Stop Asking this Cliche Management Question

Stop Asking this Cliche Management Question

At SerialTrainer7 we are frequently asked to develop managers by putting them through our Management Academy.

When we scope the training, we meet with Senior Managers, Leaders and Directors and professionals from Human Resources.  During the meetings, more and more they all ask this cliche question.  Rant alert!

What does leadership look like? Or what does good management look like?

It is one of those cliché questions they have either read out of textbook or seen a motivational speaker say and it has spread like wildfire.

This is such a dumb question, it really is. In my experience it is asked by people who do not really know the answer, and yet say it as they think it makes them sound informed or clever.  They are probably using lots of ‘reaching out and touching base’ in their messages too, seeing their business from a ‘helicopter view’ with lots of ‘synergy’ and really ‘punching above their weight’. Sigh. You know the type.

Here’s a question. Why are they employing people to manage others, if they do not know the answer? It sounds to me like they need training in communication especially not using management BS!

Let’s be very clear. Management and leadership don’t actually look like anything; if we answer the question literally.

It is actually a set of behaviours that are either projected onto others to inspire them and drive initiative and ownership. Or it is done to people, to help get them through the day to day, to empower them to meet objectives and or keep them in line when things go wrong.

Here’s another truth. First time and middle managers, supervisors and leaders don’t ever ask that question either.  Why? Because it would make them sound like a fool. Out of touch. Out of a textbook.

Management and Leadership are both huge subjects and we need to be more specific. More clear.

 If you want your managers and future leaders to succeed, remember that people cannot be what they cannot see. They cannot see what good management looks like, or good leadership looks like because you cannot see it.

So what specifically are these people referring to when they ask this question? What could they see?

For the question what does management look like; is it management communication? Is it management skills? Managing talent and retention? Perhaps it’s managing performance? Or having difficult conversations? Or even measuring the results?

As for what does Leadership look like? In what context?  Is it in the development of leadership quality? Is it to create followers? Is to create a leadership culture perhaps? Is it about finding your ‘why?’ and developing and understanding of intention? Maybe it’s about identifying whether you need it at all?

These are the more tangible things that go to make up good management and good leadership.

This is what I see.

In straightforward terms when I think about management and leadership I see a circle with three things in the centre.  The people in the business, the products they produce and the processes that make that happen.

Surrounding the circle I see, time management skills, project management skills, quality management skills, stress and resilience management skills and finally culture and talent management skills.  All of these feed into the people, the products and the processes. The most important of course are the people and the teams they work in.

This is what I can see. Therefore I can manage it, lead it and develop it.

You might think I am splitting hairs here and it is all semantics, but in truth good communication is about being clear. If you cannot do that, and you only talk in textbook clichés and management BS then how can you ever hope to inspire your managers.

Times are changing people, keep the management speak out of the way and learn to ask the right questions that focus on the right things.



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