Agile, Organization Development, Personal, Software Development

Leadership by Influence – Part Deux

This is in continuation to the earlier post…Here are few things I do more consciously than ever before in my own leadership journey:

1. Hire bright people and get out-of-the-way. It has been my rule #1 forever. Leaders are responsible for bringing in the bright talent and establish right organization processes/structure necessary that encourages desirable behavior and reduces power broker in the organization. It helps when decision-making can be spread at appropriate levels for an organization to scale and be efficient.

2. Establish organization/individual expectation. It help to establish aspirational goals while providing safety net. It is important to provide safety net to take away the fear of failing. However, a stretch goal is worth having to bring the best out of our collective people plus it surface challenges that need various people to collaborate to solve and bring high tide in the organization.

3. Avoid bad mouth your peers; superiors; etc…it neither help build relationship nor it build personal credibility that is needed to have collaborative relationship. This does not mean to be chum with everyone. It is ok to have disagreements and learn to share them professionally. Also, it is ok to occasionally vent – we all are humans and need emotion release at times to clear the head. I find it best done in private and with a friend that you confide.  Just don’t take things personally and start dis-crediting or demonizing others. Seek to understand. I find it helpful to focus on the intent rather than what I hear on the surface that cause folks to react negatively.

4. Where possible establish cross functional workgroup for problem solving. It help broader organization engaged to address the organization challenges. Also, overtime it develop collaborative behavior towards tackling problems together and arriving at solution that has broader organization view-point. More often than not – I am surprised by how much organization want to participate and solve business/organizational challenges. Actually they will arrive at the similar quality or better solution that a leader may have but now with an increase sense of pride and ownership that is needed for successful execution.

5. Find a way to call out your perspective as workgroup discuss things. However, this is usually the hardest thing I have encountered for me to accomplish thus far as I usually have a perspective or two to share in most dialog happening in the organization. It is hard for team to remove positional influence that leaders carry when they share their perspective. It is far too common for team to take a leader’s perspective literally as a desirable “outcome” – while that is not what you may imply. How things get said and what gets said matters to the individuals in the room. It is easy for any leader to trample and push personal agenda through leaving team baffled. As a leader one need to be consistent here day in and day out as I have found this to be hardest thing to achieve.

6. Remain open – to the point be willing to make/accept a decision that goes against your own personal conclusion as the team recommend one. This does not mean just accept what get recommended or accept every recommendation. Of course, as a leader ask questions to ensure recommendations meet the objective and goals established for the initiative as you or team arrive at the decision.

7. Dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity – this is another reason where leaders quickly try to take the steering wheel back when things become uncertain. Everyone has their threshold of dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity – before our control-freak DNA takes over. This is where patience can be a real virtue – however it is usually in short supply in such situations when impatience run high. Finding your own comfortable zone during uncertainty is personal growth and leadership challenge.

8. Dealing with Conflict – when to step in the organization conflict? Do you let it just go and wait for it to be sorted out between individuals/groups? or should you step in the moment you hear about it? Wouldn’t you want involved individuals to use conflicting opportunity to work things out together? I find healthy conflicts are the perfect learning ground to breed future leaders; grow and shape characters. I don’t believe in keeping such conflict prolonged though. I usually get involved sooner rather than later. However, when involved I attempt to not take any personal side or protect individuals. It helps me when I focus on the merit of the ideas and encourage all involved to bring every idea forward including the conflicting ones. By being involved at an appropriate time reduce the situation from becoming a political football. Also, now team has learned a vital lesson to deliberate for better ideas to survive.

9. Create an environment where people collaborate naturally. Some part of it is an individual reflection whether as a leader one is collaborative or not. Most will say we are collaborative. And we all are to an extent. However think are we collaborative beyond our own territories – particularly when it come to problem solving where you may have to give up something you control like your resources/priorities/etc to other business to solve bigger picture? I have found it helpful to think whether my decision or emotions are due to what I am going to lose in a situation or the merit of the idea. It helps taking high road in such situations. Helping business in broader challenges to solve usually result in with better solution for everyone involved.

A Collaborate natural environment is where individuals on their own engage their peers to share best practices; solve business problems collaboratively without expectation and arrive at mutual recommendation that is in the best interest of the business.

10. Lastly, as a leader don’t do the work or make decision that is actually someone else responsibility. Stop it. You hire people in a particular role for a reason. Fix the situation that is causing you to do their work. You may find coaching/feedback will go a long way. Just resist the idea of doing it on your own. It kills team’s collaborative spirit.  Plus now you have a dis-empowered team around you making it overall a weaker team. As the saying goes “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today.  Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”. So go teach your team how to fish.

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3 thoughts on “Leadership by Influence – Part Deux”

  1. Great post. It is very informative to read your perspective on leadership.

    I have 2 questions for you:
    1. Do you have any thoughts on how to help managers communicate company strategy better?
    2. How do we limit the impact of “positional influence” when soliciting feedback in public or private forums?

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