Interview with Cameron Morrissey: On What it Means to Lead and Manage Effectively

cameron-800Vera: You write a popular blog on management and recently published the book, the ‘’7 deadly sins of leadership’’. What distinction do you make between management and leadership and what do you see as the biggest challenge in each of these two areas?

Cameron: Leadership is all about vision, goals, and setting the example for the organization. Management is putting together the resources of the organization in a way that accomplishes that vision and realizes those goals in the most efficient and effective manner possible. While they are certainly different, in healthy organizations they work hand in hand. The biggest challenge in both areas is the same; Communication which both leaders and managers can always be better at. Better communication speeds along every single goal that is set and every process that is put in place to meet those goals.

Vera: What’s more damaging for an organization; when there’s a failing in leadership or in management?

Cameron: Leadership for sure. It doesn’t matter how good you are at managing if you don’t have a goal to work for. I can be part of a world-class rowing team, but if the boat is going in the wrong direction my efforts are wasted.

Vera: You describe yourself as a ‘’real world manager’’; what pressure does giving advice and tips on management to a global audience via your blog put on you in your own role and performance as a manager?

Cameron: LOL! It holds me accountable to practice what I preach, that’s for sure! This whole thing actually started when I started writing down the mistakes I kept making over and over again in an effort to stop the cycle and be a better manager; so I like to think it helps me from having those bad “deja-vu” moments in management. Soon after that, I started writing down observations and thoughts as I would have them and I think that has really been the biggest benefit for me because it makes me much more aware of my surroundings as a manager. So many times as leaders, we are so focused on the tasks and goals in front of us that we miss out on what is going on around us. Being able to view your surroundings allows you to anticipate what is coming next and helps manage the future, not just the present, which is much more effective.

Vera: What influences your own management style and how do you ensure you keep getting better?

Cameron: I try to focus on how I can pour more into my team and help them do their jobs to the best of their ability. A leader works THROUGH their team, so if I am helping my team to perform better in any way then I am doing my job. That can be through one-on-ones, setting clear expectations, setting the example, getting the right tools in their hand, coaching, consoling, guiding, etc. Given the number of people I oversee, there is always a chance to have an impact on my team and improve and it is definitely a never ending process.

Vera: What would you say are the key qualities and habits that would enable a manager thrive today and how can they develop these?

Cameron: I tell everyone to focus on three things, Communicate, Prioritize and Delegate. As a leader, these are your main functions. I wish I had the magic pill to improve each of these areas, but it really does just take practice. The first thing to focus on is communication because it is the most important of the three and is essential to making the other two effective. The starting place to communicating better for most leaders is to have them focus on asking their team questions and listening to the answers. We tend to be focused on getting our point across and we miss out on gaining knowledge. It is the gaining of knowledge from those around us that leads to better leadership decisions. So focus on communication first and the other two will be easier to work on.

Vera: Research suggests that people leave organizations because of ineffective managers. In your experience what makes it so difficult for managers to manage people well?

There just isn’t much in the way of effective management training in almost any organization out there. Those who are promoted into leadership are usually the best individual performers, but as soon as you move into leadership it is all about getting the best performance from others. These are two completely different ways of working and it creates immediate conflict and confusion for new leaders that carries on throughout their career if they are not given proper direction. And sadly, very few are given that direction.

What advice would you give to someone becoming a first time manager?

So many new managers are rightfully excited and want to dive in and change the world right from their first day. While I like the energy, you need to be measured in how you act. You are going to need to learn to crawl before you walk and run. I recommend listening to everyone’s thoughts, doing what you’re told by your leadership, and communicating with your team as much as possible. That’s always my first advice to new managers. Once you get comfortable in the position you can begin “making your mark” and changing the world. It’s important as a new manager to LEARN first, then start acting on that knowledge. Remember, it doesn’t matter how long you have worked for the organization, a new position gives new perspective and you need to see that first.

Vera: In your new book ‘’The 7 sins of leadership’’, one of the ‘’sins’’ you feature is ‘’Lust’’ which you discussed as ‘’a lack of follow through, shorter focus and constant re-organization’’. Why are leaders struggling with this?

Cameron: We are all being pulled in so many directions that it lends itself to short-term thinking. Finishing what we start is just not a reality in the day to day world. You usually have to plan it out into multiple sessions to really see it through. This creates the opportunity for another issue to jump ahead in priority. So to cope, leaders eventually look for short-cuts to fix issues right away because they know they are unlikely to find the time to do it right. The way to tackle this is to keep a to-do list handy and revisit it for a few minutes at the beginning of your day and about an hour before the end of your day which allows you to take some action before the end of the day. This ensures that nothing gets left-behind or mis-prioritized and allows you to better plan your time and focus.

Vera: In over 20 years in management, what would you say are the most effective ways of building leadership and how can a leader tell if they are doing well?

Cameron: Make sure you are clear on your goals. You’d be shocked how much of your staff is not clear on what the goals of the organization are or how they are measured. Once they see how their actions align with those goals it becomes easier to lead them, and for them to lead themselves. And from a leadership perspective, this is what we look for from our leaders; a clear direction and the ability to communicate how what we do day in and day out gets us there. You know you are doing a good job in leadership when you are getting more feedback from your team than you are giving them. You know that you are approachable first of all, but secondly it shows that the team is engaged and feels informed enough to come to you with suggestions and updates.

Vera: What’s been your most popular post on your blog which has over 300,000 followers and what would you say was the attraction with this theme/topic?

Cameron: “One Step to Improve Your Communication” was by far my most popular post. I just think that it resonated with leaders who are constantly trying to find ways to get their message across and seeing themselves fall short of reaching everyone. The concept is that you need to repeat your important messages over and over again for a number of reasons that I explain in the post. For those who read the article it seemed like a simple and obvious solution, but one that very few of us were putting into action. So I think it tackled an issue all leaders face and the solution was right in front of us, but none of us were seeing it.

Cameron’s profile

Cameron Morrissey is a recognized expert in leadership and management and recently authored his second book “The 7 Deadly Sins of Leadership”. Cameron is the editor of The Manager’s Diary Blog, and has almost one million followers of his daily musings on Twitter and Facebook. Just as importantly, Cameron still maintains an active role in the workforce as the Director of Corporate Development for a global linen manufacturer. Cameron’s blog is

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