The central point in Marcus Buckinghams new book The One Thing You Need to Know : … About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success is that great managers understand the differences in the people they are managing and work on bringing the best out in each one of them. In an interview with ComputerWorld, he said:
The job of the leader is to rally people toward a better future. It’s externally focused, optimistic, ego-driven. Leaders see the present, but the future is even more vivid to them. The key skill is to cut through individual differences and tap into those things all of us share: fear of the future and the need for clarity.
The role of the manager is very internally focused: to turn one person’s talent into performance; to ask, “Who is the person? What is his or her unique style of learning? What unique trigger must I squeeze to get the best out of him?” The challenge is to find what’s unique and capitalize on it. It’s really different but hugely important in a company. It’s a role that’s been undervalued.
People think of managers as leaders in waiting, but these are two very different abilities. The manager’s role is catalytic. A great manager speeds up the reaction between the talent of people and the goals of the company. When that role is not valued, reactions are slowed down. If you want to know the future of a company, look at the quality of the managers.
Many IT managers would love it if all programmers thought alike, but a great manager knows that’s absolute bunkum. A great manager figures out who’s the knight, the queen, the pawn. He coordinates all those very different abilities and contributions into the service of the overall plan. He builds a team out of individuals.
Great managers talk about strengths -not things you can do well, but things that strengthen you. They’re appetites as much as abilities – things you’re drawn toward. A weakness isn’t something you’re bad at; it’s something that drains, bores or frustrates you. An IT manager ought to be able to find out, for example, that this person loves to pull together and stay till midnight to meet that deadline. That urgency, passion, camaraderie makes him feel alive. Others need to go step by step and see the timeline and stick to it very religiously – never get behind the eight ball.
In the IT world, where it’s “Do it for me yesterday,” it’s pretty important to know which of your people love that pressure and which are drained by it. If crunch time weakens you, you can’t learn to love it. You can do it once or twice and then you’ll quit — psychologically or physically.
Watch to see what people are drawn to. Managers more often focus on weaknesses, but great managers know that will get you incremental improvement. If you invest in strengths, you get exponential improvement — a much better return on investment.
This is what Buckingham has to say about learning styles:
Analyzers crave information. They love preparation and role playing. They take a task apart, examine the pieces and put it back together. They want to absorb all there is to know about a subject before they begin. They hate mistakes. Don’t expect them to wing it; give them the time and the tools to prepare.
Doers learn by trial and error. Preparation bores them. They want a quick overview of the desired outcomes and then they’re good to go. Start them with a simple task and gradually increase the complexity until they’ve mastered their roles.
Watchers like to see the total performance so they can learn how each part relates to all the others. Formal education and preparation leave them cold. Let a watcher shadow a successful performer so he can see the big picture.
As Drucker said, Leadership is the lifting of a mans vision to higher sights. Taken together, the three books by Drucker, Welch and Buckingham help us do just that.
Tomorrow: The Marketing Playbook
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