If you’re going to work in a world where you have to worry about both execution and change and innovation, leaders [should be able to recognize what] one of my colleagues refers to as performance gaps—gaps between where you are and where you should be—and also opportunity gaps—gaps between where you are and where you could be. Those organizations whose leadership [is] always worrying about where you could be and not only where you should be, are much more likely to be prepared to take advantage of opportunities that will come along.
What’s the Significance?
In order to simplify the intimidating number of responsibilities that leaders face, Hill has isolated three imperatives of being a great manager. The first is “managing your self”. Very often, managers find themselves torn between loyalties: to their bosses, to their employees, and to their corporations. While all of those relationships are important, Hill believes that a boss’ primary focus should be honing his or her own skills as a leader. “Being an effective boss is about managing yourself first and foremost,” she says. “You are using yourself as an instrument.”
Self-improvement means being willing to admit your weaknesses and build upon them. All too often, managers think that admitting their faults will erode their authority. In fact, the opposite is the case. “People aren’t stupid, they know when you don’t know what you are talking about,” Hill says. “Instead of continuing to act like you do know what you are talking about, you might say ‘By the way, these are some things that I know and I’ve been put in this position because I know these parts of the job, but I also know that I have a lot to learn here.’”
The second imperative is “managing your network.” Whether we like it or not, organizations are “inherently political entities” in which each leader is dependent on many other people to achieve his or her goals. Hill says:
While managing relationships depends on the person and on the relationship, Hill believes that a few simple strategies can help you manage your network. For instance, she says that leaders should make a conscious effort to attend professional meetings, join specialized task forces within their company, and even become involved in community organizations outside of the office. In doing so, managers will find themselves working with other community members who not only share their values but also might one day become mentors or colleagues.The third and final imperative is “managing your team”. This involves setting clear goals and making sure that your employees understand the purpose of their work. Bosses should make sure that their workers understand why their organization matters both to the larger corporation and to the company as a whole. “People really care about the meaning of the work,” Hill says. “Even if you are selling shoes, there’s a purpose for what you’re up to that you can talk with people about.”Team management also involves building a culture for your team. In addition to setting clear goals, leaders should understand that their team’s culture is largely a reflection of their personal style. If you don’t like group collaboration, chances are that your team will adopt an individualistic approach to work. On the other hand, if you are too oriented toward group decision-making, your team might lose precious time by calling too many meetings. It is critical that leaders understand the limitations of their own preferences, and adjust their leadership accordingly.
The higher up you go in an organization, the more dependencies you have. You always want to over-estimate your dependencies. So think about who you’re dependent to get your job done and then you have to ask yourself, have I built the right relationships with those people? Do they really trust me? Do we have mutual expectations, can I influence them, can they influence me? If the answers are no to those questions, then you have not built the right kind of relationships.