Following our previous post, which shared Rich Cooper’s advice for aspiring leaders, we now share a useful video for those moving from managing their own output to managing others i.e. achieving output through others. As Dr Axel Zein puts it: “The day you become a manager, your job changes totally. When you’re an employee, your performance is defined by your own work… The day you become a manager, you realise that your performance is defined by the work that others are doing: your team… it’s about what they’re doing.. [and] what they need”.
In his 16 minute talk, Axel uses the analogy of team sports, and draws parallels to business: “...The players on the field... are the ones working. There’s a team manager, there’s a clear goal to win the game, and there’s a clear strategy on how to win the game. It’s the same in business”.
You have to get the right team together, you have to create a high-performance culture, you have to make them more productive, and you have to create an environment where people just love to work and love to give their best… It is mostly about growing others.”
Read more to watch Axel’s TEDx talk (including how leadership is about serving others, making it a totally different job than being an individual contributor), and see the five topics from sports he connects to managing others in a business environment. We then share other ideas for developing your managerial skills and being seen as a leader within your business.
Axel encourages those keen to become managers in future to “learn as much as possible, learn as fast as possible before you become a manager.”
...People will follow you through thick and thin if you inspire them, if you do something great, if you convince them, or if you care about them.”
Concepts from sports
In the talk, Axel sets out five concepts from team sports which he applies to managing others in a business context:
1) The team’s culture encourages high performance: everyone on the team is clear on the goal, and their roles in achieving the win
2) Individual performance is extremely visible: “anybody can see who the top players are... and anybody can see who doesn’t deliver”
3) Training is an ongoing activity: Axel highlights sports teams’ “obsession with training”, and asks “When was the last time you improved your business skills? And how often do you do it?”
4) Selecting the best leader, rather than the best player as the sports captain (the “leader on the field”), which he summarises as “the way they pick their true leaders and not the fake ones”
5) Celebrating victories: “they celebrate like there’s no tomorrow… celebrate because it makes them stronger”
And, just in case Axel’s distinction between great leaders and great players prompts an expectation that one person can’t be both, we note that it is indeed possible for an expert to be a great leader. In fact, as we set out in “Why Technical Experts Make Great Leaders”, technical experts have some advantages versus generalist managers when it comes to leadership.
Other tips for enhancing your management skills and leadership abilities
For another Protagion post drawing parallels between career development and physical pursuits, please see “A mid-year review for active career management: what can we learn from physical endeavour?”