Effective communication is essential to leading a team successfully. From a business perspective, effective communication may very well be the difference between obtaining or retaining clients and customers – or not. What about non-profits? Yup, communication is key here as well. Communication is important everywhere – business, non-profits, family, grocery store – everywhere. Communicating effectively to your team is just as important (more important?) as communicating with your clients, customers, and volunteers.
What is effective communication?
Effective communication is different from person to person and team to team, and really depends on the stage the team of people are in. Tuckman’s stages of group development of forming, storming, norming, and performing, increase the ease of effective communication over time. Teams in the forming stage need to communicate clearly, more frequently, and perhaps in more detail to ensure the message is understood. As the team grows together closer to the performing stage, each member learns how the other communicates, including body language, written, and oral communication, making communication easier and quicker.
At some point, teams may not even need to communicate as they are so in tune with each other that they know what the other is thinking or will do before it even happens. Military special operations units such as the Army Special Forces or Navy SEALS are a great example of this. A simple look, hand gesture, or mutual understanding of what to do in certain situations increases the ease of communication (of course these guys have trained for years together to get to this point).
But you don’t need to be a Navy SEAL to communicate effectively.
How do we communicate effectively?
Communicating effectively requires an understanding of what is being said. To ensure understanding, the communicator needs to confirm that what was said was actually heard. This can be done by validating what was said. There are many ways to do so, but these 3 are quite effective:
Next week I will discuss how this can help your team, grow your clients, and delight them with effective communication.
How many people can you supervise, manage, or lead?
I once heard someone brag that they had 12 direct reports while their peer only had 4. I have heard of people having 25 direct reports. My first thought is WOW!, how can all those people receive effective leadership from their boss? How can the boss be an effective leader? The person with 4, that sounds about right. But the rest, that is just insane (if you ask me).
How many people can you supervise? How many can you manage… lead? Is there a difference? Does it really matter? And what difference does it really make if you have 1, 10, or 100 people working for you?
It definitively matters – all of it.
First, let’s frame this question a little better. Is there a difference between supervising, managing, and leading? Of course! And here is my take.
If you are a supervisor, then you are the first line leader to those you that work for you. This generally requires knowledge of how and what your team does (not in a micromanaging way though). Tasks are delegated from you to them, and they report progress and issues directly to you. Chances are good that you provide periodic evaluations to them as well.
If you take this as “I am their supervisor” then you likely take your job seriously and provide regular (quarterly, annually, etc.) reviews and help your team members grow as individuals and as a team. You serve those that work for you and desire to see them succeed.
If you take this role as “I am just the supervisor” then you are probably disengaged and serve as some level of junior management with an additional duty of being responsible for others and their work. You accepted the role for the extra pay.
If you are a manager, then you are probably responsible for a larger group such as a retail store, restaurant, department in an office, and so on. You will have supervisors that report directly to you, and they may have subordinate supervisors as well. Your focus is on the bigger picture (strategy) of your department, store, or group. You receive guidance from your manager (boss, supervisor – leader), develop a plan, and delegate different aspects to your subordinate supervisors to implement.
If you handle your responsibility as “I am their manager” then you will be engaged and provide task and purpose to your subordinate supervisors, and enable them to make decisions. You also understand that they have their own team to supervise and give them the time to work with their team.
If you are “just the manager” then you are likely regurgitating directives from your supervisor and have your subordinates do the work. Little direction or clarification is provided and you are likely to be “checking the box” regarding most of your own duties – completing your piece of the strategic plan, overseeing the development of your subordinate supervisors, and those evaluations or reviews – those will get done some day.
Often, these position (supervisor and manager) can be overwhelming. If you find yourself in a position where you are just the supervisor or manager and you want to be more, ask your leadership for help – they should help you, it is their job. If not, then find someone who will!
If you are a leader, then you are providing motivation and inspiration, task and purpose, guidance and direction to those that work for and around you. Leading effectively will cause others to notice and respond positively, even if they do not work directly for you.
Leaders are distinct from supervisors or manager, or even directors. Supervisors, manager, and directors are titles – if you have the title, then you are one. Leaders, on the other hand, are not titles given to you with a raise. You either are one, or not. They are earned. But, leaders can be found everywhere – the supervisor, manager, employee, team member – anyone! An employee can motivate and inspire others to achieve more, the supervisor can provide clear task and purpose, encouraging them to achieve more for themselves and their team, or the manager can provide guidance and direction. They can all be leaders!
Back to the question, how many people can I supervise?
I look at it this way, what do I want to accomplish with your team? If you merely want to provide some level of oversight and direction, then you can probably supervise or manage 15, 20, who knows how many people – but probably quite a bit. If that is all you want to do, then sure.
Now, if you want to make a real impact, then supervising and managing should include mentoring, regular feedback, constructive criticism, opportunities for personal and professional growth, regular and consistent reviews. You should be open and available to have your team members bring just about any issue to your attention. Do this, and you will become – or be – a leader.
There is a cost to this. If you are really leading others, and fulfilling your leadership duties (mentoring, appraisals, professional development), then you will not have the time to do this for 25 people successfully. Consider the time it will take to do this effectively. Perhaps 5-8 is more reasonable. This will allow you to serve them and your organization well, and see them develop into future leaders themselves.
A solution to this is to develop subordinate leaders and empower them to make lead, manage, and supervise their own teams. This requires the fine art of delegation and can be quite empowering if done correctly.
So what do you choose? Do you ask for more direct reports so you can brag about how many people work directly for you? Or, do you develop others, and truly lead your team to success? The choice is yours.
One of the greatest privileges and responsibilities as a leader, is the development of others. The opportunity to help shape the methods by which your budding leader motivates and inspires others, and achieves their goals is wonderful. Yet, it can be quite challenging at the same time.
One thing I find challenging is the idea (that many organizations follow) that it is better to invest into the already successful, then to invest in those struggling. That is, the organization should invest resources (time, money, etc.) into training, educating, supporting, and so on, the individuals and teams that are already producing results. The idea is, investing in someone that is already achieving, is more likely to bring a greater return on the investment.
The idea is, why invest in someone ok to make them good, when you can invest in someone good to make them great. Isn’t it better to have someone great on your team then someone good? From a business stance, this makes sense. As a business owner, I would rather invest in people (or things) able to bring a greater return on my investment.
However, should this same methodology be followed when dealing with people? Especially, when, as a leader, we are to motivate, inspire, train, equip, enable… others to achieve? Should a leader ignore the challenging potential leader, simply because the “return” may not be as great? What if the return is not immediate, what if the benefits may only be realized years down the road, what then? What if the return is not even for you or your organization, rather, the good of society or simply another organization?
At what point, should we stop investing in others because the return may not be as great as investing in someone else? Is it giving up on one person while investing in another?
Perhaps I am wrong, but I think leaders are to build other leaders regardless of where they may end up. If someone has the potential, build them. If they are ok, but a little time and energy can make them good, then do it. Investing in others should be about them.
However, if it is a business decision, and the potential leader is not the right fit, then help them find their fit – in your organization or another. You are not doing them – or yourself – any good by keeping them around for the sake of doing right by them. Instead, help them find their fit, and lead them from where you are and where they land. This implies that you will continue to lead them until they no longer seek your guidance, someone else takes over and develops them, or both.
How will you handle the challenge? Feel free to respond, I would love to hear what you have to say.
Transactional leaders focus on achievement through the use of rewards as motivation, such as the “carrot or the stick” approach. Complete a task correctly and on time and you are rewarded with time off, a bonus, or perhaps recognition. Miss a deadline or produce an unacceptable product and you may come face to face with a reprimand (verbal or written), and if bad enough (or too frequent), termination.
The challenge here is, not all leaders offer both carrot and stick. Sometimes, it is just one or the other, or overly emphasized on one or the other. Here are a few transactional leaders that you may have experienced.
This is the leader who is averse to confrontation and less likely to provide any punitive action – even a short conversation telling the employee to improve next time. This results in the Pushover becoming a pushover (the name explains it all) and being taken advantage of. What also happens here is, those individuals who do the right thing, become less motivated to continue and either become the next bad apple (remember that it only takes one?!) or become fed up and leave. Either situation is never fun to correct.
Let’s face it, we love The Softy. This is the leader that is just so calm and gentle, and everything seems to be going well, but you just never can tell what is going on or what is expected. You look for constructive criticism and you get mixed signals – “you did well, but I don’t like this, but it’s ok”, and so on. Is it acceptable or not? Just tell me! If nothing is clearly stated, you go on doing… whatever… resulting in little improvement.
This is the leader that likely never comments (positively) on the accomplishments, but as soon as a mistake is made, they go nuclear – no matter how small the mistake. Everyone has a bad day and loses their cool, but Mr. or Mrs. Rage seem to have a bad day every day and take it out on others. If they stay around too long, nobody else will.
Mr./Mrs. Nice Guy/Gal
No matter what you do – good or bad – they find the positive. While this seems nice at first, it is difficult to improve as it is challenging to identify where to improve if the shortfall always seems to lead to a positive. I am not talking about learning here. Learning is a result of trying something new, which often leads to making a mistake (and this is ok). Mr./Mrs. Nice Guy/Gal finds it ok that the report was late (all of the time) because you were able to produce a nicer cover or clearer results (even though you ignored it for a couple of days). See the difference?
The reality is, none of these styles are going to work for long. It takes a balanced leadership approach to being an effective leader, and knowing when and how to employ the transactional leadership style. Motivate others to achieve through the use of a reward and punish appropriately when necessary. Another piece to consider is that not everyone is motivated by money. Check out last week’s post discussing Transformational Leadership, there is a comment about motivation that makes this a bit clearer.
Transactional leadership has its place, often in situations of less stress (Bass, Avolio, Jung, & Berson, 2003) and where rewards for achieving certain goals are an effective means of motivating others. Additionally, transactional leaders tend to be more focused on rules, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and policies (Bryant, 2003). If you find yourself in an organization that seems to motivate others through bonuses or time off and emphasize adherence to SOPs and policies, you may be following a transactional leader.
Jared W. Snow
Bass, B. M., Avolio, B. J., Jung, D. I., & Berson, Y. (2003). Predicting unit performance by assessing transformational and transactional leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(2), 207-218. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.88.2.207
Bryant, S. E. (2003). The role of transformational and transactional leadership in creating, sharing and exploiting organizational knowledge. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 9(4), 32.
Confusing achievement with activity
Do you work in a corporate, non-profit, or small business office, spending countless hours hammering away at your keyboard sending emails or building presentations and talking to clients and co-workers, wondering where the day went? Busyness makes the day go by pretty quickly, but what does it produce? You see, producing is different than being busy. As leaders, we often get lost in the idea of producing and simply become busy. We lose focus and confuse achievement with activity.
Being busy during the day, such as sending those emails and building presentations, while important in many instances, simply occupies a lot of our (precious) time, and we end up focusing our efforts on the less important things. I know I have done it, delayed the one-on-one meeting with a peer or subordinate because I have an “important” presentation due. Truthfully, the presentation could be completed in half the time if done with intention and focus.
The reality is, the more time you give to accomplish something, the more time it will take to complete it. Think about an assignment in college, or a presentation for work. You have known about it for weeks, yet you wait until the last minute to start and complete it at the last second, so it took you the entire time allowed to finish. If the same assignment or presentation were due in 5 days, it would only take 5 days and not several weeks because you are not willing to fail. Make sense?
How does this affect how I lead others? Confusing achievement with activity…
How to focus on achievement and not activity.
Remember, achievement is a result of meeting a goal or producing a product on time. Activity is simply busyness. Don’t confuse achieving with being busy.
Jared W. Snow