I am drawing a line in the sand. This is what it means to be a great leader.
I’m not angry. I’m just tired of working for and with crappy leaders. I want to define and shape what it means to be the kind of manager and leader that makes a real dent in the universe.
Why is this important? Lets do some basic math to add some context. The average employee spends 9 hours (including lunch) at the office, plus 30 minutes each way commuting. That’s 50 hours per week. The same employee spends 3 hours each evening with their family before kids head to bed. Add to that 14 hours each day (awake, as a family) on the weekend. That’s still only 43 hours. As completely backwards as that sounds, its a reality for most of us.
Let’s be clear: our first responsibility is to make the company money. They pay us a lot for what we do… but life shouldn’t be miserable as a result. Don’t we owe it to our people, who spend a majority of their time with us, to be someone who can actually make a difference in their professional lives?
I’ve been fortunate to have spent many years working with amazing leaders, and they have shaped who I am. I have also worked, in the past, with some of the worst “leaders” I have ever known. I want to take what I have learned and experienced, and document what makes a leader that people are willing to rally behind.
As a leader, you are no longer measured by your own accomplishments. Your success depends on the success of your team.
The amount of respect your team has for you will largely determine the impact you have on them, and will drive the success of your career. Respect is earned. This is how:
How We Treat People
In every situation, we seek first to understand.
We treat our people as human beings, not robotic resources.
We strive to serve those we lead, rather than dictate by mandate.
We recognize that younger and newer employees are particularly self-conscious about how we perceive them, and we go out of our way to make them feel appreciated.
How We Communicate
We communicate early and often, and never assume that someone already knows what is expected of them.
We appreciate the value of good story-telling, and use personal examples and stories to encourage and motivate. We also recognize that an insincere or fake story is worse than no story at all.
In every thing we do, we seek to provide clarity of purpose and vision, because we recognize that is the most motivating thing we can do for driven and ambitious individuals.
When company directions or needs change, we take the time to explain why. We address concerns and seek new buy-in from the team before proceeding.
When dates or deadlines are necessary, we recognize the reality of the product development triad (“Good, Fast, or Cheap: Pick Two”). We manage expectations and communicate those expectations clearly both up and down.
We recognize that when we make a statement, it carries a significant amount of weight. We are careful not to influence direction through our comments or questions, when we don’t mean to.
How We Mentor
We have difficult conversations early. And when we do, we keep the conversation honest with no sugar-coating.
We set clear expectations, in written form as much as possible.
We hold regular one-on-ones with our direct reports, and spend more time listening that speaking.
We recognize that every individual learns differently, and we tailor our mentorship to the individual.
We always praise publicly, and correct privately.
As much as possible, we provide objective and clear examples of things that need to be improved.
We deliberately invest time in developing our people. We include career development as a common theme in our one-on-ones.
How We Lead
We lead from the front, instead of pushing from the rear.
We appreciate the importance of celebrating success, and recognize that different individuals feel appreciated in different ways.
We value the importance of heads-down time and avoid unnecessary meetings as much as possible. If a meeting ends early, we end the meeting instead of filling time.
We always assume positive intent. When someone does something wrong, we always assume that they did the best they could, based on what they knew at the time.
We don’t assume we have all the best answers. We hire smart people and empower them to try new things.
We manage with guard rails, not leashes. We set boundaries, but give as much autonomy as possible to smart and motivated individuals.
We get buy-in from individuals and the team before committing to anything on behalf of the team.
We develop a sense of urgency in our teams, while also helping them find a balance between doing things right while avoiding perfectionism.
We encourage others to learn by doing, knowing that they will fail occasionally. We encourage the open discussion of failure and lessons learned, without fear of criticism.
We shield and protect our people from internal politics and power struggles as much as possible.
We never lead by fear or threats. Instead, we lead by setting clear expectations, empowering others to make decisions, and allowing them to learn from their mistakes.