From Producer to Leader: When Finishing Last Means You’re First

Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of companies both large and small. One of the most common challenges I’ve encountered in nearly every organization is working with new and untrained managers on people issues. I’ve learned that many managers lack the skill set to differentiate between managing a system and leading their people.

This is very common with new managers in leadership positions. Many new management-level individuals secure their positions by being the best producers. Producers have one of the most important elements needed to lead: competence. Being competent in one’s job is a must for leaders because it earns them credibility.

However, when producers are given a promotion, they often fail to realize they must lead their people within the system they manage. Leading and managing are two totally different skill sets.

As titled leaders, producers must now accept the fact that they should finish last.

Finish last? Really?

Well, it’s all in how you define last. Of course, most of us have spent the majority of our lives striving to be first to the finish line.

We competed in primary and secondary school with sports and academics. In college we continued to excel by making the grades so that we could graduate top of class. Now we have a job, and naturally we’re pushing to be the best of the best so we’re seen as a top producer.

And as producers, we’re expected to excel in our area of responsibility.

Then, WHAM! It happens. We get promoted. So what do we keep doing? Naturally, we keep producing, competing and running so we’ll continue to be viewed as a top producer.

It’s here that many new leaders forget, or maybe they haven’t been taught, that they have teammates to whom they’re responsible. As leaders we cannot run off without our team to be the top producer. Instead, we must bring our teammates along with us so we finish as a top producing team.

If you reach the finish line first without your team, it means you finish last as a leader.

Transitioning from Producing to Leading

So how do we balance being a producer and a leader at the same time? Well, we can’t without sacrificing for and investing in our teams. We’ll address the importance of sacrificing and investing and the rewards that come with finishing last when we continue our discussion of shifting from producer to leader on Thursday.

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