If you're a manager, even a seemingly successful one, beware: your job may be disappearing. It may not be through downsizing or restructuring, but the nature of what you do is changing, and if you want to succeed in your career, you'll have to change with it.
The truth is, today's employees don't want to be managed. They don't want to be told what to do and how to do it. And frankly, in many positions, they don't need to be. Once upon a time, businesses thought differently. Managers spent the majority of their attention focused on the process, not the people. My father, who worked at GM as an electrician, told me that when he went to work, he was told to leave his brain at the time clock. But times have changed.
Now, we require employees to do more and more with less and less, and that requires that they have a different mindset about the work that they do. The type of work we want them to do has changed, too. Although some jobs may still be mundane, most jobs require—or should require—initiative, innovation, and collaboration. That can't happen if an employee's brain is left at the time clock.
Not only have the types of jobs changed, but competition has changed, too. Company A's competitors may be the organization across town, but it could just as easily be the organization on the other side of the world. Given the opportunity for cheaper labor in other countries, we've learned that we cannot effectively compete on price, so we must compete on value. We get that value by delivering superior products and services—a competitive edge that comes directly from our employees.
In order for employees to want to provide a competitive edge, they must be engaged. They want to be led and inspired. And the person who can do that is not the person who is more concerned with the process than the people. The person who can do that is not a manager. The person who can do that is a leader.
Semantics? Absolutely not. A manager has a mindset and skill set different from a leader. A manager assumes that the employee will fit into the already established process. He assumes that the employee must be monitored to ensure the work is done correctly. A manager is more concerned with whether the employee does the work than whether the employee cares about the work. A manager believes that compensation is the key to getting and keeping employees.
A leader, in contrast, understands that although the process is necessary, it is just as important to ensure that the people are functioning properly within the process and not just showing up and doing the work. A leader genuinely cares about the employees and ensures they have the tools, training, and support to do the work. A leader provides coaching, inspiration, and energy; he understands that the key to getting and keeping employees is having them care about their work, too. Finally, a leader knows that getting employees to care about work increases productivity and performance.
Companies that have leaders instead of managers are the ones whose employees are committed and invested in helping the organization succeed, and those are the companies that will survive in this increasingly competitive environment.
If you are a manager, now is the time to ask yourself: will you wait until your job disappears before you incorporate the leadership and coaching skills you need for the future?
With his distinctive, direct and oft-humorous approach, "recovering attorney" and long-time business and executive coach Paul Glover bares his knuckles to present 76 strategies and tips to thrive in the Knowledge Economy in his new book, WorkQuake, published by Round Table Companies. The blogger for FastCompany.com coined the term WorkQuakeTM of the Knowledge Economy to capture his unique insights and tools to implement organizational change in the knowledge economy. Paul's writing has been featured in The Business Edge, Vistage, Manufacturing.net, and Food Manufacturing. He is based in Chicago.
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