Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Thursday, November 12, 2015
I just watched some classic bad leadership in a conversation between two managers and a technician. All three were trying to solve a problem, but in the end they all left mad.
The issue: a customer's second bad experience with a bad product. Certainly something managers have a right to ask about. But here's what went wrong: the way they asked was, "Have you done this? Could you try that?" They sounded like they didn't think the technician was trying very hard, or maybe just wasn't competent.
And here's the predictable outcome: the technician finally said, "Look, why don't you guys do it yourselves." That push-back made the managers feel like he's arrogant and not a team player.
Ironically, both sides wanted the same thing: for the other to have confidence in them. Neither got it. And the customer isn't any better off, either.
The lesson is that communication as much about how you say things than what you say. Managers could ask, "Help me understand what you're doing." The technician could say, "Let me ease your concern by explaining how thorough I've been." Same concerns, different words, but the team would still be intact.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Vivid memory: I was leading a quartering party (a small advance team that secures a new place for a command post). After maybe 30 minutes, security was out, comms were up, my tactical assessment was done, the perimeter defenses had been sited, and my soldiers were hard at work. So I moved on to the next priority: machinegun emplacement. I got an entrenching tool, jumped into a hole with a very surprised soldier, and started digging. When I left the unit, he toasted me as the only Major he had ever seen dig a fighting position.
I intentionally recall that moment, because it reminds me of a key leadership truth: you reap huge credibility dividends if institutional memory includes images of you dirty from doing the worst jobs.
When you do the hard thing, there are some invaluable outcomes:
1. You understand at gut level what it takes to get the job done. That can only help you plan and resource, as well as be empathetic to your team.
2. On that Us-Them spectrum, you move closer to the Us end of the scale.
3. Your employees are more likely to see you as a hard worker with different tasks than theirs, rather than somebody with a slack job who avoids real work.
4. You get actually get something productive done, which always feels good.
Old-school leadership said, “Never ask your people to do something you aren't willing to do yourself.” These days that isn't always practical in the literal sense, but the idea is good. My advice: At least once a quarter, schedule a half day or day to roll your sleeves up and do the hard thing for a while. You'll become a better leader.