Leadership vs Working Management or In-the-Weeds Management

Leadership vs. Working Management

I believe strongly that if you want to accomplish more as a leader, you need to operate in the zone of leadership vs. working management, sometimes called in-the-weeds management. If you find that day-to-day project tasks and operational issues occupy a lot of your valuable time, energy, attention, and focus, you’re probably stuck in the weeds. Maybe you’re struggling with that right now. If so, you’re not alone. I see a trend of leaders who tend to get stuck in the weeds. They do rather than delegate.

Let me tell you a story to illustrate leadership vs. working management. Coach McQuiston is a friend’s neighbor and a high school basketball coach. On any given winter evening, he can be found on the sidelines of the high school gym, shouting to the players of his varsity team. He’s worked with those players all season during grueling practice sessions, and he knows the strengths and weaknesses of each player. Maybe more importantly, he has learned what motivates each one of them. He stands along the edge of the basketball court and watches closely to observe the big picture, and he then guides each of his players on how to reach their highest level of performance during the game. What you won’t see during those high school basketball games is Coach McQuiston sprinting down the court himself, taking the free throw, or working to be able to make a shot. He’s a coach not a player. Even though Coach McQuiston isn’t on the court himself, he can accomplish a lot more with his team than he could by himself.

So, let me ask you: do you most often find yourself being a coach or a player on the team? If you feel like a good bit of your time is in the player mode, it may be time to make a few changes. You’d be better served and accomplish more being in the zone of leadership vs. working management or in-the-weeds management.

Getting out of the weeds in management

A good place to start is to clarify what were you hired to accomplish or why you started your company in the first place. Really dig into this exercise. For most leaders, that answer involves some form of motivating a group of people and inspiring them to accomplish a set of tasks with certain level of proficiency that will lead to a desired outcome or goal. If I had to guess, your answer probably looks a lot more like a coach than a player, right?

Here’s the upside of focusing on being a coach to your team and operating in the zone of leadership vs. in-the-weeds management, you’ll always accomplish more. Your task is to challenge, guide, and motive each member of your team to do their best work. Together, you’ll win the game.

Here’s a quick tip: write down the answer you got when you did the clarifying exercise above, and post it where you’ll see it everyday. If you find yourself stuck in the details of daily projects, it will be your touchstone to move you back into the zone of leadership vs. in-the-weed management.

Let’s chat to see where you are on that spectrum of coach to player. I can give you some ideas to move you to the next level that you may not have thought of. Until next time, have a terrific week!


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