Can You Lead A Horse To Water?

Drops of knowledge can be found in the most unlikely places.

Drops of knowledge can be found in the most unlikely places.

I’m starting to sense a cloud of self-delusion among young managers.  I had the opportunity to sit down with a friend recently and hear a laundry list of bad management techniques that he was watching go on at his place of employment.  I can only boil it all down to this: there are leaders out there who aren’t leading and managers who just aren’t managing.  Some how they aren’t even aware of this fact.

I keep hearing stories about managers who are “too busy” to get up from their desk and yet no one around them is all that sure what they are doing that is keeping them so busy.  These managers don’t have much to show for all the time they are logging glued to their chair, and yet they are too busy to actively manage their team.  In the same respect, they aren’t doing a darn thing to steer their team in the right direction through proper leadership.

It breaks my heart to hear things like this since I tend to have a very hands on approach.  Micro managing is far from being my cup of tea, but I do like to work side-by-side with my team when possible so they know I’m there for them if they ever need me.  Being a part of the team at times allows me to get first hand exposure to any problems that might be occurring and it also allows my team to see me pushing up my sleeves and getting dirty with them.

There is a good reason that the terms LEADership and MANAGEment exist and are utilized today.  With that being said, why aren’t people willing to actively lead or manage their team?  Is it that they aren’t confident in their own decision making skills, haven’t been properly trained themselves, or just don’t know how to lead or manage a team?  I haven’t been able to put my finger on just one specific reason just yet.  It seems to be different with each person I hear a story about.

I will say that no matter what the reason, the people who are truly suffering are the employees who are floundering around in search of direction and true leadership.  These poor front line employees are looking to their managers for direction and instead end up being turned away.  The impact from the lack of leadership extends well past these front line employees and straight to the customers.  If managers aren’t managing then do you think they have instilled a feeling of power in their team to do whatever it takes to make a customer happy?  I’m going to answer with a resounding “heck no” on that one.

If managers are doubting their decision making skills then it’s time they commit to improving them.  The only way to do that is to start making decisions that are either right or those that will become learning experiences for the future.  Leaders who feel they haven’t been properly trained themselves need to speak up to their managers and make it known that training needs to happen.  Getting the training will bring back the confidence to lead those that are turning to them for guidance.  If a manager just isn’t sure how to manage a team then it is time to admit the problem and seek out help.  Every bookstore and library, whether it’s the brick and mortar or digital kind, have a section devoted to leadership.  Be proactive and make yourself useful to your team.  It is your rightful duty as a manager or leader to do so.

There isn’t a reason out there to have a leader who isn’t leading or a manager who isn’t managing.  Bad habits shouldn’t be accepted, but most definitely can be corrected.  It all begins with us.  If you’re the manager struggling then find one who isn’t to mentor you.  There’s no shame in it at all because it will better you, your team, and your company.  If you see another leader who is struggling then gently reach out and see if you can offer to be their mentor.  I recently had someone offer to mentor me so I could get a better lay of the land in the large company I returned to.  Saying “yes” to the mentorship offer was the best decision I ever could have made.  Mentorships will benefit both involved and you’ll be amazed at what you can learn from on another.

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What do you have to say about all of this?