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Leadership and Management Growth

I wrote a post a few months ago about leadership.  But as I continue to write and think, I've realized how little I know about management.  I have a sports background and an MBA, so I think my leadership skills are adequately developed.  What I realize, though, is that growing as a manager is much more difficult, at least for you.  I'd like feedback from others on the best ways to grow as a manager.  My main problem, I believe, is that I've always liked to DO things.  I liked Accounting and Finance, then I liked working in Excel, then I liked developing applications in Access.  I realize that I should be spending more time talking, leading, teaching, and less time doing.  But I don't know what that balance should be or how to put together a strategy to grow in that way.  Any experiences or thoughts are welcomed. 

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Bob Scarborough
Title: CEO
Company: Tensoft, Inc.
(CEO, Tensoft, Inc.) |

Entrepreneurially inclined folks and people who have worked their way up through an organization usually possess a craft. By craft I mean a deep set of skills around creating and doing something of interest and value. Most of us enjoy that craft, it is part of what drives us forward. Personally, after an early career in Finance, I moved into business systems. I have deep expertise in business process, systems analysis, and product management. It remains a passion for me. However I can’t grown and manage an organization based on that knowledge and passion.
At the same time there is value in retaining a link to my craft. There are well known CEO examples of this connection – Steve Jobs’ passion for consumer devices, Bill Gates review of all new company products, and the many excellent but less well known examples that exist in Silicon Valley. Additionally, smaller organizations need people who can wear many hats – while larger organizations need more specialization and focus. Find the balance for where I should contribute and where I should maintain my connection to customers and my craft is critical to how to move forward successfully.
Some questions and objectives that have been helpful to me:
1) Periodically reviewing the activities I’m directly involved in, and those that my team members are directly involved in. Are these the right activities now – even if they were right before? Growing requires continually narrowing what I or anyone on my team can do deeply while adding team members that fit our adjusted focus.
2) For the team members who have deep focus area responsibilities – am I supporting them appropriately? In meetings with their constituency do I insist they lead the effort? Am I doing what I can to position them well as the knowledge expert?
3) Once the roles are allocated – am I effectively coaching / mentoring / monitoring the activities? What status reports, meetings, or feedback loops are most effective? I need to be informed, allowed to coach, and to stay responsible for the results while at the same time not stifling or inhibiting the creative action possible for the team.

Bobby Bluford
Title: VP, Finance
Company: Printroom, Inc.
(VP, Finance, Printroom, Inc.) |

That is absolutely correct, Bob. Thank you for the thorough response. It was very helpful. My problem is finding the right path that allows me to apply my diverse passions. I started my education as a Computer Science Major at UC Davis. But it required too much math, so I switched to Economics/Business. Because I played sports and wanted to stay involved as long as I could, I started a company shortly after college that focused on providing Academic, Training, and Recruiting Services to High School and Junior College athletes looking to continue playing at the 4-year level. Through running and growing that, I got involved in Sales and Marketing, obviously. I got my feet weight a little in attempts to raise capital, but was unsuccessful. As a result, started my path to earning my MBA (Santa Clara; I noticed a few alums on your the Tensoft team). I also helped developed an online application that allowed athletes to create their own personalized plan, which fed my nerdy computer side, and did all of the Accounting initially, before turning it over to someone else. To make a long story short, after getting married and having our first child, I hooked up with a friend of a friend to run his Accounting and Finance, which led to an acquisition and to my current position.

Now, I'm being encouraged to pursue opportunities to be a Product Manager, rather than try to grow into larger CFO positions. I'm intrigued by it because it'll allow me to use all of my abilities at a higher level.

I'm just worried I enjoy the front lines too much. I tell people all of the time that I think I have too much Indian in me and not enough Chief. To that end, I think I really need to dive into your last three bullet points. I need to realize that leading, training, motivating, and learning from Others is just as important as rolling my sleeves up and getting dirty.

Thanks for the insight, Bob. I really appreciate it!

Dan Ryan
Title: CFO
Company: Privately held
(CFO, Privately held) |

Athletics are an apt metaphor here, as it happens. You have some reasonable level of knowledge in a wide variety of areas and it sounds like you do them well. That's what many businesspeople refer to as an "athlete": someone who can cover a lot of business functions in one body.

The "athlete" approach to a career can be a blessing and a curse. If you are busy being "good" at a lot of things, it's truly difficult to be "great" at any one thing or function. I have seen many an athlete start a career fast, be put into a "program management" or similar role which requires lots of varying skills, and then get stuck in a career no-man's-land because they are not deep enough in any one area to climb the ladder in a function.

And ladder-climbing tends to happen within a function. And those who succeed have to have some serious skills (read: depth) in some areas within that function. Remember that you could be in finance for 40 years and not master more than a fraction of what there is to know, but we're talking about relative depth here, and not knowing a bit about a lot of things, but rather knowing a lot about a few things within a function, as well as knowing a bit about a lot of other things in that function. So you do want to beware of the "athlete trap" which could have you topping out lower in the organization than you might want.

That said, athletes can make great entrepreneurs b/c as a business leader you need to know a lot about a lot.

So regardless of where you are currently and what you have had put on the table directly in front of you, think hard about what you love and what and where you want to be in a decade, and optimize your current decisions based on that thinking. Great luck to you!

Bobby Bluford
Title: VP, Finance
Company: Printroom, Inc.
(VP, Finance, Printroom, Inc.) |

Thanks Dan. You must have been watching me over the last four or five years, because you've explained my dilemma to a tee. I have found that, although I thoroughly enjoy and feel I am skilled at Finance, my entrepreneurial nature pulls me towards other areas. As a result, I have not and don't necessarily want to be entrenched as far into the intricacies of Finance as I could be. I've recently thought about Product and Business Line Management positions. Everyone with whom I've spoken talks about the need to understand several part of the business-- including P&L management, Marketing, and Operations- in such positions. I'll continue to look into that, but thank you very much for the insight and thorough reply.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

I believe that you've confused the two concepts that are not interchangeable, although management requires leadership, but is not Leadership (notice the capitalization).

Leadership with a capital L is developing (or taking) a vision and sharing, enhancing, growing, exciting, motivating others into taking that vision and creating strategic and tactical plans and making it a reality.

Management and leadership (small "L") is taking those plans and implementing them.

Big, big difference. You can teach leadership, and to some extent you can teach Leadership, but the truly great Leaders are born with it.

Bobby Bluford
Title: VP, Finance
Company: Printroom, Inc.
(VP, Finance, Printroom, Inc.) |

Hey Wayne-
Thanks for the feedback. I can certainly appreciate your commentary. I agree that the two concepts are, indeed, different. In fact, it's often the case where great leaders are not good managers. The reverse is rarely true, though. I do, however, disagree at least partially that great leaders are born with it. I think the DESIRE to lead is something people are born with. But I believe we all have leadership qualities inside of us. And we all lead in some way or another (if not in our works, than in our personal lives as friends, siblings, and parents). It's a matter of finding the right vehicle to exhibit that leadership, if we indeed choose to do so. Thanks for the feedback, though, Wayne. I'll link with you and follow you on Twitter

Bobby Bluford
Twitter: @BobbyBluford


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