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Business + Management: Marty Mcghie

How a Print Manager Can Become Leader of the Shop

Where are you in the process?




man standing

YOU’VE LIKELY WITNESSED a flock of sheep being herded from one place to another. For a lucky few, like myself, perhaps you’ve even experienced this firsthand. It typically requires several sheepherders on horses and some trained dogs to successfully move them from point A to point B. To be frank, herding sheep is a nightmare.

If you were to visit the outer hills of Jerusalem, you would see something rather different. To this day, there are shepherds tending their flocks in a very dissimilar way. The shepherds from the “old country” know each of their sheep by name. In the morning, the shepherd leads them out to pasture, and at night he leads them back to safety. There is no herding; the sheep follow the shepherd.

In today’s management environment, you can either be a manager or a leader. To be clear, I’m not implying that being a manager is a bad thing. In fact, you’re probably a very good manager; perhaps even a great one. But transforming yourself from a manager to a leader is certainly a goal worth striving for.

Work Management

One of the fundamental duties of a manager is to manage work. Successful managers typically use metrics, standard operating procedures (SOPs), team building, production meetings, frequent interaction with employees, and other useful tools to help their department become as productive as possible. These are all very important and positive things.

A leader, on the other hand, will build systems designed to help employees succeed as individuals and as a team on a consistent basis. Like managers, leaders will certainly utilize metrics to measure both individual and team success, but these metrics will be very clearly defined and discussed on a regular basis. Leaders create cultures of learning, open communication, personal development, and team-oriented goals. Successful leaders will always place individual and company safety as the number one priority.

Problem Solving

Both managers and leaders spend a significant amount of their time solving problems. When confronted with an issue, effective managers will typically listen, figure out the cause, come up with a solution, and then work with the team to solve it. If this is a “people problem,” then a manager will likely sit down with the individual and discuss the issue at hand in an effort to come to a resolution. A good manager might refer to company SOPs or corporate policies to guide the conversation and help the individual understand what expected behavior might look like. Again, not really a bad or wrong approach.


Effective leaders approach problem-solving with a different mindset. If the problem affects the team, leaders will adopt a process of honest, yet open, dialogue, utilizing team collaboration to identify the root cause of the problem and to provide the appropriate solutions. If the problem is with an individual, the approach is essentially the same: open, one-on-one communication with the intent of really determining the root cause of the problem before jumping to a solution. Successful leaders will work the problem until both parties come to an understanding and have decided upon the solution. This will likely include an agreed-upon plan for correcting the behavior and a follow-up plan to ensure that in the coming weeks, everything continues to move in a positive direction.

Where are you in the process of becoming a leader? To be fair, this doesn’t happen overnight; mistakes will be made along the way. But as you commit, you’ll see positive changes amongst you and your team members. Just as the sheep reacts differently to the sheepherder vs. the shepherd, your team members will become more loyal, more productive, and overall better employees when they have a strong leader to follow.



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