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Managing vs Leading

I’m coaching a first-time manager on his leadership skills. He is a top performer, and the company sees great potential for him. He has an MBA, understand business, and admits he lacks in “leadership” skills.

The company that he works for recently did a merger of equals (we all know there is no such thing), and my client is very frustrated – he feels that his growth potential has been put on hold as the company figures out their new staffing model. On the business side he continues to exceed his goals, however, is miserable. We discussed that he’s at a stage in his career where he needs to make things happen vs waiting for someone else to recognize him and determine his future. We talked about putting together a 3–5-year plan and work backwards about what he might do each year (Covey Habits #1 – Be Proactive, #2 – Begin with the end in Mind and #3 – Put First Things First). We discussed the change curve – understanding that mergers and acquisitions are hard on all involved, and the necessity to understand where he falls on the curve as well as his team and colleagues.

Then I asked how his team is feeling about all of this. His comment was – “they are doing great, they are all in line to meet and/or exceed their goals and they’ll receive a good bonus at the end of the year.”

I stopped and commented on how he is also doing really well with his goals, exceeding them and growing the business, yet he’s miserable. Then I said, let me ask the question again – How is your team FEELING about all of this? He paused and said that he doesn’t know.

This is an example of shifting from being a manager – the team is reaching and/or exceeding their goals. To being a leader – are they happy with what they are doing, the company, the changes, etc. The non-tangible – dare I say soft skills.


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