When I was just starting out in business, I couldn’t understand why any company paid for a group of managers. I know that sounds dumb, but it didn’t make sense to me at 17 or 18 years old. Here were these people who got paid a ton of money and appeared to do very little actual work. It kind of sounded like the best job ever. You tell people what to do, but don’t actually do anything yourself, and you get paid well for it.
As I became older and wiser, I realized that managers do a little more than 18-year-old Shaun thought they did. And now that I run a business that employs over 50 people, I realize that there is a distinct way people want to be governed in their work life.
Managers, as I knew them, crossed tasks of the list, told people what to do, and barked orders. The deeper I get in my company, the more I realize this doesn’t work. If you’re concerned about attrition, continuity, and growth, being the kind of manager I imagined is a sure-fire way to send people out the door. I had to make the transition from a manager to a leader.
Management Vs. Leadership
Management and leadership have fundamental differences that create strikingly dissimilar experiences for employees and teammates alike. Managers dictate. They tell people what to do, try to control every outcome, and possess as many tasks as they can because they lack trust.
Leaders delegate. By exercising leverage, leaders can empower their teammates to achieve great outcomes. Leverage isn’t about making an employee do something you don’t want to do. It’s about delegating tasks that play to the strengths of your teammates so they can succeed. That’s how leaders give opportunities for others to grow and, more importantly, fail.
Managers take credit for great accomplishments, place blame when something goes wrong, and let external forces justify their mistakes. Leaders take responsibility for everything. The book Extreme Ownership explains, “There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.” No one is above the team, especially the leader. When issues arise, leaders take ownership of the problem and work with their team to find mutual solutions.
Managers create and foster conflict. They fertilize a breeding ground of gossip and negativity. Leaders embrace and resolve conflict. The fear of conflict is one of the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which is the name of Patrick Lencioni’s famed book. This fear can single-handedly tear down any success you hope to achieve within your organization. Leaders tackle this with understanding and empathy.
A good leader can add so much value to the business. They can train people to improve at their jobs and motivate employees to push through a hard time or task. They can figure out complicated problems and even create or fix systems. Leaders can help with customer service and customer retention. They keep the team accountable, prioritize tasks, and make sure everyone shows up and works. The list goes on and on, but we all know a good leader is a must-have for any business.
The leader, in many cases, can make or break the business. Leadership guru John Maxwell states this in what he calls “The Law of the Lid.” This “law” explains that a company’s growth is confined to capacity of it’s leadership. The greater the capacity for leadership, the more successful the business.
That leads me to the first area where a business can get stuck: not enough leadership. When you first start out, it’s just you, and maybe you’ve gotten to the point where you need some help, so you promote a high-performing employee to be your first person in a leadership role. This is no small feat, as you’ve now doubled the amount of leadership you had.
Far too often, entrepreneurs don’t invest in our team soon enough. You get scared about the cost or whether the new leader will have enough work to do. You come up with a dozen reasons why this is not a good time to expand the leadership team when, in all likelihood, you should have hired someone new weeks ago.
By not hiring and growing your leadership team, you will eventually stall and get stuck. Your business will move forward a little and back a little, and this process will continue until you increase the company’s capacity by hiring competent leaders.
Leadership Growth = Business Growth
You can also get stuck and stop growing when the business outgrows the leadership team. This has happened to me on multiple occasions. When you’re starting out, you typically don’t hire high-level people with years of outside experience. As you grow, most employees can keep up with you.
But after a while, you will find that many of the people you hired as leaders are actually just mangers. This is one of the more difficult things to do as CEO. These are the people you have been in the trenches with. They’ve been there for you through thick and thin, and you feel loyalty to them, but those feelings don’t change the fact that the leader you hired is actually a manager. And, as the person responsible for doing what’s best for the company, you have to delicately work with the manager who isn’t the right fit anymore to exit them from the business. It sucks, but it is the reality of business and growth.
I know I’ve just laid out instructions to fire some people and not promote others. In real life, these decisions aren’t easy, and they are one of the top three worst parts of my job as CEO. But my duty to the company and every other employee is to make these hard choices.
My job is to create opportunities and a healthy company for every employee, not just a few people. Does my job suck sometimes? Hell yeah, it does. And if you ever find yourself in one of the unpleasant situations above, it will suck for you, too. But this is what we get paid to do. So, rip the Band-Aid off and get back to growing your company. In today’s competitive environment, you have no choice. It is grow or die out there.