LEADERSHIP VS. MANAGEMENT IN WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

by Chelsea Salyer

 

A major focus of workforce development, a service offered by CountryIntel, is helping an individual develop the skills and abilities required to succeed within their workplace. Some of those skills and abilities may relate to leadership and/or management.

People often mistake leadership and management to be one and the same, but fundamentally they are very different. Yet both practices are essential to running a business. Certain business scenarios require diverse skills. Distinguishing between leadership and management can help a business efficiently employ its resources to achieve success.

Leadership is about inspiring, motivating, and empowering others to work toward a shared vision, while management is concerned with administrative responsibilities and ensuring day-to-day operations run smoothly.

One of the main differences between leadership and management is seen when executing the business’ vision. Leadership is more strategic while management is more operational. Leaders examine where the business stands, set a vision for future organizational growth, and develop a strategic plan for how to move from the present to the future. Leaders, by nature, are innovative. Alternatively, managers implement processes and procedures that help the business achieve the objectives set by the leaders. Simply put, leaders ask “what” and “why” whereas managers ask “how” and “when.”

Another difference between leadership and management lies within how they either inspire or manage their followers and subordinates. Leaders inspire trust among employees and rely on that relationship to build a following. When communicating the vision, leaders are responsible for helping employees see themselves within the bigger organizational picture. They connect an employee’s goals and aspirations with the company’s vision, giving meaning to the day-to-day functions while aligning short-term and long-term direction.

Separately, managers rely on the authority of their job description to effectively manage employees and maintain compliance. Managers coordinate activities among subordinates and organize staff to optimize efficiency and play to the strengths of each individual. Managers break down big projects into smaller milestones and assign tasks according to resource limitations such as schedule and budget. They are more focused on the tactical responsibilities required to meet the organization’s objectives.

Despite the differences between leadership and management, the two practices often organically intertwine within a business structure. Both leadership and management structures are needed to engage a workforce toward a shared vision and achieve organizational success. While it is crucial to understand their differences, it would be unwise to purposefully try to separate one from the other. Rather, the focus should be on how these two practices will coincide and how to harness their differences to complement one another. Together, leadership and management help bridge the gaps in scenarios where reliance on one skill alone might fall short. Developing a workforce with both leadership and management functions is crucial to the overarching success of the business. Even more critical is developing skills uniquely tailored to each individual employee’s role.

 

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THE PAIN POINTS SHOULD GUIDE YOU, NOT THE SPARKLE OF A SHINY PENNY

by Jeff Fourman and Leezan Omerbell

 

Ideas are abundant. Ideas that evolve into prototypes are rare. Prototypes that become essential tools for clients are even more scarce. And if you want to talk unicorns, then build a product that becomes essential for your clients. Hopefully, your team can gain insight from CountryIntel’s lessons learned, which we compiled while applying a lean approach to creating viable products for our government client base.

Budget: When assessing the budget for product development, it is common practice to simply “go big” and request a large price tag. While this type of proposal might be accepted, the request for a large amount is often unappetizing. From experience, we discovered it is easier to pilot products with a smaller, more reasonable budget when building lean. Then you can focus on the key pain points that your prototype addresses. This approach keeps your team focused on a lean solution that can deploy rapidly with effective results and an undeniable proof of concept. With this approach, your client reaps the benefits sooner and with a greater return on investment. They will also be more likely to continue to invest in the solution with iterative enhancements to rapidly address the most problematic pain points.

Prototype: It is tempting to present a finished and highly polished product which you think is “just right” for your clients. But operating under such assumptions can present challenges. Initially developing too far down the technology roadmap for your solution is risky. You may not incorporate all the client’s feedback necessary to guide you down the right path, and you may end up wasting valuable time and funding on a solution that only partially meets the client’s needs, paints you into a corner, and creates problems of its own. If the client wants something that only partially meets their needs, they could simply buy a Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) solution and overpay for features they will never use or that require unwieldy workarounds to operationalize. Remember, the pain points should guide you, not the sparkle of a shiny penny.

Do not gamble with your budget and assume you know all your client’s wants and needs from the start of a development road map. Gamble long enough and you are certain to lose. Then you will have to backtrack, make costly adjustments, and potentially need to restart completely if you do find yourself surrounded by wet paint. Again, when building, keep the prototype lean and minimal at first, and keep open lines of communication with the client so honest feedback can be collected. And do not be afraid to ask, “What stinks about this prototype?”  They will tell you, and it could keep you from having to start over if there is a nagging nuisance which they are afraid to tell you about in early prototyping.

Maximize end-user feedback loop: The purpose of building a lean prototype is to provide the client and end-users the opportunity to assess the product and provide feedback and recommendations. Optimizing the end-user feedback loop enables you to make these changes and provide the client with a viable product that suits their specific needs. This also helps justify a budget to further enhance the prototype into a more robust operating product. Ultimately, this approach increases client confidence and trust that what they are paying for is exactly what they need.

 

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MY VIRTUAL LEARNING EXPERIENCE

by Lillian Dickman

 

Growing up, I was a typical student in a traditional learning environment. I sat at a desk in a physical school building, learning from a teacher in a classroom full of other students. This was my norm until my third year of college in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic turned the educational world upside down. The sudden shift from traditional schooling to a virtual environment posed a learning curve for many students, including myself. Amidst the chaos, I adapted and found positivity in this new world of eLearning. As a recent college graduate, here are my lessons learned and key takeaways from the virtual learning experience:

Easily Connect with Others: With eLearning, we connected with course instructors and students without physically meeting. Courses were able to be conducted through virtual meetings where it did not matter where people were located. This made it easier for students to be able to meet with others to get work done from the comfort of home. We could also reach instructors through online chatting at any time rather than scheduling time to visit in-person during specific office hours. Although virtual environments will never quite replace in-person experiences, I learned that it is possible to still connect when physically distant.

Learn Self-Paced: Online courses can be self-paced, and they are designed to be more flexible with your time. In the traditional classroom setting, all students must try to work and follow along at the same pace. Because everyone has different learning styles and schedules, eLearning accommodates for all these variances. Students can either fly through lessons or take more time to digest it. I was an involved and active student on campus, so it was helpful to have the flexibility to progress in certain online classes on my own time. Instead of needing to run across campus to make it to class, I could review class content, re-watch lectures, and complete coursework when I was ready to. Although I had never been able to take courses on my own time prior to COVID-19, the self-paced learning was beneficial because I was able to tailor my course completion timeline to my learning style as well as gain a sense of independence in my education.

Embrace Change: If 2020 taught us anything, it was to be adaptable. While everything was shutting down, we became more open to change around us. After being suddenly sent home from school in the spring of 2020, spending my last year of college constantly battling a pandemic was not how I expected my college years to end. It was a rollercoaster of change or, as many have described it, “unprecedented times,” with no way of knowing what the future held. Despite this, I am grateful that modern technology was still able to bring some normalcy to the world. Universities and schools began offering eLearning services to be able to continue to provide an education to students. Students then embraced this new way of learning as a way of bringing a little consistency back into our lives. Although there was an adjustment period of learning the ins and outs of how remote courses operated, I was able to find positivity and embrace change.

Prepare for Remote Work Environment: Not only were schools pushed to virtual environments, but workplaces were as well. Employees also had to go through the same learning curve with working a job from home. Instead of having people visit your desk to speak with you, coworkers ping you in Microsoft Teams Chat. Rather than sitting in a big conference room for a meeting, you sit on a Zoom call while someone shares their screen for a presentation. COVID-era students were able to prepare for this new way of working by learning the technology and software used to support remote environments while in school. As a student during the pandemic, I regularly used Zoom and Microsoft Teams as my main resources for connecting with teachers and classmates. Young professionals and recent graduates have the upper hand in having the best understanding of these online tools compared to older employees who did not have the same opportunity to study in these virtual spaces while in school. Learning things as simple as how to create and join virtual meetings or knowing how to turn the mute button on and off are things that seem intuitive but still require some training.

Since graduating from college in 2021, I have started my career in a remote environment that still heavily relies on these technologies. I am thankful I had a solid foundation of how to use these tools prior to starting my full-time position. Learning how to efficiently work from home is a skillset that has taught me the significance of both independence and time management. Overall, my biggest takeaway is that technology is an incredibly powerful and crucial tool for not only the academic world but also the corporate world.

CountryIntel Online Distance Learning Solutions: Country Intelligence Group has specific expertise in remote learning services. From curriculum design and development, eLearning, training delivery in all modes, and training/education program management, our team can craft the perfect solution for your needs. CountryIntel can help your organization easily connect with others through eLearning platforms, regardless of physical distance. I have learned through my experience with remote education that no matter how course content is delivered, students are still able to be trained and educated at the same level of excellence. Embrace the changes in today’s cutting-edge course delivery and partner with Country Intelligence Group for optimal results.

 

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BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS IN CONSULTING

by Leezan Omerbell

 

There are many consulting agencies saturating the market today. As a result, being knowledgeable in a particular field is not enough to set a company apart. I have known consulting firms that were experts in their field yet failed to provide adequate services because they did not take time to truly understand their clients’ needs. These companies make two novice mistakes.  First, they assumed their services and products were adequate to meet the clients’ demands. Second, they did not listen to the clients’ concerns regarding product usability and clarity. While the consulting firm initially had the client’s business, it is doubtful the client would return to that firm in the future. Consulting is an art form. It is a precise balance between knowledge and client relations.  In this article we’ll cover the three main pillars of how to successfully build and manage client relations.  

 

Relationship Management:

It is vital for consultants to establish a professional but genuine relationship with clients. Client-consultant relations require a strong foundation, and foundations are built over time. It is important to express sincere interest in the client and an innate desire to serve. This desire to serve motivates you to learn and address your clients’ needs. Optimize each engagement by practicing active listening and being truly present in the conversation. Active engagement in conversation provides the needed tools to anticipate future needs, capture and assess blind spots, and be a better consultant by capturing and addressing your clients’ unrealized needs. This level of dedicated personal service, executed proficiently, will undoubtedly build trust over time.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Trust:

A client’s trust is vital for a consultant. A client must trust the consultant’s level of skill and knowledge of the industry. Most importantly, however, a client must trust that a consultant has their best interest in mind. The goal should not be to make a profit, but rather to help your client to the best of your ability. As Joy Hubert, the former CEO of Best Buy and author of The Heart of Business, said, “profit is the outcome, not the purpose itself.” In addition, mediocre service should never be an accepted practice in a consulting firm because that is a quick way to gain a bad reputation. Providing a quality service or product should be a long-term effort practiced company wide. Make it a standard procedure for yourself and your company to actively follow up with the client after a service or a product has been delivered. When a client experiences genuine service, they will trust you and be more inclined to communicate openly.                                                                                                                                     

Communication:

We have all heard that communication is one of the most important foundations to any relationship. I think what they mean to say is that communication, through active listening and understanding, results in better relationships founded on trust. This trust helps establish a communicative environment and acts as the catalyst when you, the consultant, need to deliver bad news to the client (hopefully infrequently) or if you need to assist in maneuvering them through a difficult situation.

 

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CREATING A TEAM IN A VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT

by Leezan Omerbell

Our company’s pivot to remote work was mostly seamless when the 2020 pandemic hit. We already implemented digital workplace tools to help manage virtual teams prior to the pandemic, and the leadership team organized efforts in the earlier days of the pandemic which provided a solid foundation to build upon. Therefore, we were ready when the opportunity for growth presented itself.  

Tools:

 First we audited our existing tools. We assessed the tools  capabilities, dependability, and ease of use. To address gaps in our capabilities, we explored which pre-existing tools could be upgraded and which tools needed to be purchased to help better manage our virtual team environment. For example, we needed a project management (PM) tool; however, not all prospective tools fit our business needs or budget. Through our research, we discovered that a simple upgrade to Microsoft 365 provided the team with SharePoint for internal document sharing and Microsoft TEAMS for communication and collaboration. We also discovered that TEAMS offered a PM-like tool called “Tasks by Planner,” sufficient for tracking and managing workloads. Auditing the current capabilities of your company saves the company money and prevents your team from having to train on a completely new product.   

Schedules:

This meeting could have been an e-mail. We have all heard someone say this, type it in a group chat, or share it as a meme. Organizing schedules is no easy task when managing a virtual team. Even when teams are not physically in an office together, you want them to be communicative and collaborative without overburdening employees with too many meetings.  How do you do balance this act? We realized our team functions best if we have a Monday staff meeting and a Friday “weekly topics” meeting. The Monday staff meetings focus on the schedule for the week, the scheduled client meeting, outstanding tasks from last week, and due outs needed before the end of the week. The Monday staff meeting begins with the Program Manager sharing his/her schedule, and then each team member provides their own schedule for the week. The Friday “weekly topics” meeting always starts formally but transitions to a more relaxed environment. In the formal portion, we discuss outstanding taskers or issues of interest across teams. To give each team member the opportunity to lead, communicate, and demonstrate organizational skills, a different individual is chosen to facilitate each of the four Friday “weekly topics” meetings for that month. These individuals are responsible for coordinating end of week topics across functional teams and capturing them on appropriate slides.  

Collaboration: 

This word has been used so much lately. You can find the definition for it easily by doing a quick search, but I would add that you, the management, set the tone for the team and ultimately influence the team’s interactions with one another. Common courtesy is important; use “please” and “thank you” often with your team. Understand your team members’ strengths and blind spots. Most of this knowledge will come with time, but having team members provide a biography combining professional accomplishments and interests, hobbies, and fun facts can provide a jump start. Making the bios accessible to the team allows members to better know one another. Use the information in the weekly meetings to get conversations going. You might have more than one team member who is very good at photography. Start a reading list of books your team members have enjoyed reading. Start a cooking club where they share their favorite recipes. Get to know your team. Be creative and have fun. Managing virtual teams comes with its own set of unique circumstances, but with the right preparation and flexibility in approach, it can add a whole new set of tools to your management arsenal.  

Be Available: This is easy enough, right? Be available for your team if they have questions.  

 

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