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Workplace Engagement InsightsLatest Employee Engagement NewsWorkplace EngagementManagement Skills Are Not Necessarily Leadership Skills

Management Skills Are Not Necessarily Leadership Skills

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Many years ago, I was on an incentive trip with a very large group (240 people) to Portugal. On the return flight home the following incident took place…

About 15 minutes out of Lisbon, the co-pilot of the Air Portugal flight came to the mid-point of the plane, just behind the wings. The passengers heard a whirring sound, followed by a clunking noise. The co-pilot returned to the front of the plane and about five minutes later returned to the passenger cabin to repeat the exercise done earlier. Shortly after he returned to the pilot’s cabin, the plane banked rapidly and something that looked like smoke billowed out of both sets of wings. Upon seeing the “smoke”, the passengers panicked, some screamed, some threw up, and almost all buried their heads in their laps. Clearly many thought they were in peril.

Shortly after, the pilot came on the intercom and announced that the landing gear was stuck in the down position. FAA rules would not allow the flight to continue with the wheels down. They would not be able to land with a full tank of fuel, so they dumped it out over the Atlantic and were now returning to Lisbon to switch planes.

What just happened here? Were the pilot and co-pilot “managing” the problem correctly? From the perspective of assessing the problem and determining the correct course of action given the FAA rules, they were bang-on in their “management” of the problem.

However, simply being able to diagnose an issue and determine the correct solution lacks the critical skill of effective leadership! Doing nothing more than being correct in your assessment leaves many people uninformed and therefore not able to engage in the solution. In this case, the pilots had a major leadership oversight – they didn’t keep the passengers informed (even though we could see something was wrong!) so that we could respond to the issue calmly instead of panicking.

How Do Your Leaders Measure Up?

Measurable Benefits of Engaging EmployeesDo you have people in management jobs who similarly do not understand the critical roles effective communication and dialogue play in both gaining buy-in and implementing the strategic needs of the business? What do you need to do to raise the awareness of this need amongst your managers? How can you build leadership capability and not just good “management” of issues?

In the work I do, I am no longer surprised to find one or two members of management who push back strongly when confronted with the results of the employee engagement survey and on the feedback from employees that they truly want to be engaged in discussions with managers prior to change taking place.

Not having any ability to influence change, let alone be informed ahead of time (none of us on that flight thought we could provide advice on how to handle the landing gear issue but we sure would have felt better if the issue had been explained prior to the fuel being ejected and the apparent “smoke” billowing out of the wings) creates feelings of frustration, not being respected, and a lack of trust by their boss.

A simple understanding that the default position of all leaders should be to (at least) keep people informed will go a long way to engaging employees. And who knows? Just maybe, one or more of those front line employees might give you an important insight based on their daily contact with customers or the equipment that manufactures the product.

To avoid push back on change, as well as dodge some very obvious mistakes in implementation, leaders must respect that the employees in the organization should at least be informed – and some should have the right to influence, be consulted, or even give approvals.

This also goes a long way to changing the company culture into one that encourages and respects the input of employees.


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Written by Dwight Lacey

Dwight Lacey

Dwight is the President at Workplace Engagement Insights. He leads Workplace Engagement Insights with a clear understanding of the latest employee engagement research, survey best practices, and leadership styles that create successful businesses.

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