Are You a Beacon of Light or a Blowtorch?
By| July 15, 2011
Imagine that I go to your office or network when you are not there. While I’m at your office, I decide to survey the team that reports to you. The subject of the survey? Well, it’s a survey about your leadership skills. If I ask your team to complete this sentence, “my manager is _______,” what would they say?
Maybe they’ll say positive things, such as:
“ My manager is inspiring.”
“ My manager is a great teacher.”
“ My manager pushes me to be better at what I do.”
“ My manager believes in me and trusts me to get the job done.”
Or maybe they will have a different kind of comment, like the following:
“ My manager micromanages me.”
“ My manager can’t communicate clearly and then blames me.”
“ My manager takes all the credit.”
“ My manager has no respect for the team.”
So what do you think your team would say about you? What rating would they give you, on a scale of 1-10? Would they say that you are a beacon of light or a blowtorch? And what’s the difference? Let’s take a look at ten categories of management. With each one, ask yourself which one your team would pick.
Beacons: They get more done through and with their team. They are able to work with people.
Blowtorches: They force the team to get it done. The team reports to a “boss” and people work for them—not with them.
Beacons: Communication is two-way. They resolve problems, discuss issues and try to find mutually beneficial solutions. Relationships are built on mutual respect.
Blowtorches: Communication is one way, as in “my way or the highway,” and no one cares about mutually beneficial solutions. Relationships are built on the idea, “respect me or else.”
Beacons: They ask each team member to define their long-term goals and work with them to create action plans. They help team members develop the skills they need to get to the next level.
Blowtorches: They don’t ask team members about their goals—and think it’s stupid to do so. Why would the company develop employees’ skills when there is the possibility they could leave and use them elsewhere? (Someone in the cable industry once told me this.)
Beacons: They give credit where credit is due, acknowledging both the individual and team efforts when something goes well. When it doesn’t go well, they take responsibility as the leader of the team.
Blowtorches: They take the credit for everything when it goes well, without acknowledging the effort of the team. Why bother? The team was just doing their job, which they are supposed to do anyway. When it doesn’t go well, the blame is assigned to everyone except the leader.
Beacons: They coach each team member on what they do well and what they can do better. This is an ongoing process, done in private. And it’s constructive.
Blowtorches: Instead of coaching in private, they coach the team during staff meetings by pointing out their mistakes; individual concerns are addressed in front of the team. They believe that this technique teaches valuable lessons, through using the “school of hard knocks” approach.
6. Policy and Procedure
Beacons: They believe that policy and procedure is a guideline for leaders but that it is meant to be used at the leader’s discretion. When needed, certain exceptions can be made.
Blowtorches: Policy and procedure is the letter of the law. In fact, it is the law. Anyone caught violating it will be written up and could face termination, no matter the circumstances.
Beacons: They believe that the workplace environment is an essential tool for driving morale and motivation, and they put a great deal of time and effort into insuring that the office is well kept. Their belief is that morale and motivation drive productivity.
Blowtorch: They think that the whole concept of the positive office space environment is a bunch of new age garbage. The only thing that drives productivity is lighting a fire under peoples’ butts.
Beacons: They like to use rewards to drive productivity and morale, in terms of raises, bonuses and an occasional contest with prizes to keep people enthused. The leader gives a cash award for employee of the month, which is voted on by all employees, including management.
Blowtorches: They think the reward is keeping your job every week. A raise given once a year, with a bonus? Yeah, right. And the idea of a ridiculous contest with prizes is a waste of time and effort, while work should be getting done. The employee of the month’s reward: he or she gets to stay for another month.
Beacons: They never show anger and are always in control, because they want to lead by example. When disappointed, they say so, but they never raise their voice or yell. They treat every team member with respect.
Blowtorches: They have been known to yell, throw objects and use curse words liberally. A blowtorch believes that this can be a great tool for intimidating team members and getting them to move, move, move! They believe that if they don’t show anger, their team members will get nothing done.
10. Goals and Objectives
Beacons: They share both the team and the organization’s goals on a frequent basis. They feel that if everyone knows what is going on, they will be able to contribute. In addition, if the leader is unavailable, they know the long-term play and will know what to do.
Blowtorches: They share information only on a “need to know basis,” because, after all, it’s none of their business. The view is this: each person on the team knows what they need to know—and when they need to know it.
So what do you think your team would say about you? Would they say you are a beacon or a blowtorch? And are you sure about that? Here is a way to find out, if you have the courage: Ask them. Yes, that’s right. Take a stand and ask your team how you are doing. That’s what beacons do. Have a discussion with each team member individually. Ask them to look at each category, and give some honest no-holds-barred feedback on how things are going, on a scale of 1- 10. You may be closer to the flame then you think.
(A former VP at Comcast University, Shawn Doyle is a speaker and author of 10 books. He is President of New Light Learning and Development Inc., which specializes in training and development programs for cable. His site is: www.shawnspeakscable.com)