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6 Ways to Tell Whether You Are Managing or Leading

September 7th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

One of my roles as an executive coach is to help people become very clear about what it means to be a leader. In our fast and frenzied corporate environments, many people in leadership roles – even those who have held them for a long time - have never had the opportunity to pause and assess who they are, how they lead, and the difference between managing and leading.

Warren Bennis famously said, “Managers are people who do things right. Leaders are people who do the right thing.” Think for a moment about what you do and how you behave in your leadership role. Are you managing or leading? Here are 6 ways to tell.

Role definition. Managers base their power on authority. Leaders base their power on personal influence.

Goal setting. Managers focus on goals that relate to continuity and optimization of resources. They prefer stability, and like to check the boxes to show that things are getting done. They work toward an outcome of employee compliance. Leaders, on the other hand, seek out situations of change and uncertainty. Their goals focus on improvement and innovation. Their desired outcome is employee commitment.

Planning and execution. Managers place the emphasis on tactics, logistics and maintaining focus on the ultimate goal. They direct their people to achieve that goal by clarifying objectives, coordinating and establishing a reward system. Leaders are most concerned with seeing the big picture and then creating a well-thought out strategy to achieve the end goal. They lead their people to achieve that goal by coaching and inspiring them, and by role modeling.

People care. Managers tend to make their staffing decisions based primarily on qualifications. Leaders balance qualifications with other qualities, including cultural fit, development potential and the opportunity to create a shared vision. A Manager’s approach to performance evaluation is a framework of rewards and discipline. A Leader’s approach is to provide coaching, support and the opportunity for development. Managers are concerned with having enough staff to meet current organizational needs. Leaders consider and plan for organizational needs today and into the future.

Attitude toward change. Managers implement change by translating the vision. Leaders see change as a reason for existence.

Definition of success. Managers define success as a maintenance of quality, efficiency, stability and consistency. Leaders define success as employee commitment, mutuality and trust, and personal and organizational effectiveness.

So, are you managing or leading?

Till next time,

Leadership, Management, Professional development

Recognizing the Value Millennials Bring to the Workplace

November 12th, 2013

By: Karen Colligan

MillennialsIn the past couple of blogs we’ve looked at Baby Boomers and Generation Xers in the workplace and how to manage and work with them effectively. We round out this series with a look at Millennials, the youngest of our multi-generational workforce. This generation has grown up with the Internet and a proliferation of instant information and social connections. They are confident, social, and care about making an impact in the community.

Previous generations might argue that they are too confident, that they expect to achieve a higher level without “paying their dues.” But a recent New York Times article suggests that because of Millennials' confidence, quick learning ability and “nonstop exchange of information and opinions,” they are primed to drive a new wave of innovation.

If you are looking to attract, retain or collaborate effectively with Millennials, here are some tips:

Care about their personal and career goals. Millennials are motivated by managers who help connect their work to their personal and career goals. Understand what those goals are and give them assignments and opportunities that are directly related to them.
Coach and support them
. Millennials value achievement. Identify both their strengths and development areas and provide one-on-one coaching and stretch opportunities to enhance their performance. Match Millennial new hires with a Baby Boomer or Gen X mentor or “buddy” to help them learn to navigate the system and develop business relationships. Provide structure – goals, deadlines, well-defined assignments and success factors.
Leverage their technical savvy
. Millennials don’t like Managers who are threatened by their knowledge of and comfort with technology. Capitalize on their ability to quickly gather information and input via their social networking capabilities. Have them mentor less technically savvy employees to promote cross-generational collaboration and understanding.
Give them opportunities to volunteer in the community. Millennials are interested in contributing to their communities both in giving and in volunteering. According to the 2013 Millennial Impact Report, 83% of respondents made a gift to an organization in 2012. The report also showed that the top three reasons Millennials get involved are: 1) passion about the cause; 2) opportunity to meet people; 3) ability to apply their expertise.
Build their credibility. Don’t treat Millennials as if they are too young to be valuable. Use their capability to access and share information quickly. Give them opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills to a visible project or assignment. Give them frequent and productive feedback.

The NYT article quotes Mike Marasco, leader of a cross-generational mentoring program at Northwestern University: “Millennials work more closely together, leverage right- and left-brain skills, ask the right questions, learn faster and take risks previous generations resisted. They truly want to change the world and will use technology to do so.”

Till next time,


Communication, Leadership, Management, Multi-generational workforce, People, Teams

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As more and more peBabyBoomersople of “retirement age” keep working, either for financial reasons or simply wanting to keep actively engaged, the makeup of the typical organization now spans three generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y/Millennials. This can present a number of challenges for team members and leaders alike as they try to figure out how to effectively interact in light of differing preferences in communication, recognition, motivation and other areas that impact the generations at work.
Let’s start with a short refresher on these three generations, and then we’ll look more specifically at the “care and feeding” of each generation. Baby Boomers, those of “flower power” and “anti-authority” fame, were born between 1946 and 1964, and, according to AARP, make up about 38% of the workforce. Generation X, who grew up during the proliferation of personal technology, were born between 1965 and 1979. They make up about 32% of the workforce. Right behind them are the Generation Y/Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000. Millennials make up about 25% of the workforce. And no doubt you’re wondering whether the next generation is “Z”, which it is, but since they’re not working yet we’ll leave them alone for now.
Many Generation Xers, or even older Millennials may find themselves in a position of managing someone from a previous generation. If you are in that position, and the person you’re managing is a Baby Boomer, here are some tips to manage and engage with them effectively.
Pick up the phone. While you may prefer a text or instant message, Baby Boomers grew up in a workplace where people actually walked to someone’s desk or office or at least picked up the phone to have a conversation. Eye contact, tone of voice and “personal” interaction are key to them for effective communication.
Involve them. Listen to their input and leverage the knowledge they’ve developed in their years of experience. Teamwork is a core value for them. Foster teamwork and collaboration.
Recognize them. Show personal appreciation for their contributions. And don’t assume that because they are approaching “retirement age” that they aren’t interested in promotions or further development. Remember, this generation put a man on the moon!
Provide flexibility. Many in this generation are in the “sandwich” position of still raising children while caring for aging parents. Consider offering flexible work schedules, telecommuting and personal time off to handle family responsibilities.
Respect them. Baby Boomers paved the way for many of the workplace rights we now take for granted, such as equal opportunity and gender equity. Show them that they can continue to make a difference.
Next time we’ll talk about the “care and feeding” of Generation X.
Till then,

Communication, Management, Multi-generational workforce, People

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Leading in the Age of Peanut Butter

July 16th, 2013

By: Karen Colligan

Leading or ManagingTalk to just about anyone in Corporate America today and they’ll tell you that their team is spread pretty thin, many people still doing the work of two following downsizing, and most struggling to meet the ever-increasing demand of “do more in less time.” People are stressed and stretched.

It is the Age of Peanut Butter. And like with peanut butter, the more pressure you put on individuals to spread their time and efforts across a bigger slice of the workload, the thinner and thinner the coverage (and their patience, and their engagement, and their loyalty) will be.

Leading in this environment is challenging because we get caught up in “checking the boxes” and focusing on the management side of our role versus applying those key leadership skills that help keep employees engaged – coaching, inspiring, developing. There’s just no time. We’re just too busy. There are too many boxes still to check. And yet, at what cost do we keep spreading ourselves and others thinner and thinner?

Stop for a minute and think about this. Are you spending most of your time telling your team what needs to be done rather than asking them how things could be done better? Is your door closed more often than open these days? Have you stopped scheduling one-on-one meetings because you kept having to cancel them? If you want to keep your employees on board and engaged it’s time to get back into leadership mode.

Here’s an exercise for you. Put a picture in your head of the best leader you ever had. What were the characteristics of that leader that made them so great? Now visualize the worst leader you ever had. What were the characteristics that made you dislike them?

Now think about how you are leading today. Which of your two past leaders are you most like?

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” - John Quincy Adams

Till next time,



Engagement, Leadership, Management, People, Teams

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If you’re one of thquit-jobose employers who has been regaling your employees with the refrain: “Just Feel Lucky You Have a Job,” it’s time to change your tune. Employees are stressed and stretched and looking to leave. In fact, surveys put the numbers at about one in three employees who are searching for a new opportunity. And with the market improving, they will find that opportunity much quicker. Can you afford to lose that talent?
And here’s something else to think about. More employees are leaving their jobs without another one lined up, or for a totally different line of work because they are just DONE. The constant pressure to produce more, and produce it faster leaves employees with no reflection time, no think time, no time to savor the moment in creating something of value. Ready. Fire. Aim. Done is more profitable than perfect.
To be engaged and loyal, employees need to feel valued, connected, challenged and recognized. Instead, they are feeling overextended, under-appreciated and exhausted from trying to meet ever-increasing productivity expectations. Speeeed it up!
If you want your employees to be loyal to you, demonstrate that you are loyal to them. Show that you care. Make them feel…
Valued by listening to them, and acknowledging the need for work/life balance.
Connected by ongoing communication about the direction of the organization and their role in it. Show them that they are part of a community.
Challenged through growth opportunities and a clearly defined career path (NOT by more work, more hours…).
Recognized by frequent, sincere appreciation –both monetary and non-monetary – for their efforts.
Don’t let valuable mindshare and talent walk out your door. Start working to keep them today.

Till next time,


Communication, Leadership, Management, People

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leadership Masks

As leaders, we often get so caught up in our day-to-day responsibilities that we forget to think about how we come across to the people around us, and how their actions, communications and concerns may be driven by their perception of the persona we put forward. When was the last time you took a long gaze in the leadership looking glass? Are you showing up at work as your authentic self or is there a mask that gets in the way? In honor of Halloween, let’s look at some typical masks a leader might wear. Do you recognize yourself in any of them?


The Super Hero

You have confidence, boundless energy and can seemingly handle any problem that comes your way (“Bring it on, tall buildings!”) You are protective of your team. In your need for speed you often charge ahead with activities that could be delegated.

While your team may admire your ability to “handle it all,” they’d like the chance to solve issues and take on more responsibilities and, perhaps, risks themselves. They may be hesitant to give you honest feedback or make alternative suggestions as you appear to have it all under control.

The Alien

You’re distracted right now – could be the job, could be personal issues – and your mind seems to be on another planet. You’re communicating less frequently with your team, and you appear out of touch with their projects and issues.

Your team is wondering where you parked the UFO. They miss their leader, and are frustrated with the gap left by no clear direction.

Your lack of communication has made them stop trying. Some are considering
abandoning ship.

The King

You may ask for ideas and input, but in the end you like things “your way.”

You have tendency to redo your team’s work rather than discuss or give them constructive
feedback because it’s faster and, well, you know how it should be done. You sing “I Did It My Way” in the shower.

Your team is beginning to lose confidence in their skills and ability to make an impact. They’re hesitant to make suggestions because they know they’ll be rejected or ignored. Some are beginning to wonder why they show up at all.

Angry Bird

You’re not happy at work right now and it shows in your attitude. You snap at team members and colleagues, you have no patience for work that is less than what you expected or later than when it was due, no matter the reason. You delegate as much as possible. You’re frequently unavailable.

Your team is feeling overworked and underappreciated. You appear unapproachable so they’re afraid to communicate their thoughts and feelings to you. The less you communicate with your team, the less they communicate with each other. The silos have been built, and collaboration is not a priority.

At Halloween you can put on a mask and be whoever you want to be. But Halloween is one day. The rest of the year you need to remove the mask and be a strong, dependable, and visionary leader. Only then will you be able to move yourself, your team and your organization forward.

Till next time,


P.S. We have launched our new website!

Communication, Leadership, Management, People, Professional and team leadership, Teams

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