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Today’s guest post is from Eric, or @flyingspatula as I’ve come to know him. That’s one intriguing aspect of social media: people can disclose as much or little about themselves as they’re willing to reveal. Eric is manager of a reporting team in Toronto, and under the @flyingspatula Twitter name, he tweets an amazing stream of great quotes and insights into strategy and management topics.His Twitter bio also says he’s a “funk-tacular” person. I agree, and look for more guests posts in the future. Here, he shares his perspectives on the importance and approach of managing by example:

You may have green-fielded your team and picked the diamonds in the rough. Or maybe you’ve inherited a group of people (inmates). Regardless of your team’s opinion, you are their leader. As such, you are the designate of the company. For all intents and purposes, you write their reviews, give them their assignments, and you sign their check.

So where does this leave you as a leader? You need to wrangle the broncos and lead this herd – regardless of their background or experiences. You are the leader because you have the skill set and attitude to manage these troops better than any of them do.

Now to deflate you a bit. Your team will mutiny if you waltz in and start bossing them around. You’ve got to be able to manage by example. Here are my top 5 tips to do it successfully:

1. Ask for Help
You don’t have all the answers – don’t pretend you do. Your people may have been doing the job longer than you have. It’s okay to ask them for guidance on the day to day tasks. This doesn’t show weakness – it shows that you’re human. It’ll also demonstrate that you acknowledge and respect your people.
2. Provide Direction but Let People Make Mistakes
You have experience on your side. Play that card. If you’ve inherited a team, you may not know the company as well as them, but you’ve seen certain scenarios play out over and over again. Guide and advise. Unless someone is going to cross the line, let them make mistakes. They’ll see value in asking your advice in the future.
3. Give Up the Spotlight
Your team does wonderful work – partly because you’re an awesome leader, but mostly because you realize you need to hire people smarter than you. Chances are you’ll have to present their work to the “higher ups.” That doesn’t mean you get to pretend you did the work. I’ve got a team of programmers. I’m not about to pretend I know how to code in php and do loop-de-loops in MySQL. They do great work. My role was to pick them out from the crowd and let the glow of the spotlight fall on them.
4. Don’t be Lenient
This is a touchy subject. I would caution that as a leader, you should have the trust of your team before you start waiving the big stick. In a new team, there will be some growing pains at first. Most team building books say you’re going through the “storming” phase. Don’t fall for this. If you let your team dictate the norms, they will walk all over you. Of course I’m being extreme, but seriously, if they step out of line, you need to reel them in. Make it clear that there are Dos and Don’ts in your team. If push comes to shove, they need to do what you ask.
5. Create Performance Measurements Together
As a new leader, you need to evaluate your staff. Engage them during this process. You want your people to realize that you’re not an evil person – and you want a sounding board to make sure your goals and expectations are realistic and achievable.
Hope this helps! Good luck you super managers and gurus in training.
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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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  1. Recommended Blog: Brainzooming | The Business of Meh - May 9, 2010

    […] I have a handful of blogs that I follow daily, Brainzooming blog is one of them.  In fact, I have contributed to the site in the past with my 5 Keys to Managing by Example. […]