Manager and Leader at the same time?

As I do my readings to sustain my PMP cert, I came across several articles that seem to be saying that management is a science whereas leadership is an art.  And since the theme of my readings were mainly about Project Management, some articles are saying that a Project Manager has to be both a manager and a leader.

A manager uses systems and structures to get the team going in the desired direction.  He is respected because he was appointed the authority to lead the team.  He plans and manages resources, budgets, schedules, performances.

A leader, on the other hand, has followers regardless of his appointment.  A leader is visionary, motivates and inspires.  He has ideas that fulfil others’ needs.  He spots opportunities in the market and wants to be the first to grab them.  However, he usually doesn’t realise what it takes to get there.  People follow him because they share the vision, are inspired and motivated to help him fulfil that vision.  Managers are the ones who help get the people arrive at the leader’s vision.

It’s easy to see how the leader could be the company’s CEO or Director, and amongst his followers, there are good managers.

But to be a leader and manager rolled into one (i.e. a Project Manager)?  That’s pretty tough.

As a project manager, I look at details such as resource availability, capabilities, gaps in these, delays, scope creep, stakeholder management, etc…. in other words, problems, problems, problems.  I have to think of ways to mitigate, overcome or avoid problems.  Sounds sufficiently occupied to not have time to be a leader.

Even as I attempt to be a leader and not worry about how to get there, well… i just can’t.  I have to look at the details and the details tend to dash my hopes about the possibility of reaching fresh horizons.  Or I can dream and vision all I want but I need someone who can work out the details to get the team there.

Project Manager = Manager x Leader?  Tough tough.  But …

Sounds like fun and a challenge worth taking on.

We’ll see if I arrive there.  Check back in in 5 years. :)

Seek to be Respected, not to be Liked

Are you new to being a leader or manager and feeling all hurt and lonely from the experience?  Or maybe you have been at it for years but still beat yourself up for unhappy staff.

Fret not.  You are not alone.

And… you really don’t have to beat yourself up… at least not so much… but just enough to keep getting better at it.

As a leader, you will naturally be scrutinised by all (even the best staff and the friendliest of mgt people) because you are in a position of influence and authority.  If you do not have the strength to face all that scrutiny, you might want to consider going back to being an individual contributor.

What to seek when you become a leader

Seek to serve your people

Contrary to the popular pyramid model of the leader sitting on top with everyone else at the bottom taking orders from the top, try toppling that upside down.

Serve and support your people so that they can do their best to fulfil the company’s vision and mission (or cause).  Provide tips, guidance where required.  Give them space to care for their families, when needed.  Give a listening ear to those who have personal problems.  And when it is beyond your means to, connect them with suitable people or resources.  Care about their lives as much as you do their work.

Seek to be genuine

Nothing beats being genuine.  You can do all the above but if you do it without a heart, people can sense it and it would backfire.  If you can’t be genuine, forget about doing all the caring and sharing stuff and stick to the usual pyramid with you on top – that will bring you further than being fake.

Seek to foster friendship

I’m not referring to you being friends with your staff.  While it is possible, it is probably a difficult and long journey.  What I’m referring to here is to foster friendship among your staff.  While you cannot control and force them to be friends, you can, however, create a non threatening environment for that to happen.

Be objective and fair to all your staff.  Do not show favouritism or do not appear to favouritise (it is natural to gravitate towards staff you have “chemistry” with but you should avoid that to avoid misperceptions).  Bias-ness or perceived bias-ness can cause staff to distrust one another and hence, prevents friendships from blossoming.

Why am I promoting the fostering of friendship?  Because when the work gets rough and tough, it is friendship that carries them further since true friends help one another.

Seek to have your personal life in order

Respect and love your spouse.  Discipline your children and love them to bits.  Spend time with your parents, if they are still around.

If you are single, make effort to understand the challenges of those who are married with kids and those whose families differ from yours.  And make sure you spend your spare time wisely and meaningfully.  Spending all your time on only work is not going to help staff see you as someone who is capable of understanding lives and people.

Seek to trust and respect others

Everyone’s life is different… different upbringing, different socio-economic status, different intellect, different aspirations, different priorities, different views, different challenges and more.  You should respect those differences and understand why staff handle their life or work in a certain way.  Harness their strengths and weaknesses… yes.. harness even their weaknesses to see how it could benefit themselves and the company.  For example, a chatty staff may not be suitable for a desk bound job, seated with colleagues who need to concentrate individually on their work.  If a change in job is not possible or location is not possible, maybe an added duty (e.g. orientating newcomers or visitors) might help put all that energy to good use.

Or maybe a complainer should do ombudsman duties (but must be taught to maintain confidentiality).

Do not judge or label them.  It stereotypes and confines them and potentials could be lost as such.

Trust that anyone can be a useful person, if guided and placed well.

Seek to be respected

And as you seek all of the above, you seek to be respected.  You might not be well liked by all… because you do not blindly promote the one who is buttering you for power… because you make decisions for the good of everyone’s long term future and not just an individual’s… because you make decisions based on the information you have at an instant and are not a know-all God… and because you are simply not perfect and are bound to falter from time to time.

But… you will be respected for genuinely trying.

Young Unassuring Adoption Assessor

We finally met with our Home Study Report Assessor (a VWO social worker assigned to assess our suitability to adopt).  It was a long wait.  We submitted our application to adopt in Aug/Sep 2014 and our 1st interview with her was in March 2015.

If I recall correctly, our first adoption took almost 2 years for everything to be completed (most of the waiting was due to ICA).  It’s going to be another long journey.

Our first VWO assessor was an experienced social worker with 2 young kids of her own.  Her assessment was thorough but very assuring.  She was also willing to meet us in the evenings or weekends.  The other social worker from the government who assessed us at a later stage had children of our age.  She had staunch views about parenting but was also very accepting of varied kinds of upbringing and assured us of the range of adoptive parents she has approved of.  From young to old; from poor to rich; from childless to those with many kids.

Our 2nd assessor this time round is a very young lady who does not appear to have her own kids; she also appears relatively new on the job.  Our conversations with her was peppered with a wee bit too much of her personal opinions about parenting; and a little too much sharing about her other adoption clients (this process was supposed to be confidential).  What irked me was how theoretical / research-based her sharings were.

Firstly, as a social worker, counsellor, assessor or the likes, their job is to listen, observe and help the client process and produce their own solution.  She was talking and advising too much.

What irked me the most was her opinion that I needed 3 months to bond with my 2nd child… cos research says so.  I shared with her about my 1-month transition plan for my 2nd child, she readily kept urging me to consider taking longer leave because adopted children experienced separate before and needed more time and assurance to bond with another.

I said whether adopted or not, all children go through emotional needs and pains.  They will eventually adjust and adapt.  Moreover, I needed both my kids to jump into the long-term routine sooner than later so that it will be easier to cope for everyone and that both kids don’t really have to transit twice.  Why use 3 months to get them settled in 1 routine and after that work it out all over again to settle them into the long-term routine?  Then comes the research quote again about taking 3 months to bond which did not counter what I just said but she still repeated it anyway.

Then I highlighted that the government was only giving me 1 month of adoption leave.  But she almost insisted that I had to take 3 months’ leave.

Then, apparently warning us, she said that she needs to see us have a plan for the transition of both kids in order for her to write a favourable report.  In actual fact, I already had a plan but she didn’t agree with it and so saw it as no plan.

Boy was it irritating.  But I breathed and remained calm and nice.

On the 2nd interview, she said that we needed a child-gate at the stairs and grilles on the windows.  I replied that we might not get to install them because it was my parents’ house.  Besides, 2 kids (mine and my brother’s) grew up in that house without any stairwell gate (actually, more than 13 kids – us and my cousins – did).

She replied that it was her recommendation and it will be written in her report.

While I totally can see that she was just informing and didn’t mean anything to sound threatening, it did.  Together with her advise of the 3-month transition period, I wondered whether social work suited her.  And yes, it was a little worrying that she was assessing us in a very textbook style.

Other adoptive parents in our support group shared that their 2nd time round was fast and easy.  But I felt that it was similarly long and now a lot less assuring.

I know rookies have to start somewhere, but when the lives of other people are at stake, having a rookie involved is no fun.  I hope she is just doing adoption and not handling suicidal cases.

Right now, can only hope and pray that our 2nd adoption will be smooth and quick.

Looking forward to loving Baby Z.