The leadership vs management debate has dominated boardroom meetings in recent years. Companies increasingly focus on pushing management teams to acquire leadership capabilities in their own distinct organizational tasks. But most managers are not leaders. They are not developed as leaders. They are not encouraged to be leaders. Often leaders are promoted into a management positions to develop task forces as autonomous units with managers capable of making the decisions on their own, optimizing resource utilization and maximizing workforce potential to enhance strategic business advantages. The problem for the business organizations is simple – managers can be trained to be managers, but they must be developed into leaders. Although leadership is associated with pushing the company up the ladder, managers are ultimately in charge of enforcing business plans within their teams and ensuring best possible outcomes. While both roles are crucial and important in their own regard, developing strong leadership capabilities in managers is critical for long-term business success.
The primary difference between leaders and managers centers around focus: leaders focus on the workforce as individuals and collective teams alike, whereas managers are primarily focused on business systems. Managers are responsible for distributing and utilizing resources to deliver a standard product or service within agreed thresholds, including budget and schedule. They develop processes and policies within their area of responsibility and enforce those among their employees. However, they may not have the trust or respect from their employees, their peers or even their reporting lines. Leaders influence and encourage changes within their workforce to achieve business success. Good leaders tend to have the ability to bring out the best in everyone, while rewarding everyone with their fair share of credit for the success achieved. While leaders can work the system, they also understand how the system truly impacts the bottom line of the company and not limited to their own area of responsibility. They are more likely to work with vendors and customers to understand how to improve the system and obtain a better product or service. As a result, everyone benefits around a leader.
One area where most companies fail in developing leaders is risk management. Managers are traditionally responsible of containing risks whereas leaders aim to engage risk as their competitive strength. When organizations seek to innovative and set market trends, they must encourage their managers to take risks within the allowed boundaries instead of playing safe all the time. However, managers must also understand risks and implications associated with every action or inaction to the business bottom line. But at the end of the day, leaders are inherently encouraged to take chances, create change and motivate people to move up the next step toward success. Encouraging a similar mindset among management professionals ensures the leadership philosophy travels all the way from the boardroom through to front end employees.
Managers create departments, while leaders create teams. This is an important distinction because by creating departments, managers departmentalize the work in order to establish controls to ensure the desired output. In the end, the managers are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the department. With teams, though, every person is working together to attain a desired, or better, output. If successful, everyone shares in the credit because everyone shared in the responsibility; however, the leader will typically take responsibility when the team fails. Managers are excellent at enforcing conformance: leaders seek to break conformity. Many of the greatest advances in our society and for leading companies have occurred because someone had the courage to operate outside the known box and seek new opportunities.
While management is an important function of a company, leadership will always be a highly regarded commodity in business. Most companies do realize they have many managers, but few leaders. For companies seeking to maintain the status quo, they should stick with hiring and training managers: but those companies looking to grow and expand must learn to find and develop their leaders.
FILL THE TALENT GAP WITH PROJECT-BASED ACTIVE CORPORATE LEARNING PROGRAMS
Continuous business improvements in the age of digitization necessitate radical new learning methodologies to unleash the genius from inside of every employee. The idea has evolved beyond a hypothetical value proposition and holds particularly well for organizations across all industry verticals involved in innovative projects. In recent years, traditional passive learning programs have failed to deliver adequately. In 2011, U.S. companies spent $156 billion dollars in employee training. With just over 110 million full-time employees in the U.S. that year, it cost an average of $1,418 for each U.S. employee. Unfortunately, the estimate in skill decay due to the inability to apply what is learned in practical situations is 90% within the first year: sometimes just walking out of the classroom. As a result, most companies are losing an average $1,276 in training for each of their employees. Most companies depend heavily on the classical classroom training, or passive training; but is there a better approach: project-based active learning programs, or learning by doing.
The classic approach to training is passive: relying on the employee to learn from a specific curriculum and applying it in solving theoretical assignments instead of real-world projects. Training is often performed within a classroom, away from the workplace. Students are given materials such as books, pamphlets or slides. They listen to coaches regurgitating the curriculum, or if lucky, expand on the hidden concepts in context of real-world applications. Hands-on training may be possible limited to pre-defined simulations. The classroom setting is an opportunity for employees to focus on the materials being taught, ask questions, and provide feedback. The gap lies in applying the learning in real-world environments.
With active project-based corporate learning programs however, the primary focus remains on encouraging employees to learn while they perform practical assignments similar tasks undertakes as part of their actual jobs. While some of the training may be performed in the classroom, progressing through the course requires employees to investigate problems and solve complex business challenges as part of on-field and office-based projects. Through group discussions, peer assignments and mentoring, employees are able to acquire skills and understand how to apply them in on actual job tasks. The measurement of success for project-based training is the ability to act upon the acquired knowledge base, as opposed to learning information and never truly finding a way to transform knowledge base into practical skills.
Project-based training has its drawbacks. Foremost on the list is the cost of providing this type of training in terms of financial and time investments. The financial cost has a definitive increase over the traditional classroom, particularly in setting up training environments and hiring expert coaches to work closely with the organization to empower their workforce with specific skills. But by ensuring that each concept is understood and applied properly in a real-world situation, employees are more likely to retain the information acquired as part of the learning program. Despite these drawbacks, project-based training enables students to improve their critical thinking, research skills, and communication and collaboration skills.
Why should a company invest in project-based training at this time? Any company investing in implementing Lean methodologies for improvement understand the difference between theoretical and practical implementation of the methodology. Most implementation teams are quite knowledgeable in Lean concepts, but unable to recognize and address problems and challenges unique to each implementation. As a result, these implementations often fail. Using the project-based training methods, these problems and challenges become the basis for training in Lean project training programs. Employees move from theory to practical application of concepts learned in a controlled, real-world environment. When the next implementation of Lean approaches, employees have already learned from their mistakes and victories and made appropriate changes to succeed. The results for the company through project-based learning is a skilled workforce, that’s actively participating in the success of the company, motivated to learn, and is actively improving how the company operates.
If your corporate talent pool is currently falling short, call Conscientia Corporation for on-demand hiring needs at (480) 626-0063.