It recently occurred to me that although we have a leader of some sort working on making every department better in our company, we have no one explicitly working on making those leaders better. At first I shrugged it off because I couldn’t imagine the hubris of someone who is instructing others on leadership that was not near retirement age with many battle scars to show for it, or maybe some amazingly accomplished wunderkind with a billion dollar company, but then I recalled that the abuse does not take away from the use, and that even if I’m a youngish leader that still has a ton to learn, we could all benefit from talking about the ideals of good leadership. Plus, I read like 2-3 leadership books a month and my wife is tired of hearing about them. So I decided to start a monthly discussion where the group will review key principles and discuss them. In the sessions we’re also discussing specific scenarios and also reviewing my trusty old Great Place To Work questions, but for the purposes of this blog I thought I’d just share those discussed principles since I’m already writing them out for the meetings.
Before I go any further I really want to stress that I do not live under any delusions that I am such a great leader that I need to be imparting my wisdom on others. I perceive my role to be closer to a student that prepared the outline for the study group. I also do not pretend to have thought up even a single tiny aspect of any of these points. These are all stolen from others either through examples or from books. I’m just bringing them up as discussion or thinking points for those that are interested in regularly checking themselves. OK, without further ado, here are my 3 points for the month:
Ownership – Everything that happens in the group that you lead is completely your responsibility. Everything. The quality of the work, the speed of the work, the culture of the group, the motivation level of the team, the attendance records, the failures, the failure to foresee what was going to go wrong, the hiring, the promoting, everything. This seems like a simple and noble concept at first but the more you think about it the more you catch. If someone on your team can’t work because their computer is broken, that isn’t IT’s problem, that is your problem. You need to make sure it gets fixed fast. If you have someone that consistently comes in late, that is not that employee’s problem, that is your problem. It’s on you to make them aware of the impact and consequences these actions have on them. Your failure to confront your team and have the necessary uncomfortable conversations early on might result in them losing their job and being in complete shock about it. If they are in shock about getting fired, that’s a pretty good indication that you screwed them over. We all need to spend time thinking about how deep this really goes. Generally when issues come up you find them in management far before you can fault an employee. Whenever someone fails to perform ask yourself how you failed them and make it right. For a deeper dive on this topic I recommend Extreme Ownership, an amazing book written on the topic by Navy Seals.
Humility & Ego – Man, is there anything tougher to battle than your own ego? Usually when I have some small victory over my ego I pat myself on the back and congratulate myself for my superior level of humility. I wrote about this 4 years ago on this blog and I’m still no closer to a solution. My best guess at this point is that it’s an enemy we’ll all be battling for the rest of our lives. The problem is that you never seemingly win that battle. You have to battle just to not be completely ruined by it. And if you think very little of yourself don’t think you’re off the hook. That’s still your ego trying to prevent itself from being bruised by actually trying something, better to sit tight and laugh at others for their foolish attempts at accomplishing goals, than risk bruising your ego by trying yourself…right?
So anyways bringing this back to how to fight this in a leadership role, Here are some ideas for this.
- Never take credit, always credit the team. There’s nothing worse than working for someone who then claims credit for your collective work.
- Source ideas from the team. You are not the savior that has arrived to fix everything (even if that is what you were told), Consider the team on all major decisions and get their feedback and advice when appropriate.
- Be respectful in all interactions. You’re not superior to your team. You need to treat them with the exact same respect you want. Being in a leadership role doesn’t give you a pass to be a dick.
- Ask for critical feedback from your team about yourself personally and actually implement it to improve yourself.
There are a million more but for this month I’m leaving it here. Again I have to recommend an amazing book on this subject. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year and every human should read it. Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. Easily worth your time. I think I’ll need to read this quarterly.
Ethical Management of Company Time – In this context I’m not talking about your own time management, but managing your team’s paid time. Most anyone in a leadership role will commonly get requests to come in late, leave early, take a long lunch, and generally change their schedule. While I’m almost infinitely flexible on these things, I don’t see myself as having the authority to gift that person that paid company time. If you own your company that’s different, but in my case one of my responsibilities is to manage the employee’s time. Unless there is a specific and explicit understanding otherwise, or the employee is paid hourly, I see it as a requirement to ensure that any missed time is made up or accounted for using PTO or make up time. Anything under half a day I ask to be made up, anything beyond that I ask to be taken as PTO or unpaid time. It’s not that I’m just being a stickler on a power trip, I just don’t see myself as having the righto grant impromptu PTO. Drawing this line in the sand avoids lots of confusion and also sets expectations for everyone.
So hopefully these points will bring you some value. Stay tuned for more next month!