Most managers in organizations complain about the constant lack of time they have to complete their tasks. I coach a lot of those managers on the same challenge: their company asks them to be more of a “leader” and less of a “doer”. Yet, they feel stuck in a never-ending spiral of actions that prevents them from spending more time managing and leading.
Managers perfectly know that the “doers” strategy is not paying off in the long run. They know that doers are not promoted in organizations, because they are identified as doers and not as future leaders. Simple, but yet so true: if you want to be promoted at a higher level, the first thing you need to do is to show your leadership abilities, not your ability to get things done.
Managers are also perfectly aware that action is necessary at all levels but is not enough and to a certain point destroys their ability to grow. Being the subject matter expert able to answer any technical question puts them in the “expert” category. Not in the “leader” category, the one who is recognized for her capacity to think, envision, step back, use critical thinking skills, and so on.
I observe a kind of passive behavior, a form of acceptance to always take on more while feeling disempowered to say “no” or just try to change the situation.
This attitude does not match with the high-achiever high-energy profile of successful managers. There is a contradiction somewhere, something that is key but somehow not addressed, like the denial of an illness.
What is really going on underneath the situation?
In the course of my coaching sessions with managers across various industries, I observed that this behavior stems from 3 factors:
First, fear stepping out of their comfort zone;
Doing things is comfortable and rewarding, as it fills our lives. Most of us feel comfortable with completing tasks and ticking boxes on our to-do list.
The more we have on our plate, the more we are reassured that we are worthy to the organization and to ourselves. On top of that, when we are praised for our successes, and recognized as a successful contributors, we will naturally look for more rewards like this. So a natural tendency is to stay in that comfort zone.
If accomplishing things makes us feel good, why would we stop doing that?
In that aspect, the corporate culture plays a key role: simply put, when skills like “ability to deliver” are more rewarding than “ability to manage”, when the number of hours is more praised than saving time by bringing innovative solutions, then the company cannot expect their managers to switch their behaviors.
Similarly, we often associate the absence of action with being useless, and we think that having less to do puts us at risk in our organization. This often explains micro-management behaviors and the tendency to put more on our shoulders, even though we know that this behavior is counter-productive and that as a manager, delegating to others is the first thing to do in order to grow in the company.
Our western countries still value action much more than meditation, despite its clear benefits on the quality of our outputs and our lives in general. There is without any doubt, cultural and educational pressure urging us to always do more, and resist a form of more thoughtful attitude.
Secondly, fear of change and loss of control,
We all resist change. Even though we know rationally that option B –do less- would be more profitable than option A –do more-, we stick to option A because 1- we don’t know how to go from A to B, 2- We don’t know how B is going to look like, so we prefer to stick to something we know.
The level of management must be also considered when we talk about the balance between doing and leading. Losing control of operational activities is something specifically challenging for middle-managers who are, by definition, in charge of large operational and transverse projects and are very much associated with details, implementation, and processes at all levels.
Let’s say that depending on our role in the organization and our personal level of resistance to change, it will take us a different amount of time and energy to switch from doer to leader. But again, whatever his management level, the more a manager trains his people to do, the more he is leading.
Finally, lack of vision for the future;
How can we undertake a major change, if we cannot envision ourselves after the change? How can we go to B if we don’t know what B is going to look like? And what if, on top of that, we associate B with a loss of power and control?
The first step is to try figuring out what advantages we will get from being more a leader than a doer, while letting go on this idea that we will feel disempowered if we do less things.
Once I have fewer things to do, I will have time to:
- bring more creativity to my projects,
- really take the time to care for my people,
- think about how to communicate more effectively on my vision,
- contribute to other people’s projects in the company at a higher level,
- be able to take a different approach and use my critical thinking skills,
- think creatively and bring innovative solutions
- put my real strengths at play
How can I switch from a successful doer to a successful leader?
A five steps coaching program:
Once managers understand what holds them back from changing, and envision what the future would look like after the change, they are more ready to start the change process in itself.
In this robust coaching program, I teach managers the 5 major steps in order to build their leadership and feel comfortable doing it, in a safe and simple way.
If you want to step out from this expert and hands-on attitude and step into a leader's shoes, the one who steps back, prioritizes, chooses, and makes useful decisions, join this program, contact us today.