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Diamond Ideas Blog


Managing vs. Motivating

Business owners often walk a tightrope between managing and motivating, nervous of making one wrong step and putting their business at risk. Like a beginner salesperson showing their clients fear and not making the sale, this leadership paranoia can negatively affect your relationships with partners, employees, and your personal connections. How could one small step have such an impact? Ineffective communication and failure to educate yourself on becoming a top-notch leader, can have a domino affect stunting the growth of your business.

Business owners that prioritize leadership education for themselves and the department managers can see over 10-20% growth year over year.

Managing is a form of authority within a business that entrepreneurial spirited individuals often strive for. However, there is a difference in results when you manage someone vs. motivate them. By managing, you establish a level of authority that results in consequences for rule breaking. With motivation, you teach your team the reasons why keeping the big picture goal in mind and following a process will lead to results and rewards. As a leader, it is important to understand the differences between managing and motivating, in order to get the maximum results you projected. Let’s take a deeper dive into the differences and show you what actions you can take to develop yourself as a top-notch leader. 

Managers are rules oriented, or like my old boss used to say, “black and white.” He taught me if it wasn’t documented, it didn’t exist, and if it was documented, that was the rule to follow. Managers use their authority in order to influence decisions and often have the motto, “it’s just business,” a non-emotional colloquialism. These managers will utilize what they know and the results of the past to inform their future decisions. They typically are good at holding teams accountable to deadlines, policies, and procedures by setting expectations when delegating and spot checking the results. Where a manager can cross the line to de-motivate a team is when they focus on placing blame instead of teaching solutions, or communicating as a dictator, when they should be a collaborator or mentor.

You can tell if you are managing instead of motivating, if you can say yes to more than 3 of these: 

  • Do you have more than 2 employees leaving your company every year? 

  • Do your employees complain about not getting everything done in 1 day or week? 

  • Are you concerned at every payroll with how many hours an employee is putting in every week? 

  • Are you often disappointed with the results of your employees? 

  • Do you expect your employees to “figure it out” because you don’t want to “babysit” them? 

To harness results and develop a loyal team, having a blend of motivation in your management style will encourage your employees to have the company’s best interest at heart. Leaders motivate their teams by teaching them the reason why their role and responsibilities fit into the greater organization and how ultimately it can make or break your reputation. Leaders are results oriented and understand that people manage a process, so they take the time to make sure their team is taken care of first. To motivate people, leaders will use the power of a positivity sandwich when providing feedback or a coaching moment. 

Positivity sandwiches will begin with a compliment or encouraging thought to put your employee in the right mindset to be open to constructive advice. After their body language gives you permission, that you have leveled with them and acknowledged their hard work, you can offer 1-3 items of advice in a clear and direct manner. It’s important then to follow up with a positive affirmation that you believe in them to make it right the next time, or another form of encouragement. Leaders will also take ownership of not communicating something that resulted in confusion, or any other part they were responsible for that affected the results. They know how and when to apologize, and see this level of grace and vulnerability as a means to relate to their team, while also leading by example. A manager that does not apologize or that cannot openly take ownership of their actions, especially when they made a mistake, will always wonder why they can’t keep employees.  

Leaders are active listeners and ask before they tell. When communicating with your team, questions will be your saving grace before actively putting your foot in your mouth. To get to the root of a challenge, approach your team with questions focused on the task, deadline, or result and not on the person. By taking “you” or “your” out of the conversation, you can remove any emotional tension in the communication. If you do not take this question first approach before you delegate or assume you know why the challenge occurred, your assumptions can be way off base, quietly embarrassing you in front of the team and ultimately questioning your professionalism. If you are looking at fostering a collaborative environment, go into every conversation with your employee, thinking that they have the best intentions for your business. In other words, trust them before they give you a reason to distrust them. 

Now that we have identified the differences between managing and motivating, here are some tangible action items to keep you walking across the tightrope without any wobble:


  • As a manager, it’s ok to establish rules. These guidelines also called processes or procedures give direction to your employees and help create a brand experience for your customer. 

  • As a motivator, make sure your whole team has daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals. Share the results of those goals openly with everyone and review the progress frequently. 

  • Start your meetings with wins and end the meeting with action items assigned to a specific person or department. 

  • Explain why and teach how. For every task that is assigned or delegated, establish the expectations from the beginning and have a conversation about the employee’s comfort level for accomplishing this task. 


  • When holding teams accountable to the rules, be careful to not become inflexible. While we do not want to make exceptions for our employees sidestepping our process because of carelessness or other convincing excuses, we cannot be inflexible to current events and environmental changes. Businesses are living and breathing, and so are your processes. Be ready to adapt to stay relevant and keep your goals in mind with every decision.

  • Set unrealistic goals. It’s easy for motivational leaders to get excited about their vision and set high standards for the team to achieve. Use previous years results to provide a baseline for goal setting. By achieving 10-20% growth year over year, you are within a healthy range of scaling your business.

  • Let your meetings be unfocused. Create an agenda in advance and send it to the team. If both you and the employees come prepared to discuss the agenda talking points, you’ll be able to move your project forward faster and feel productive in your communication. 

  • Dictate and Dump. This “bad” manager behaviour is kryptonite for an organization. Don’t assume they can read your mind, because “they’re so good at their job” and can always “figure it out.” Every delegation should come with direction on what is expected as the result and come with understanding if the employee has ever done what you're asking before. These conversations go quicker as the employee learns, and the result is often within your expectations. 

By following a few small guidelines, you can discover powerful conversations with your employees, and develop a team that has your back. To reach a level of leadership excellence, it’s important to find an active balance between managing and motivating. A leader cannot be one without the other. 

In order to reach the pinnacle of leadership, it’s critical that communication and education is prioritized. Do not get your team help, and forget to help yourself. That’s like throwing your employees in the deep waters, giving them a swim instructor to make them stronger, then expecting them to pull the boat to safety. As my mentor used to say, “the speed of the leader, the speed of the gang.” In other words, if you do not lead by example, your team will pick up your bad habits, because “do as I say, and not as I do” is an excuse for not acting like a leader.

You have many options open to you on leadership education, including: 

  • Podcasts on Employee Management, Business Best Practices, or a specialized topic 

  • Books or Audiobooks

  • Sharing stories amongst your friends and family on how their company handles situations

  • Join industry groups and learn from your peers

  • Hire a coach to teach you

Whether you are new to management or a seasoned vet, there is always something to learn on leading others, and remember, Inspect what you Expect.

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