Q&A: Wendy McManus Talks Lean Into Leadership Pt. 2
ORLANDO, FL - Leadership is a mindset and skillset. This is something that industry veteran Wendy McManus will tell you that she has learned during her successful 30-year career, including her time leading the retail marketing team at the National Mango Board.
Now, with her Connect 2 Potential venture and Lean Into Leadership—a group coaching and leadership development program for women in the fresh produce industry—Wendy is creating a platform to help others glean, polish, and practice leadership skills to elevate their game.
The next class will start on August 14 and wrap up on October 30th. With the date just weeks away, we shared with you Wendy’s mind at work in Part 1 on this two-part series. And now, let’s dig into Part 2!
Jordan Okumura: What is one of the biggest misconceptions about what it means to be a leader?
Wendy McManus: One of the biggest misconceptions is that the leader should have all the answers. In reality, the most effective leaders are masterful at getting the best work and the most brilliant solutions from their teams.
When a leader lets go of their notion that they’re supposed to have the answers, they start asking better questions. They set their ego aside and stop worrying about who will get credit for the next big idea. They start tapping into the genius that’s available to them from the individuals on the team.
This question points to one of the most difficult transition points for a new leader. There’s a time in every leader’s career when they must shift from providing value by doing the work to providing value by leading others. It’s a confusing time that causes many to question their ability to be successful in this new leadership role.
I see so many leaders that never fully made this transition, and years later they are still holding on to too many of the details of execution. They aren’t getting the full value out of their team because they are still trying to micromanage and control too many aspects of how the work is done.
On the other end of the spectrum, I see leaders who simply expect others to do their jobs. They use “hire good people and get out of the way” as a leadership strategy. They think this shows great trust and makes them an evolved leader who doesn’t need to micro-manage.
The trouble is that people need and want leadership. They want to be shown a vision of where the team is headed. They want a partner to help with problem-solving. They want feedback to know how they’re doing and how they can grow. For these hands-off leaders, learning to lead effectively without infringing on the autonomy of the team is a delicate dance to master, but well worth it.
JO: How would you define your approach to leadership discovery and learning?
WM: I use a hybrid approach in my group programs, combining leadership development and one-on-one coaching. All of our sessions are done via Zoom video conference, so we’re having a face-to-face experience. In the group sessions, all of the members can see each other, which encourages a high level of interaction and focused attention.
For the six group leadership development sessions, I take a training approach. I bring the topic and content to each session. There are specific concepts and skills that I want the group members to learn. There is always time built in for interaction and discussion amongst the group, so it’s not a boring lecture format. The content for these leadership development sessions is getting better and better because I’m able to see what resonates with the group.
It’s pretty obvious when people are fully engaged compared to when they are bored and losing interest. I’ve been tweaking the content after each group to ensure that all of the topics are engaging.
Each participant will also have four one-on-one coaching sessions with me. Before the first coaching session, they complete a DiSC communication styles assessment and review their report. In the first one-on-one coaching session, we debrief the assessment, and spend time uncovering this individual’s core values and life purpose. It’s deep work that is truly life-changing. I’m honored to have the opportunity to walk with people on this journey.
In the other three one-on-one coaching sessions, each participant brings their own topics for coaching. We might talk about a difficult situation that’s already happened or maybe a big challenging opportunity that’s coming up for them in the future. We tend to work on specific situations, but they are always related to the bigger opportunity to be a more effective individual and a more effective leader.
I’ve found that this hybrid approach of leadership development topics that are driven by me and coaching topics that are driven by the individual is highly effective for honing leadership skills and strengths.
JO: What are some of the key tools that the next groups of incoming participants can expect to be given the opportunity to explore?
WM: I’m super-excited about the content for the next group. I expanded the program from five group sessions to six, because there was so much great content I want to share.
On the Inner Game side of things, we will work on:
- Increasing confidence
- Managing self-doubt
- Playing up your strengths (I call these superpowers)
- Living with intention
- Understanding your communication style and your impact on others
- Identifying your opportunities to grow and improve
On the Outer Game side, the program includes:
- Building a powerful working culture
- Using effective listening and coaching skills
- Giving and receiving feedback
- Managing conflict
- Getting things done by influencing others
- Building your relationship power base
Lean into Leadership is one of the best initiatives I’ve ever created. The feedback has been solidly positive from the two groups of women who have already walked this path. I give the program a great deal of my energy and time because it’s fun and rewarding for me as well.