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Company Culture Leadership

Rethink The Leader – Manager – Coach – Mentor – Operator Dynamic

Rethink The Leader - Manager - Coach - Mentor - Operator Dynamic

Each week in Focus’ newsletter Leaders Letters, we discuss leadership, what a leader is and is not and how to channel that inner leader on important topics.

2020 – 2021

Throughout 2020 there has been a number of recurring themes, one of which is your role within the company vs the job title you have.

Role Vs Job Title

There are a few core tiers of role vs job title that often stands out and is important to raise and for you to discuss.

Often we see a hierarchy, we see it by the org chart, the title you have or the role you play within the business. This org chart rarely suggests or shows the different roles you play and how you operate. Hidden Leaders often play multiple roles within your org, they might not a manager but can be a coach and a mentor alongside being a high level operator.

Many hidden leaders are not ‘a people manager’ and this is actually a bonus to their career and the people around. I dislike the term individual contributors as this is so limited to what some people offer and the impact they have on those around them and the service they bring company.

In leaders letter, fewer managers more coaches and mentors we recommended a way to rethink your company set up and question do you actually need more managers and more hierarchy, or does reshaping your business with more mentors and coaches actually make more sense.

The Impact on Company Culture

Hierarchies will often dictate decision-making processes, the flow of information or in some orgs who is the ‘ultimate decision-maker”, this impact staff happiness and what is your company culture.

Leaders Are More Than A Title

Leader – Manager – Coach – Mentor – Operator for many are defined tags or labels you have and associate into your title. For others, these are hard labels you have and enter into a tiering system.

For me, these are interchangeable and should be used by companies to help colleagues understand different layers of leadership and development.

I challenge many managers to list down which of these roles are the people within their team and those who could offer reverse mentorship to them or identify a reverse mentor within their business who would help both parties and the company to progress.

The Roles Explained

  • Leader – A leader doesn’t have to have a C or V title. You do not have to be the most senior to be a leader, you can set the example and drive behaviour forward whether you are inexperienced or the most experienced or most senior.
    Leaders come in many forms and it is essential you understand the true difference between a manager and a leader.
    A leader can be a good coach and a mentor providing they have the time to dedicate and the energy to provide true value to their colleagues. Some of the smartest leaders have reverse mentorship and provides tremendous benefit to the org.
  • Manager – Typically a title, you can be a manager on a project and be less senior but have an important role to play on a project and manage those around you. Project Managers often drive businesses forward and made important decisions over more senior titles.
    Managers can be extremely busy and many are not taught to develop their team members or their department, this is where coaches and mentors will be valuable members of the company’s development and evolution.
  • Coach – Coaching is one of the most difficult and most challenging but is the most rewarding activity of work when you see your colleagues grow.
    A coach although typically older is someone who helps individuals grow, improve colleagues skills and helps to nurture the business forward. Some of the best coaches in business are inside of your org, they are likely in other areas of the business but can help improve your skills and might actually be lower in rank and title but will coach you.
    Remember the best sports coaches did not have huge professional careers, they have the best approach and methods for improving others.
  • Mentor – Mentors are often unspoken of, at any point you will see many people mentoring others, this is most regularly informal and is helping colleagues to guide others without having hard written goals or targets.
    I am personally extremely passionate about mentorship, many managers are just too busy to help you, often you can arrange fortnightly or monthly mentoring sessions with more senior members of staff and gain huge amounts by discussing your work, your aspirations and growing your role and influence. Many organisations will help you arrange a mentorship programme if you have not organised a mentor programme consider how you will match colleagues together.
    Try not to make the mistake many businesses do by only organising this for the raising stars or standout performers.
    A mentor will provide your business with a large amount of benefit, they will be guiding force and help those around them as much or more than most managers.
  • Operator – A specialist operator is hard to come by, they are often stand out performers and often led towards a management role. This does not actually benefit the operator or the business, this is often down to conditioned ways of thinking. An operator can be a better coach or better mentor vs having to take on formal management roles.
    As mentioned above an operator can be far more than just an individual contributor and offers far more than a flat title as this.
    A high-level operator (many from a developer background consider this the only way to progress) will feel pressure to ask for a manager or a senior manager, consider how you help to shape their careers and help the team or colleagues around them gain the most from the operator.

Move Away From Flat Titles

Moving forward I challenge you and your business to move away from flat and ignorant titles and build out layers in which truly reflect the impact and influence colleagues have within the organisation.

Pay special attention to developing out who would make great coaches, mentors and leaders and building managers who can manage their time, benefit from reverse mentorship and built out succession planning and the next evolution of leadership within your organisation.

If you would like to understand and develop this out further, I recommended reading a related and worthwhile article is what is leadership.

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