Saturday, November 21, 2015

Demonstrating Leadership

Many times this week I've been asked what my opinion of leaders versus managers was.

Managers manage tasks and tell people to execute them. 

Leaders lead teams to execute on visions. 

See the difference? Some people don't and wanting to be a great leader one day, I constantly seek out people to chat with on the matter. 

I took advantage of my trip to Minneapolis and met with a program director for Micra. I sat down and said I want to understand your world. He took a deep breath and then smiled. I am notorious for loaded questions. 

When he leaned in and was ready for the talk, he started with a contradicting statement I'll never forget. 

"You need to learn not to worry if you ever want to sleep... But you have to worry (when it means patient safety)." He followed by sharing one of his most memorable moments in his career and how he didn't sleep the night before.

As a leader, you need to sleep so you can be supportive and make decisions quickly when necessary. But it is okay to worry, when it means patients could be impacted. 

Trust your team 

Worry about the things you're getting paid to worry about. As a program director, you are overseeing big buckets of systems trying to meet a common goal. Of course it's important to understand all of the systems so you know how to help. But you can't worry about the system pieces. 

Managers tend to get involved and want to create the solution. Leaders remind the team of the goal and help assess the impact when necessary. But leaders also know that people are already thinking of the impact. 

"You need to know when to talk about the impact. The team is already stressed trying to figure out the issue, the last thing they need is the program director in their face talking about the issue." 

This comment was an eye opener. When I reflected on past experiences, too often was on top of the team trying to get the issue fixed. Micro-managing? Probably. 

If you trust your team, you trust them enough to know the issue and to resolve it. You don't need to oversee everything they're doing but know when to support when the time between now and the impact is short.

Balance your life

Most of our conversation was work-based, especially since I never had a one on one setting with him to know how comfortable he was to talk about anything else. 

But on numerous occasions throughout our talk, there were subtle references to family and time with them. So I asked, with all due respect, how he did it. 

Communication was key. Both for his significant other and his kids. And he set his boundaries and reminded me to be conscience of my own.

"You need to establish that line since no one will for you." 

An example of putting his family first was not attending work events when he was town, unless of course it was a major milestone dinner where the Vice President expected him to attend. 

Something as simple as leaving the office at 5PM to be home in time for dinner goes a long way. 

Throughout the conversation, there were subtle and more direct examples of leadership. It is important to be a consistent leader as a program director but even more important as a spouse and parent. 

The next time you want to assess how much of a leader you are, it may be as simple as asking the following questions- 

Can my family rely on me? 

Have my team recovered from an issue without me intruding? 

Did I worry about the big stuff recently? 

If you answered YES to all those questions, you're probably closer to a leader now than you ever have been. 

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