The Difference Between Leaders and Managers

The Difference Between Leaders and Managers

“Everything rises and falls on leadership.”
—John Maxwell

John Maxwell’s quote above is quite telling. But let’s apply that quote. Everything at your organization rises and falls on leadership. Everything in your department rises and falls on leadership. Of course, in too many  organizations a manager is not necessarily a leader. You may have the title of manager (or even CEO) but you have to earn respect from your employees be called a true leader.

So what’s the difference between a manager and a leader? Here are four major differences:

Ø  Managers focus on tasks, leaders focus on people

Managers have employees; leaders have followers. If all you are concerned about is getting the job done, then you really are just a manager (and please note there is not necessarily anything wrong with that—we need managers to help accomplish certain tasks). However, while leaders are concerned with accomplishing the goal they also make sure their people are developed through the process.


A true leader knows their number one job is to develop people.

Ø  Managers focus on weaknesses, leaders focus on strengths

The success of a leader is determined by their ability to put their employees in their strength zones. At a recent workshop on “Developing Managers Into Leaders” we had a great deal of discussion on this point. Most managers spend most of their time with low-performers, trying to get them “up-to-speed.” However, a true leader will spend most her time getting the most out of her best performers


What does spending the most time with your worst employees communicate to them? That if you want time with your boss then be really lousy at your job!

Ø  Mentoring is more informal, managing is more formal

Management is a career; leadership is a calling. Mentoring is a more open-ended relationship. You can’t force mentoring on someone. It has be a match for them and you. Formal mentoring programs may not work because it is a forced relationship.


Some of the best discussions with my mentors were the ones that were not in a formal evaluation process but rather casual discussions. Those informal comments about projects and life were invaluable.

Ø  Managers are not necessarily leaders; managers can be mentors

Leaders are always looking for better and more efficient ways of doing things. A manager just accepts the organization’s makeup and culture and does all that he or she can to cement the company’s status quo.


Some of the true leaders in your organization may not even be managers or have that formal title. Leadership is earned through high performance and mutual respect.


So what are you? Are you more of a manager or a leader? If you focus on people, work with their strengths, and make your mentor relationships more informal then you are well on your way to being more of a true leader than a manager.

Put Zing Into Your Planning Session With P = F2

Put Zing Into Your Planning Session With P = F2


Do you look forward to your credit union’s strategic planning sessions? It’s unfortunate ho many people don’t. Aside from execution, planning is the most important thing you can do for your credit union’s long term. Why then, do so many people dread them? It's because they often lack the magic formula: P = F2 (Planning = Focus x Fun)


This is a formula I developed while conducting many planning sessions across the country. To have a successful planning session you must be focused and participants must have a great time.


Let's examine this formula by reviewing how this principle is used by myself and other well known credit union planners and strategists.




How many times have you participated in a strategic planning session that began with a focus on strategic issues, but very quickly became a discussion about where you should put your next branch office (a tactical item)? That’s not uncommon.


“It’s really easy to get too bogged down into processes and lose focus on the big picture,” said Rory Rowland of Rowland Consulting.


Focus should actually start days or even weeks before the planning session with some type of

pre-work. I use a brief survey that asks each participant to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (the infamous SWOT), as well as key areas and key issues for their

credit unions.


To really get everyone’s attention, Jeanne Murphy recommends an industry overview. Murphy is a growth strategist and founder of Strategic Solutions.


“Sometimes I give people a state of the union overview about what's happening in the credit union industry and economy. This usually gets their attention fast as the trends haven't been great the past couple of years,” she said.


To help focus the planning session, I use a funnel approach: Environmental Scan > SWOT Analysis > Year in Review > Five Star CU Analysis > Key Issues > Rankings > Plan.


We start broad and then work our way down into the specifics. The funnel approach is a tool to help focus attendees and to avoid getting off track.


Here are some additional tips to consider:


Use an outside facilitator. If your credit union can’t afford one, consider swapping CEOs as a professional courtesy. Their CEO can facilitate yours and vice versa. Facilitators not only help keep you on track, they also have the objectivity to question things that you might think are okay.


Bring in an expert speaker from the outside to address important topics. For example, I spoke at a billion dollar credit union’s planning session in California recently on strategies and tactics for reaching the Dot Com Generation.


Establish a purposeful vision. Murphy suggests including long-term outcomes for the credit union AND the communities they serve. Remember to establish measurements, in addition to

goals, to be sure you’re on track with your vision.


Have your planning session off-site whenever possible. It eliminates interruptions and puts all participants on a level playing field.


Define your planning sessions with one letter sized piece of paper. “Put all of the goals from the planning session on one sheet of paper, and put them in the board packets every month. Make it an agenda item to review that sheet at every board meeting,” said Rowland. “If the planning session does not change behavior, it’s not worth the time.”




Fun is a proverbial four letter word to some executives. That’s why it’s so important to incorporate fun into a planning session. If nothing else, it relaxes even the most intense people.


“When people are laughing, they get to a place where they are having a conversation and making decisions that are going to effect people that are not in the room,” said Randy Harrington, founder and CEO of Extreme Arts & Sciences, an organization that specializes in providing in-depth analysis and customized solutions for change-ready organizations.


There’s no doubt that incorporating fun into a planning session can yield outstanding results. The question is, how do you do it?


“I think it’s important to have a team building exercise,” said Rowland. He recommends two different resources for team building activities – Quick Team Building Activities for Busy Managers by Brian Cole Miller and The Big Book of Team Building Games: Trust-Building Activities, Team Spirit Exercises, and Other Fun Things to Do by John W. Newstrom and Edward E.Scannell. Murphy uses Games Trainers Play by Bob Pike.


While these books offer tons of great ideas, you can also have people play two rounds of darts. On the first round, instruct them to just throw the dart without aiming. On the second round, instruct them to focus and aim at the target. In addition to having fun, the game demonstrates that hitting a specific target on the board is more difficult when you focus, but it also yields a more fruitful outcome.


The past two weeks I’ve played Jenga at a credit union in Iowa and Toss-Up (a dice game) at a credit union in Louisiana. In both cases we used the games to illustrate key lessons about strategic planning (risk taking, building, teamwork, etc.).


It’s that time of year to begin thinking about your credit union’s planning session. Now you have the formula to make yours a success: P = F2 (Planning = Focus x Fun).


So what do you think? Please post a comment or e-mail me with other suggestions.


Story Telling Marketing

Story Telling Marketing

“Marketing is the act of telling stories about the things we make—stories that sell and stories that spread.”
—Seth Godin, author of Tribes
Story telling

In today’s incredibly fast paced world, marketing seems now to be all about using the latest technology or trend (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.). However, instead of grabbing the latest marketing tool perhaps we should use a tactic from our ancestors: the art of telling a story.

When I think of story-telling I think of cavemen gathered around the fire while the shaman waved his arms in vivid description. Or my daughters and I huddled together around a warm campfire sharing ghost stories as part of an Indian Princesses ritual.

But maybe we should also think of story-telling as a major part of marketing as well. For example, instead of a doing a promotion about how great your home equity loan product is, tell a story about one of your members who used the loan to finance their child’s college education (or other dream). It is a much more compelling way of communicating your message.

In CUNA’s recently published Environmental Scan, one of the trends we identified in the marketing section was story-telling. In part we noted the following:

“As communication strategies evolve with new technologies, don’t let member stories get lost in the shuffle. Members are the heart of our organizations and their stories help sell our products and services. Telling the story of a member who got a home equity loan to pay for a child’s education speaks volumes over simply promoting the features of a home equity loan. Use those stories in e-mails and on your web site. Use their testimonials on social networking sites.

“Storytelling as a marketing tactic is one of the most effective ways we can communicate with members. Even though member communication is using new techniques, it doesn’t change the fact that you helped someone when they really needed it. These are real people with real financial issues, and nobody can tell their stories the way they can. In fact, technology could even increase the emotional intensity of their messages if you video them and put them on YouTube or your web site. The art of storytelling doesn’t have to be lost just because our members are receiving the information in different ways.”

So how do you know the signs of a good story? Here are four quick tips:

(1)    Keep them short and simple—Remember that brevity is clarity. You are telling a quick member story, not writing War and Peace.

(2)    Provide details—While you want the overall story to be brief, be sure to add details. For example, information about family, age, home, career, school or other pertinent thoughts. You want to offer “connection points” with your readers and details do that.

(3)    Make it personal—Not every situation is perfect and not every story is perfect either. Did someone experience a hard time while in debt but pulled themselves out of it with the help of a credit union? If so, let people know about the struggles along with the accomplishments.

(4)    Connect emotionally—Perhaps one of the most important parts of a story is the ability to draw in the reader. Nothing does that better than connecting emotionally. Ways to do that include stories about children, families, animals, heart-aches and triumphs. We are emotional human beings so stories that bring out our emotions are stories that succeed.

The legendary coach Jim Valvano gave a well known speech about life as he was dying of cancer. In his remarks, he said there are three things you should do every day: laugh, think and cry. As he said, “if you do all three of those you’ve had a heck of day.”

It’s the same with story-telling: if your stories make readers laugh, think and cry then you’ve written a heck of a story.