There's one thing that turns leaders into managers - fear. When you're working toward being a promotion, you're working hard, trying to impress and you're only concerned about doing your very best. Then, the day comes - you've been promoted. Now, instead of focusing on how to be your best, you start being afraid. Afraid of being found out that you're not as good as they think you are. Afraid you won't measure up. Afraid you'll lose your position and end up going backward.
The problem is, when you're afraid of losing your job, you start holding on too tightly, and that impacts those who now report to you. Instead of building a team, you start holding onto every element of the work your team produces. You start to worry that no one else can do the tasks as well as you, so you hold onto everything. That lack of trust leads to you becoming overwhelmed by the amount of work you have on your plate and your team has only busy-work to do.
Lack of trust is a two-way street. Once you stop trusting that anyone else can do the job as well as you, you start suspecting others of being "out to get you." And your team feels they can't trust you, because you're so secretive and spend too much time dictating every moment of their work day.
The best thing you can do to become a leader is relax and trust. You were put over a team because those above you trusted your ability to get the job done. You must have the same trust in your team. Will some let you down? Certainly. But the majority won't. The majority of your team members come into work every day like you do - ready to conquer the world and do the best job they can.
Your team members might not accomplish the job the same way you would, but then again, you didn't do things the exact way your former leader did. The only thing that matters is whether the task is completed and completed well. The "how" doesn't matter.
Here are some other concrete tips for becoming a leader, not a manager:
- Delegate. Stop holding everything so tightly to your chest. You can't do everything yourself, so trusting your team to do their jobs well will not only relieve some of your stress, but will dignify your team members, showing them the trust they deserve.
- Get out from behind your desk. A football coach doesn't coach from an office. He leads his team from the same bench as his players. He stands among them, speaks with them, encourages them. The more you put yourself in the middle of your team, the more you start working together and the more they become YOUR team, not your employees.
- Reward the 80% who do their jobs without notice. You might think, "well, they're just doing their job; they get paid to do their jobs." Yes. Yes, they are. But that's to be celebrated. It's a truth that leaders and managers spend 80% of their time with the 20% not doing their jobs. So why not celebrate the majority who ARE doing their jobs? It doesn't cost a lot to do it, either. Give someone half a day off for no reason. Randomly hand out $10 gift cards to a local fast food restaurant or movie theater. Give out a certificate for employee of the moment and make a deal out of it. Bring in donuts or lunch for the team.
- Spend more time praising extra effort than criticizing doing things the wrong way. Face it - you don't possess 100% of the knowledge of how to do things. There might be someone on your team going the extra mile to innovate. Praise them! Encourage others to do the same! Just because someone has a new idea doesn't mean they're going to take your job away.
The more you focus on building your team than you do holding tightly to what's yours, the more you realize you've become a leader. You'll build trust, loyalty and teamwork. The morale of your team will increase, your turnover will go down and the productivity of you and your team will skyrocket.
The world has more than enough managers - be the leader you want to be.