March 27, 2011 | Barb Carr

Become A Better Leader & Manager

“Managers manage things; leaders lead people.” ~ George Burk

Do you have the desire to become a better leader?  An effective first step it is to support your employee’s ongoing learning and growth, says executive coach Sharon Jordan-Evans. This is arguably the most critical key to employee retention.

“People today are saying ‘teach me, grow me, and if you won’t teach me and grow me, I’ll go someplace else,’” Jordan-Evans said.  “Find out what workers want to learn and how they want to grow.” Individual Development plans (IDP’s) are an effective tool to help leaders and their supervisors assist the employee plan their educational training and career path.

White. A blank page or canvas. So many possibilities.” ~ Stephen Sondheim, lyricist, composer

Give them opportunities to not only move up, but also to move laterally into other positions that interest them. Here are some other ways to become a better leader:

Solicit honest feedback. The best rule you can set for your employees? “Never let me make a mistake.”  This means encourage total candor from your team, says Jeffrey Fox, author of “How to Become a Great Boss.” To be effective, honest feedback must also be timely, relevant and relate directly to the employee’s duties.

“Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes.” ~ Confucius, Chinese philosopher

Expect loyalty. Many people would like to be loyal to organizations but can’t find a reason to be loyal.  Give them the reasons.  People will be loyal to a great boss, great team, but they have to get what they need. Once you’ve asked what employees want to learn, ask what they want from their jobs in general and what it will take to keep them.  Also ask what would entice them to leave. Loyalty is a two-way street. Expecting loyalty is only one part of the equation. It’s like respect end integrity, if you expect it, you must be willing to give it in return. If loyalty is what you want, then show loyalty to your people.

Reward employees creatively. Give surprise bonuses to high achievers—or those who’ve worked hard to bring projects in on time. Bonuses can range from cash awards to gift certificates and beyond. The types of awards are only limited by the leaders’ ingenuity and innovation.

Seek to build and retain a great environment. Give employees the freedom to have fun, and provide an environment where information is shared freely and regularly.  “Younger people, who are information junkies, demand it,” notes Jordan-Evans author of “Love it, Don’t leave it.”

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. ~ Pablo Picasso, artist

Realize you get what you inspect (and expect). Setting expectations is important, but so is following through to make sure the work’s getting done.

“Your inspections cannot be intrusive or interruptive.  It’s not an interrogation.  Simply ask, ‘How are you doing on such and such?’Fox said. This helps employees understand your priorities and gives you a “heads-up on developing challenges.”  Make the time to ask a question; take the time to really listen to the reply.

Remember 7s hire 5s. Incompetence creeps into an organization when they hire average managers. Fox defines average supervisors as those scoring a 7 on a 10-point ability scale. Are you one?  A good way to find out: look at the people you hire.  The problem is 7s tend to hire 5s, not 9s or 10s. They don’t hire people better than themselves because they’re afraid of being shown-up. Top leaders and managers usually hire 10s because they expect competence. They’re not threatened by it. It’s a win-win philosophy.

“Ain’t no man can avoid being born average, but there ain’t no man got to be common.” ~ Satchel Paige, baseball player

Invest your time with the best. Fox’s formula:  Spend 60% of your training time with the superstars, 30% with high-potential workers, and 10% with low performers. When dealing with superstars, leaders (and managers) often think they want to be left alone. The superstar (might) be independent, but they also want a great boss involved in the action as an advisor, mentor, and coach.

“The real leader has no need to lead—he is content to point the way.” ~ Henry Miller, author

I’ve said it many times in my articles and at speaking engagements. If you’re unable or choose to take the path of least resistance in your personal endeavors, you can’t lead others. Personal and professional leadership must be seamless and transparent. I’ve see this play out over the years with many people and in many different organizations.  Why? The truly great leaders know who they are; where they’re going; how to get there and who will be on their team. They have a vision for the future and are passionate about it; they share it whenever they can and with whoever will listen. They’re not complacent. They may be computer and technological literate, but make a conscious effort to get out of their office, walk around and spend quality time with the staff and less time hidden in their office on the computer, I-Pad, I-phone or other similar devices and/or use their desk as a physical and emotional barrier. They’re fair, consistent and have a great sense of humor. They like people and work in that order.

Great leaders and managers are internally focused, driven by a set of core beliefs they know work. They aren’t externally focused, basing their decisions on what’s popular, in vogue or by polling. They’re open and vulnerable; they take what they do seriously, but don’t take themselves too seriously. They have learned to laugh at their foibles and surround themselves with people who compliment their skills and gasp, know more than they know. What a novel idea! They seek and solicit constructive feedback. For example, if the organization’s leader has 10 people on his or her senior staff and four or five of them agree almost 100% of the time, I submit there are four or five staff members who shouldn’t be there.

Finally, great leaders and managers possess what I know and believe is the most important and indispensable human core value—integrity. It’s the bedrock of their character. It matters not how much you make, your job title, the type of car you drive and other materialistic things. If you can’t be trusted, if you have no integrity, you are ‘naked.’ They follow through and deliver on their commitments.

A man is known by the words he uses and the company he keeps. Choose them both wisely.” ~ Orville Merillat, founder Merillat Industries


This article was printed with permission from Captain George Burk, USAF (Ret).  Learn more about Captain Burk on his website:

Software, Software - Technically Speaking
Show Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *