We’ve come to a crossroads in the way we do business: people are the focus, not the work. And it’s with good reason. When we focus on the product over the people, we run the risk of losing everything. Without qualified, dedicated employees to make the business run, you won’t have a business. When we manage work and lead people, the results dramatically change in our favor. People don’t like to be micromanaged – and they never did – but there wasn’t a way to turn things around like there is now. If you run a business and have employees, you’ll want to start focusing on the people instead of the product. They are, after all, your biggest asset.
What’s the Difference Between Managing and Leading?
You might be wondering why there is such an uproar about leading people rather than managing them, and you are not alone. For as long as our industrial world has been turning, there have been classes of workers. The boss, never getting their hands dirty, manages the middle-class workers, who also don’t usually get their hands dirty. They manage the front-line workers who do most of the heavy lifting. When work is about production or productivity, people lose. These days, a shift has taken place where business owners are focused on helping people be productive, rather than producing as much as possible in the shortest period of time. It’s exhausting to try to do that and managing people is even more difficult when the adoption of leadership is much more effective. Leadership then is about showing people how to do something by doing it yourself, by inspiring them to want to learn more and to take ownership of their jobs. Management is making sure everyone does their job correctly, with very little room for error.
Technology Helps us Manage Work
One of the great things about the technology innovations that we’ve seen over the last two decades is that it is becoming easier to manage work and lead people. We’ve started to see the work as being the product and the people as being the drivers of that product. Creating tools, such as software for management, means that the work can track itself, and people don’t need to be micromanaged. They can get the job done with the right tools and support from their leaders. Rather than worry about how computers are going to take our jobs, we should be focusing on how computers and the technology they allow us to create can help us be more productive. When we are productive, the human side of things benefits greatly. People get to go home early, spend more time with their families, and not have to work so hard. It’s a beautiful thing.
Where the Trouble Comes In
As managers and leaders, we run into trouble when we confuse the two outputs: thinking that people can act like machines and thinking that machines can act like people. If we continue to put pressure on our employees to do the work of a computer, we’ll lose them. What’s more, thinking that the computer can do the work of 10 employees is also hard to imagine. Machines are not supposed to replace our employees, they are supposed to make our employee’s lives easier. When things are easier, more gets done. Leading a team is about showing them how to use the technology available to them to better the company. Managing is about ensuring that the work gets done on time and in the right order. What do you think is more important? Productivity or deadlines? It’s a hard question to answer and one that we are still struggling to come to terms with at this point in our history. Whether you prefer to be managed or lead, and whether or not you have a choice is not relevant. It’s about the approach of the people you work for that is going to determine how effective leaders are in the work, not the people. Most people need some direction and the confidence of their superiors to get a job done – that’s leadership. When that work can’t be done without someone looking over their shoulder – that’s management.
When it comes to managing work, using the right tools makes the job easier. Leading people, no matter how much practice we get at it, doesn’t get any easier. There are so many variables and options to choose from that we continue to have to focus on how to get it right. Despite the struggle for companies to figure out how to lead their people, the work is getting done. Imagine how much more effective the work will be when companies put people first and product second? It’s a great dream and one that is already happening in many companies around the world. Will you manage or lead? The choice is yours.