I listened to a webinar by Bruce Tulgan, “It’s OK to Be the Boss” where he made the point that much of the leadership literature today is focused on being grand, bold, inspirational. While those qualities are valuable, there are a couple of questions that arise out of this emphasis. First, what if you’re not naturally charismatic and inspirational? Should you then not accept or aspire to any leadership roles? Second, inspiration alone is not enough to get the day-to-day work done in an organization. Everyone’s pumped up, but then what?
Tulgan does a great job of outlining the basics of managing (manage everyday; talk like a coach; make accountability a process) and noting the myths common among managers. I like many of his sobriquets for these myths: When managers boast they like to leave their people alone, he calls it “Management by Neglect.” Another common pitfall occurs when managers have a serious discussion about the employee’s work only when something has gone terribly wrong: “Bad News Managing.” Instead he describes a frequent, work-focused, engaged management style with words such as: guide, coach, direct and support.
In my favorite bit, Tulgan argues that managers too often substitute shooting the breeze and cheerleading for substantive discussion on what needs to be done and how do it. The ‘pal-sy’ socializing can be a disingenuous way to connect with an employee or can disguise a manager’s discomfort with managing. Tulgan argues the authentic relationship between a manager and employee is about the work; that is the heart of genuine connection. He provides great tools to make that connection work.