Ken & His Talents

Ken was a middle manager in a manufacturing company. He had a talent for communication – for vividly passing on to others the company’s and unit’s vision and strategy. Like most managers at his level he also had budget responsibilities, for which he had little talent or interest.

Many companies would send Ken through a series of budget or financial training programs, trying to improve his skills. Over time he might improve his skills to the point of basic competence, but the financial end of the unit will never be a strong suit. Instead, Ken’s company recognized his strengths. He went through a basic training program in the company’s budget process and then delegated most of this responsibility to a trusted team member who understood the process and enjoyed working with financial data. This freed Ken to concentrate on doing what he liked and what he did best. He continues to work hard to improve his communication skills, keeps up to speed about industry developments, and is seen as a high-potential candidate for movement into corporate planning and executive management.

Lessons Learned

Thanks, in part, to his company’s support, Ken was able to focus on one of his talents and turn it into a significant strength. By building on his talents and managing around his weakness in budgeting, he is in line for the executive suite and the company is growing a highly valuable employee.

Bill & the Company Goals

Bill was CEO of a 1,400-employee manufacturing company making precision components for the aircraft industry. His vice presidents seemed to be unclear about the overall goals and strategy of the company as the industry and marketplace were going through some rapid changes. When this confusion was first mentioned to Bill, he got visibly agitated and said, “I don’t get it. I told them the goals six months ago!” When he was asked if the goals were in writing, his response was, “No! If you write that stuff down your competition can find it out!”

There wasn’t much danger of the competition finding out because Bill’s own vice presidents didn’t even know! As a result no one else under them did either. The company continued to falter as employees tried to meet goals no one understood.

Lessons Learned

A verbal list of goals spoken in one meeting more than six months earlier wasn’t sufficient in this case. If Bill really wanted his vice presidents to “get it,” he should have provided the goals in writing, reviewed them with the team, and then discussed with each vice president how their particular area was going to accomplish those goals.

Don’s Derailment

Don was a manufacturing expert whose personal style of being “one of the guys” on the shop floor (including crude language and hard-drinking, back-slapping, dirty-joke-telling, in-your-face, confrontational communication) helped him turn around the operations of a large manufacturing company. An expert in lean manufacturing, he had been popular with the work force while obtaining excellent productivity from his employees.

Don moved from operations director to vice president and then to president over the course of two years. Then he began having problems with his board of directors. His demeanor hadn’t changed from his “one of the guys” persona, and he failed to understand that the board expected him to become more diplomatic, more sophisticated, and more “presidential” in his demeanor, communications, and personal style. He aggressively argued with the board one too many times and was fired after barely six months in the corner office.

The board members didn’t clarify their expectations prior to elevating Don to the presidency, and he didn’t ask for clarification. Too bad. His considerable talents were lost to the company and Don was unemployed for more than a year before finding a plant manager position at a much smaller company.

Lessons Learned

As you move to progressively more responsible positions your reporting relationships – and the expectations that go with them – are going to change. Don didn’t take the time to step back, clarify expectations, and decide how his approach to others needed to shift. The board was unhappy when he didn’t intuitively understand what they wanted. Do you think Don learned his lesson from what happened to him?

Skill 7 – Leading & Empowering

No matter where you work or what you do, if you are going to be effective in managing your team and getting the job done, you will need to be a leader. If managing yourself (Skill 1) is the foundational skill that begins your path to success, then leadership helps you expand beyond yourself and your immediate team. Becoming a leader provides you with a chance to dramatically widen your sphere of influence

Both leadership and management involve acquiring and developing knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors. Once you are reasonably adept at Skills 1 through 6, you will be ready for Skill 7 – Leading & Empowering.

What do you think? How do you go about leading your team to success? Are your employees truly empowered? How did you get that to happen? Let us know what works for you.