Giggling, the photographer snapped this picture. What was not funny was the realization that managers are asked to play at least this many roles, if not even more than the hats depicted. The question is not how does one make it all fit, but rather, does a manager have a state of awareness? Does he have clarity around the many hats he needs to be wearing? Does she know when to switch out the hats, in a manner of speaking? The more awareness a manager, whose goal it is to lead, has of the many roles expected the greater chance that manager has of being effective in any of them. The challenge, once aware, is in managing the many hats of leading, which include those roles that follow.
In leading, much of one’s role is to motivate compliance to a mission or a key organizational message. Without thinking of this role as one replete with pom-pom’s or a mascot, engaging others in a message is really about marketing. Marketers are gifted at grabbing attention, engaging audiences, and understanding their target demographic. How might a leader be as skilled in this area? Seek to fully understand the main message of values, a mission, or simply the current directive. Be repetitive in communicating the message. And be consistent in both saying, thinking, sharing, and acting out the message. Inconsistency in this area will make for bad marketing, prompting the leader to wonder why no one is acting on their message, and leading often to the belief of the need to play the role of trainer.
When employees fail to adhere to a directive or show a lack of compliance, it is often the fault of the message or deliverer of the message. The leader’s marketing role has not been well managed. Enter the perceived need for training. Employees must lack skills or they would be doing as the manager asked. Not the case. Revisit the role of marketing. But, if the message is clear, consistent, and engaging, there may still be a need for skill development. The leader manages the role of trainer by clarifying what skill or knowledge is missing and providing the right resource to provide said skill or missing information. That clarification is the tricky part. Succinctly and concisely identify what skills or knowledge is needed. Then, provide step by step guidance, opportunities to practice, and feedback on progress. Exercise caution with the feedback or the need to become a counselor will show up.
If the leader’s feedback must make the employee aware that he or she is not progressing, the hat of counselor may need to be worn. People can be rather sensitive to criticism and even become defensive. There are fears, beliefs, personalities, and insecurities that come right along with most people’s gifts, talents, and skills. Tap into one of those and the need for empathy and compassion appears. Manage the use of this role with objectivity by sharing feedback gently, honestly, openly, quickly, and in a conversation in which the employee is able to also share their side of the story. Yet, if the story becomes a pattern of behavior, one might need to become the disciplinarian.
Once the employee’s story has been shared, it may be revealed the employee is not a good fit or otherwise resistant to expected performance. Unless other circumstances are at play, the leader now engages in the role of disciplinarian. This role is often neglected and even more so, avoided for fear of rejection, confrontation, or making an error. The leader who follows company protocol and policy, or creates it if necessary, and remains objective, while always remembering that a failure to comply with instructions is the choice of the employee, will find this role manageable and only infrequently necessary. Thankfully, the next role is much more fun and entertaining.
When not managing the business, marketing a message, training and developing and listening and monitoring the performance of employees, one leader’s special privilege is to play the role of cheerleader. Some team members may long for pomp and circumstance and a parade in their honor. Others may prefer one or two quiet choice words of gratitude. All enjoy the opportunity to hear encouragement about their accomplishments, progress, and admittedly, on occasion, their very existence. This is a role to be played in and among all others and to be enjoyed. After all, a leader is only able to cheerlead when he or she has seen the fruits of his or her development efforts. Enjoy being proud of what those you lead can accomplish!
Want to become a better boss? Raise the awareness of these roles and the need for each of them in day to day management and leadership efforts. Constant hat changing can take a bit of leadership training, but being dedicated, flexible, and focused on the needs of those one leads, is simply part of being an exceptional leader.
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist who coaches, consults with, and speaks to leaders of all levels, building their skills, emotional intelligence and authenticity. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.