like to give titles to people to make them feel important. But if a manager does not have a direct report, or if a leader does not have a follower, they are neither a Manager nor a Leader.

Allen, M. (n.d.) has a great list of the differences between a leader and a manager.  Go through the list I think it really spells out a lot of differences.

– The manager administers; the leader innovates.

– The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.

– The manager maintains; the leader develops.

– The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.

– The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.

– The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.

– The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.

– The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.

– The manager imitates; the leader originates.

– The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.

– The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.

– The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

 

Think about any of the mangers you have had over the years,  if your manager was more concerned with organizing the work of the department, making sure that the right resources were assigned to tasks, ensure the tasks were executed with quality.  Then you were not led, you were managed.  A leader does not look at people as someone to order around, they look to develop their employees, give them purpose; they inspire employees to do their work by nurturing peoples skills that allows them to develop the talents needed to get the job done right.  Of course a manager may be a leader, but in actual fact anyone can be a leader, leaders can be anywhere in the organization.  Organizations should be looking for these leaders in their organizations and nurturing them, they are the future of the organization.

References:

Reh, J. (n.d) ‘What is a leader?’[Online]. Available at: http://management.about.com/od/leadership/a/whatisaleader.htm (Accessed: October 15, 2013)

Allen, M. (n.d.) ‘What is the difference between Management and Leadership?’ [Online]. Available at: http://guides.wsj.com/management/developing-a-leadership-style/what-is-the-difference-between-management-and-leadership/  (Accessed: October 15, 2013)

 

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Two Leaders I admire (Discussion post for Cornell University Change Leadership course)

Share examples of two or three people you’ve encountered in your professional or personal life whom you would consider to possess a high degree of credibility. What made them credible in your eyes? What did they do to build and/or maintain their credibility? What lessons can you draw from these encounters that you can apply in your professional relationships to build and maintain credibility?

 

Over the years I have met many wonderful people whom I believe have a high degree of credibility.  First John Stanton, CEO and founder of the Running Room, this is a large chain of retail stores specializing in Running.  What makes him credible is perceived honesty and warmth, he cares about people, but it is more than that. John’s passion for running goes beyond just selling running gear, he believes in running and that anybody can run.  He maintains this attitude and travels all Canada and the world to motivate people to run.  His talks are not about his gear why you should buy his merchandise, it’s about running and why he runs, why we should run.  He goes out of his way to be available to anyone who wants to talk to him.  His leadership in sports and fitness has made running assessable to anyone who has the heart to run no matter what pace or the distance.

My first encounter with John set me on a path that has lasted a decade now.  The first time I met him was in Halifax when I bought his book and went over to have him sign it.  He asked me what distance I was running, I replied “Just a 10K”, his reply “You are not running just a 10K, you are running a 10K.  This is your race, you trained for it, it is as important to you as a marathon or half marathon race is to those who are participating in them.”  To this day, when talking to other runners, who say that, I repeat those words.

Another credible person was a colleague from my work, Paulo Ranzani, he is the ultimate professional when it comes to information technology.  Again like John, he shares honesty and warmth, you can count on him to help on a task, teach you how to do something if you don’t know how.  The type of person whom if he makes a promise keeps it, no matter how hard he has to push his agenda or work.  He is passionate in all his activities; he does not take half measures when there needs to be a change or action.  When he leads people follow, but throughout all like John he remains humble.

The two examples above, one from my personal life and one from my professional life, share many traits.  One is passion, whether they trying to get a nation to run or make changes to health care in the Northwest Territories, both men are passionate about the changes they want to make.  These gentlemen are both honest, if you ask them a question they always answer honestly, if they say they will do something, both will do it.  Both men inspire other people to reach for higher goals. Both are warm, empathetic, inspiring and caring, both personally and professionally.  Both are very charismatic as well, and both are dynamic in nature able to change as circumstances require them too.  These are traits I aspire to, and hope in term inspire others to do the same.

Balancing Safety and Challenge (and Critical Thinking)

This weeks post from my Adult Education Course at the University of Victoria

 

While I can’t speak to the challenges of facilitating in a classroom as I have yet to have that experience.  However in terms of informal education I spent almost 20 years as a Chef.  When teaching apprentices and cooks as a chef, there is still balancing the need to provide a safe learning environment for everyone as well as ensure that the staff was up to the various challenges ahead as they learn new skills.

 The notion of safety as stated in our study notes comes basically in two forms, first the physical environment.  As a teacher/facilitator we must ensure that the physical environment is safe for each student.  Whether the environment is a classroom or a kitchen, students need to feel safe and secure.   UVIC (2013) course notes state “Taking care to ensure a comfortable physical learning environment sends a message to participants that we genuinely care about their needs.” As a chef, the responsibility is high to ensure the learner whether it is a first time cook or an experienced apprentice to ensure that the physical surroundings were safe so that learners feel comfortable without worry to whether or not they would be harmed by sharp objects or heavy kitchen equipment. 

But it is more than that it is making sure they have the proper equipment regardless of whether it is a knife to cut food in the kitchen or a workspace in the classroom.  Taking away the fear or concern of the physical space is one step towards ensuring the comfort and safety of the students.  The next step of course as stated in the UVIC(2013) course notes that the second part of safety is the emotional and social environment. 

A good example is this week’s assignment of safety, for Assignment one, Colleen in the forums posted that our assignments do not have to be posted.  Since some of our assignments are personal not everyone may have the comfort level to share with the class.  This agrees with the University of Wisconsin’s (n.d.) that states “The teacher may state that s/he will not call on students individually to participate, and students have the right to not participate.” 

In adult learning there may be the potential to have a wider variety of diversity in the classroom.  Not only is there potential for cultural diversity, but also gender, age, education and experience all come to play in a group setting.  The University of Wisconsin (n.d.) states “All learning and change involves some degree of culture shock to the degree that they challenge our basic perspectives.”  What this suggests to me is that when we put a group of people into a setting where they will be challenged facilitators may have to deal with a wide array of emotional reactions of their learners. 

Wlodkowski  (2005) states that establishing participation guidelines is important in adult learning, since as facilitators part of our role as a guide is to ensure the emotional and social stability of the group, by opening up and discussing with what they can expect from me as a teacher in the class room is important.  But also, understanding what the students expect from me as well as what students expect from each other.  Much like we do at teams in the work place understanding and developing group norms is important.  Mutual respect for each other as a person, that each person’s voice is important, and that each person adds value to the classroom in some way, in a way we are creating a sub-culture in the classroom with our own beliefs, symbols, behaviors, stories, etc..

It took me awhile to see the connection between a safe environment and critical thinking.  There are a number of different definitions of critical thinking.   The one I like the best is from Scriven and Paul (n.d.) that states Critical thinking is that mode of thinking – about any subject, content, or problem – in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them.” Fostering critical thinking in Adult Education is very important, often we think with our emotions and our experience, but critical thinking goes beyond that. 

In the safe classroom critical thinking is important in formulating responses to other students.  Critical thinking in my opinion is really meta-thinking, what I mean by that is that we think about thinking, before we respond to someone’s thought, we think from all angles.  We have to look at it logically and try to remove our prejudices and biases in order to formulate a response or action.  In the classroom with a high level of diversity we need to encourage students to see all sides of the argument and be able to respond in an intelligent logical manner, as opposed to an emotional manner.  If we respond with our heart rather than our brains, we may make other students feel uncomfortable, your prejudices or biases could also hurt another person’s feelings. 

Safety then in the classroom encompasses three elements, the physical, and the social/emotional side.  Related to the social/emotional side is also being able to critically think as well.  Without critical thinking skills, I do not think any education will affect social issues of the day, if that is what adult education is trying to achieve.

 

References:

Duncan, J. (n.d.) ‘Critical thinking’[Online]. Available at: http://ctl.utsc.utoronto.ca/twc/sites/default/files/CriticalThinking.pdf (Accessed: October 7, 2013)

Scriven, M. and Paul, R. (n.d.) ‘Defining Critical Thinking’ [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/410)

UVIC(2013) ‘Module 4: Safe and challenging adult learning spaces’ [Online course notes] Available at: http://distance.moodle.uvcs.uvic.ca/mod/page/view.php?id=67492 (Accessed: October 6, 2013) Note: Available to students only

University of Wisconsin (n.d.) ‘Creating a safe and engaging classroom climate’ [Online]. Available at: http://www.uww.edu/learn/diversity/safeclassroom.php  (Accessed: October 6, 2013)

Wlodkowski, R. (2005) ‘Motivational Strategies’[Online]. Available at: http://userpages.umbc.edu/~koconne1/605TheAdultLearner/strategies.htm (Accessed: October 6, 2013)

Employee Engagement, Who’s Responsible

After yesterday’s post on engagement it got me thinking about who is responsible for employee engagement. Is it the responsibility of the employee to keep themselves engaged at the work place or is the employer’s responsibly. Lear (2013) states that “it is the responsibility of the people who want the employee engagement; managers.” Therefore the focus of employee engagement should come from the managers not the employees themselves.

In most cases, engagement starts off high, new hires are excited; there is a lot to learn as the new job presents a challenge to them. However, as the gain mastery over the job, engagement will start to fall as boredom will set in quickly. There must be mechanisms in place to ensure that employees remain engaged or else risk the consequences of what disengagement brings to the organization. There are four arenas that organizations need to look at for areas of change; these are Goals, Culture, Structure and processes.
Goals, does the organization have well defined goals, do employees understand them and how they as employees fit into the company’s goals. Goals come in two categories, Broad and Implicit as well as Tactical and explicit. For engagement levels to be high those broad strategic goals, must be expressed in a way that can show an employee that they clearly adding value in what the day everyday by showing up to work.

The culture arena is an area that to me is one of the most important in employee engagement. Culture is the Behavior of employees, the stories, the vocabulary, the artifacts/symbols, the visions, norms, values, systems, beliefs and Habits. If the culture does not foster engagement, then how can we expect to keep them engaged? I couple of years ago I had the experience of working in the most cultural toxic culture you can imagine. When I was taken to meet some of the employees of my department there were literally warning me not to take the job, can you imagine walking in the door of a business of a good paying job and being warned off by employees not to work there. After taking the job, I lasted less than six months, in fact the entire department quit. Moral of the story, ensure that the culture fosters engagement.

Structure, how is the company structured, is it more vertical than horizontal, is it easy to get to a manager, do they have open door policies, or is the vertical, stove piped and slow moving. Can it react to issues within the organization and changes in the environment quickly, can you speak up and offer opinions and ideas. Working in an environment where you cannot approach your manager with a suggestion or an idea is not a lot of fun.

Processes, does the workplace have processes that foster engagement, like goals, do processes align with the companies goals, are there training programs and opportunities for personal growth. I work in a job where processes are changing all the time, the issue is that they are often not well communicated and you bump into new requirements only after a quality review is performed. Are the processes at work setting employees up for failure, if so maybe it is time for a change?
Where should an organization start, not an easy question, but quick wins are always good, structure changes are not often in the quick win category and culture can also take a long time to change especially if the organization is highly toxic. Areas that are easier in my opinion are at the grass roots, look at the company goals, and think how that translates to an action I can take with my employees so that they can see that there are positive changes coming. Changing an organization to a more engaged work place will not happen overnight but it will happen if employees perceive change in a positive way.

References:
Lear, G. (2013) ’Who is responsible for Employee Engagement?’[Online] Available at: http://resourcedevelopmentsystems.com/seblog/2013/07/who-is-responsible-for-employee-engagement/ (Accessed: October 6, 2013)

Building Better Employee Engagement in the Workplace

Working for a large consultancy has its merits; certainly being one of the top 6 companies in the world is something to boast about.  The fact that for the most part as long as you do your job there is always work, however l believe that engagement is a large issue within the company.  Franz (2013) states that she read a definition of employee engagement that defines it as “the emotional connection or commitment that an employee has to the organization that then causes the employee to want to put forth the additional effort to ensure the organization and the brand succeed.”  In my opinion, this definition work well in describing what engagement should feel like.

The Temkin Group (2012) in their current report define what they call the five I’s of employee engagement. These are Inform, Inspire, Instruct, Involve and Incent, large companies are going to need to look at each of these areas and create strategies to help increase employee engagement.  There have been a number of studies that have looked at employee engagement, and the news is better according to Temkin Group as stated in Chief Learning Officer(2013) that of 200 companies with 1000 or more employees, most do engagement surveys (94%), however only 43% of the respondents believe that the leadership of their organizations put any priorities based on that feedback.  What this suggests to me is that large companies talk the talk about engagement, but almost 60% do not walk the walk.

As a manager we need to take a hard look at what we are doing in our organization, are we creating and fostering an environment that creates engagement.  The issue I often seen over the last 30 years of work is that managers are not trained in employee engagement.  I always like to state that Management by Walking Around is a great technique to observe staff in a casual informal manner.  Once we get managers off their chairs and out there with the employees, we need to start asking the hard questions to determine how the engagement levels are in our departments or teams.

Here is a list of 12 questions you can ask yourself about your employees, be honest and up front with yourself and see how you might answer them.

  1. Do your employees know what is expected of them at work?
  2. Do your employees have everything they need to do the work right?
  3. Do your employees have the opportunity to do what they do best every day?
  4. During the last seven days I have given recognition or praise for a good job?
  5. As a manager do you care about your employees and take an interest?
  6. Do you encourage employee development?
  7.  Do your employees feel comfortable voicing their opinions?
  8. Do the employees understand the mission or the purpose of the company and understand how they add value?
  9. Are all your employees committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do your employees have an opportunity for social interaction throughout the day?
  11. Do you sit down with your employees and talk about how they are progressing?
  12. Do you give employees the opportunity for growth and progress within the company through training and educations programs?

These questions are very important; if you cannot answer with a positive answer to these questions you may have an engagement issue in your work place.  Lack of engagement within your team, can have many negative effects not only to your department or team but to the organization itself.  Look for the signs, are your employees absent more often than in the past, have you noticed employees taking longer breaks or lunches, Do employees come in late and leave early, is productivity down, is your employee turnover higher than industry averages, is expenses going up while revenues are stagnating or decreasing.  Any one of these could be an indicator of poor employee engagement.

The good news is that employee engagement can be turned around.  Clear strategies from leadership, HR programs for feedback cycles, training and career planning as well as getting our mangers to manage the people will all go a long way to helping employee engagement.  With the high costs of recruitment and training can large businesses and organizations continually afford to recruit and train new employees in the workplace?  It is time to break the cycle and engage our staff and organization now, or find your business/organiztion behind the marketplace playing catch up to those 40% of the businesses that do care.

 

Reference:

Chief Learning Officer (2013) ‘Weak Employee Engagement Affects Six out of Ten Large Firms’[Online]. Available at: http://clomedia.com/articles/view/weak-employee-engagement-affect-six-out-of-ten-large-firms (Accessed: October 5, 2013)

Franz, A.(2013) ‘Employee Engagement Stratgy? Nay! Leadership Strategy!’ [Online Blog]. CX Journey 31 May. Available at: http://clomedia.com/articles/view/weak-employee-engagement-affect-six-out-of-ten-large-firms (Accessed: October 5, 2013)

Temkin Group (2012) ‘The Five I’s of Employee Engagement’ [Online]. Available at: http://www.temkingroup.com/research-reports/the-five-is-of-employee-engagement/ (Accessed: October 5, 2013)

Edult Education, This weeks Post from UVIC

Having reflected on the readings for this week, is there an adult learning theory (or two) that resonates for you? Do you see the influences of this theory in your own work? Or, perhaps you oppose and would like to challenge some of what you read and you may have a different perspective. And then, consider the readings and the notion that adult education is said to be a strong catalyst for social change. What are your thoughts on this?

In terms of learning, the notion of Active learning stands out for me Sierra Training Associates (2007) defines active learning as “the use of one or more interactive approaches to education and train for the purposes of engagement students in their work to acquire and understand knowledge.” Looking at Knowles four principles as stated in Northern Arizona University (2010) first the concept that Adults like to be involved in the planning and evaluation of what they are doing. Secondly, a person’s experience is from the past is the basis for learning activities, Thirdly, Adults like to learn subjects that have relevance in their life (job or personal) and lastly the use of problem centered learning as opposed to content centered. These principles are also a good foundation to Gamifcation when it is applied to the workplace, understanding active learning will help build better tools for adults to use and to learn from in a virtual world.
Looking down the list that MacKeracher (2008) offers many fit Knowles principle well, I certainly believe that learning is something an adult must want to do, they want to be involved in the learning process not just sit there and be a passive receptacle to information.

But actively involved, not only with the content but with those also those who may be taking the course with them, while I understand the need to deliver content in lecture style, there should be room to explore and experience the content as well. Often in today’s workplace training does not exist, in my company training exists in the world of Skill Port, this is the most boring delivery method of course material I have had to work with. It is non-interactive, it is read/present then answer a few multiple choice questions. There is no context in which to learn the material nor is it applied to a real world situation. This is a very ineffective, in my opinion as an educational tool for training in the workplace.

The question of whether education can bring about social change is difficult. I have to believe that this is something that each individual person has the ability to do depending on if they are in the right place in their life to be able to shift from education as a need to learn skills to survive in the work place and society or whether they are at a higher level of enlightenment and can make use of education to make social changes. Most people are too busy living their day to day life to even consider acting on social change that could radically change society in some way. Education has the potential to do this, if we can teach critical thinking skills, we go beyond the notion of learning for survival in society skills. I do not think many adult learners get the opportunity to apply social change when they are too busy living day to day. However, one of the big comments we hear in Gamification circles is ‘Don’t Be Evil.’ When we teach we could say the same thing, ‘Don’t Be Evil.’ As teachers we have a responsibly to society to ensure that we act within societal norms. That does not mean we should steer away from hard social issues, but we should also take the tack of doing no harm.

References:
Northern Arizona University (2010) ‘Adult Learning Theory (andragogy)’[Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 9/30/2013)
MacKeracher, D. (2008) ‘Making Sense of Adult Learning’. University of Toronto Press:Toronto
Sierra Training Associates (2007) ‘We can teach the way we are taught, or we can teach the way people learn’[Online]. Available at: http://sph.bu.edu/otlt/teachingLibrary/Learning%20Theory/adultlearning.pdf (Accessed: 9/30/2013)

cultural diversity

In my course we are talking about culture and diversity, in relation to adult education, here is my post on the forum.

Baere-Stien in MacKeracher (2012) that culture “is a system of learned beliefs, values, assumptions, customs, language meanings and behaviors shared with a group of individuals, and a guide for organizing the lives of group members.” Some aspects of culture can be seen through symbols, just look around when you travel on the subway, look at the way people dress, or listen to how people talk, culture can apply to both those who come to our country from other areas of the world, but also area’s within our own country have diverse culture.  In my opinion we live in a diverse society where everyone is different regardless of whether we see indicators or have to discover them through interaction. To start to really understand another’s culture we need to go deeper into their Metaphors and Stories as in the case of Judaism.

To look at me you would not know I am Jewish I look like an average North American white male, I do not wear the symbols often associated with Judaism which would be the Yamaka.  However, the culture has both stories and metaphors as a very important aspect of Jewish Life.  Many of the traditions in Judaism are based on the stories from the Torah, which is in Hebrew is called the Tanakh, this is often referred to the Oral Torah we also know it as the old testament.  However, over the years the Talmud which is referred to as the written Torah also guides us, this book is used to explain the stories and metaphors as well as list the many arguments and commentary from Rabbi’s (Teachers) on the Torah, further guiding us on how we should live our lives.  (Want to learn more: http://www.jewfaq.org/torah.htm). 

As adult facilitators we may be faced in teaching a diverse group of adults all from both visible and invisible culture.  I think it is important to be sensitive and aware that how a person has been brought up and understanding their values could reflect what happens in class.  Having worked in the Northwest Territories, I knew a teacher, who went into a community, had trouble getting   his students to look up at him directly in the eyes.  He asked a community member about this and was told that it was a sign of disrespect to look up directly at a leader. 

I think Su(2002) states that “Metaphor has been shown to be an integral component of the way we conceptualize experience.” She goes on to state “metaphors are not peripheral, but instead, essential to human thinking and reasoning.” Teaching adults who have had a life time of Metaphor’s and stories to develop how the fit into, experience and react to the world, is important to understand as this is a fundamental difference between teaching pedagogy vs. andragogy.