Under the Surface: A Leadership Journey  
  A new leadership blog in 2015 by Mark Kenny about changing how we think about leadership development and the under the surface issues that truly inhibit performance.  

1 items categorized "Managers"


We are Not Enabling Managers to Become Leaders

IStock_000015965892_webThe other day a friend of mine expressed frustration.  He works for a major corporation and his frustration stemmed from the fact that he never stopped.  Literally, from the time he walked in the door until the time he left, he was moving from one meeting to the next, from one hot item to the next, right through lunch, all day long.  I asked him a simple question: “what is one thing that you wish was different, that would make the situation better?”  His answer was “I wish I had a better team.  They just can’t handle some of the work.”  In talking a little further, he didn’t feel like he had a problem delegating.  He truly felt that they were not up to the task.  And he didn’t have any capacity to deal with it.

I couldn’t shake this conversation from my mind.  I’ve heard many like it - some with different answers, but the tone and the frustration were the same.  But this one really stuck.  Maybe it’s because I know and care for my friend.  Maybe it’s because I know that I don’t have a black and white answer (which I like to have).   Maybe because I know there is something deeper here that transcends this one experience and deserves more than a quick solution.

Digging Deeper

I have asked myself several questions.

If this situation continues, what will happen?  Possibly:

  • My friend will burn out and even experience health side effects (we all know it happens).
  • His team will get frustrated and want to leave (if they don’t already) creating even more headache.
  • My friend will move on to a different position where the problem will only intensify until it reaches a crescendo.  At a certain point, you can’t operate that way anymore and be successful.

Who’s at fault here?

The easy answer: my friend – for not taking the time to develop his people, or to get the right people on the team who can do the work.

The more complicated answer:

  • His team for not taking the initiative and ownership to assess and develop themselves (and possibly have the right attitude).
  • His company’s culture (senior leaders) for not making continuous development and work-life balance a priority.
  • My friend’s current “leaders” who are not providing mentorship, time, and tools to develop his team (to lead instead of just managing work).
  • The organizational culture that does not seem to value development of people – there isn’t time for it, we have to make the numbers.

So what do we do?

The root cause is difficult to diagnose – especially with at least two degrees of separation.  Is it not enough time?  That’s a symptom.  Is it executive leadership?  Is it how my friend thinks?  Is it a disconnect between saying we value people first and then behaving in a way that puts performance and numbers first?

What I do know is that many people are in the same boat.  They are frustrated.  They are frazzled.  They are overworked.  They are managing work and not leading people.  They don’t feel like they have the capacity to develop people and lead.

How do we fix it?  I have ideas, experience, and knowledge, but I don’t have an easy answer.  It’s a lot of work.  I do know that it requires changing how people think.  My friend probably needs to think differently about prioritizing the development of his people.  His managers probably need to think differently about mentoring and culture.

And we all need to think differently about how we develop leaders.  And we better do it quick before we lose some really good people.