I have never been one to dive too deep into politics, mainly because my belief is to take care of others because it is the right thing to do, not for any personal gain. Interestingly enough, caring for others first generally produces greater results for me personally in the long run. So, it works out!
But the recent Presidential election caused me to consider this question, or issue. Is it more important to support the President or the Presidency? We live in a country where we are free to make our own decisions, speak with our own voice, and elect our leadership. How then, or why, do so many choose to protest against our President, to the point of protesting during his inauguration, fighting, or shunning others for supporting him? Again, freedom of speech allows protestors to voice their discontent. But why do it in this way?
I am not making a political stance here. This is about supporting the right to choose, the right to vote. As a country, we elected President Trump, to lead our country for the next 4 years. To me, it would be more practical to support the Presidency, the idea of democracy and a freedom to choose, than to protest just because we can. Whether you like him or not, Mr. Trump is our President, our Commander in Chief, our leader. Support the Presidency if you cannot support the President. Protesting our leaders seems more like protesting against our right to choose. After all, we did choose him, so let’s all support him, at least what he represents – freedom.
This was a brief post, but it is a simple idea – support freedom.
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.
How do you know when it is time to let someone go? At what point is it time to throw in the towel, give up, move on? Is it giving up on them, have they given up on themselves, or both? Or, is it a matter of finding the right person for the right job?
Some have said that the right moment to let someone go (fire, terminate, whatever you want to call it), is the first time you think they are not going to make it. Supposedly (and I have heard this on many podcasts, read this in several articles, and heard from a handful of people – so I am not the only one), the moment you think they are “not going to cut it” is the moment you should end the professional relationship.
In some sense, I agree. If they truly just don’t have what it takes, then it is time to help them find the right fit somewhere else. But, if it requires a little more effort on your part to turn the individual around and help them succeed, wouldn’t that be better for all involved? On the other hand, what is the reason they are not succeeding? Is it a lack of leadership on your part? Is there something occurring in their life that is causing them to miss the mark?
Some leaders, in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors, follow the mantra, “slow to hire, quick to fire.” The premise is to take the time to find the best fit for the position based on knowledge, skills, and abilities, as well as potential, and the organization will be better for it. Taking the time to find the right person reduces the potential need to terminate them in the future.
A bit of transparency here. I tend to keep people around a little too long. I lean towards helping (although it is not always helpful for them to keep them around) them until the very (sometimes bitter) end. Bitter in that they feel I could have done more, while I am feeling I have done all I can. So, a lesson from yours truly, if you think they are not going to make it, tell them! Let them know that they are at risk of losing their job. Be honest, but with tact. Ensure they realize you are there to help them and you have their best interest at heart. Doing so will help them and you, make the right decision.
When is the best time to let someone go? When you both have done all that can be reasonably expected. It could be that first moment you think they cannot make it, or when you have given all that you can. Be honest, be helpful, and have no regrets – you or the one being let go.
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.
As we wrap up 2016, I recommend developing a reading list to really set the tone for 2017. Amongst those books on your list, I suggest adding these great leadership reads to your list. This is not an all-inclusive list, and they are in no particular order. Take a few minutes, review this list, and find the ones that interest you. Feel free to share your favorite leadership, management, or business related book with us here. Have a great New Year!
Jared W. Snow
The Leadership Challenge
If you are confused about what people want from a leader than look no further. The Leadership Challenge is a well written and researched book will help leaders understand that members of a team want the same basis qualities in all leaders.
Principle Centered Leadership
The title says it all. Principle Centered Leadership makes a compelling case establishing character and principles as foundational to the leadership enterprise.
Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman takes the concept of Emotional Quotient (EQ) and applies it to the leadership process. A must for anyone who wants to understand how emotions impact our ability to think as well as lead.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell clearly illustrates the value as well as the pitfalls of going with our gut instincts. He also demonstrates why more systematic and rational approaches do not always lead to correct response either. Gladwell's treatise will help you strike the right balance in your life and work.
The Wisdom of Teams
The Wisdom of Teams by Katzenbach and Smith is the best book in the field on the subject. Leadership is about building high performance teams and these two authors provide valuable insight into making teams happen.
What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful
Marshall Goldsmith discusses traits and habits that may have worked to get you to where you are now, but will not work to get you further in life, at your job, with your friends or family. A great read to help you take the next step in life, successfully.
The Peter Principle
How is it that the under-achiever gets promoted or the less-than-competent coworkers get transferred to a less demanding position? The Peter Principle is an easy read and discusses these phenomena and more, that many of us have experienced at some point in our careers.