Manager’s are often under pressure to compromise and deviate from what they feel is right. A manager, project manager, or any other leader needs a baseline of principle from which to base his actions. Managers need to know when to stand firm.
These principles of leadership are based on my understanding of “Tough Minded Leadership” by Joe D Batten. The “traditional” approach to management is based around a steady state with well defined projects to make incremental changes. It concentrates on budgets, objectives, and timescales. This approach fails dismally in times of rapid change. It fails the individual and the organization generally due to its attention to the invalid goals of budget, schedule and objectives. A far more dynamic approach to management is required. It is more challenging. It recognizes that budget, timescale and objectives are in flux. The principles ensure meaningful deliverables and keep managers sane.
So what are they principles?
Create a common understanding of project, corporate and personal goals. Develop plans cooperatively as a team to achieve progress on personal goals through achieving project and corporate goals. Create expectations of each person fulfilling their role. Create personal moral contracts between team members to help each other achieve personal goals.
Expectation := Results
Open honest supportive expectation become results. You create a moral obligation that is far stronger than threat or authority because this is personal.
Don’t order, direct, instruct or tell team members what to do or how to perform. This is hard to achieve. The corollary, which is more difficult, is to get those above you in the management to act in the same way.
“… what’s on my lung is on my tongue. I will always stand up for myself and I won’t toe the line. I won’ t play the game if it’s not an honest game and an honourable game. There are a lot of people who don’t make waves and don’t speak up. I can’t be like that.” — Alan Sugar
If you don’t know, then say so. If a schedule is slipping then say so. If quality is low then say so. If you screw up then say so.
Always be open, honest and vulnerable. If someone takes advantage of that vulnerability then that’s life! Integrity is more important than a job. It is important to accept that the truth is often risky in the short term. However, messing with the truth is more risky, especially in the long term.
If you’re dealing with suppliers, then be honest and open. You may say, “What about negotiation?” I would reply, “What about partnership?” A good negotiator can reach a fair deal by being honest and open. If you reach an unfair deal then you open yourself for the same treatment later. In technology, you must accept that the supplier has some aces because technology is not a commodity.
Expect the Highest Standards of Yourself
Give 100%. Don’t be above the team. Don’t be a hypocrite. Encourage and accept criticism from the team — but make sure you can handle it. Make sure you know enough about the jobs that others are doing to know what they are facing. Also to gain their respect, to contribute to their work, and to understand their progress or otherwise
Guts and determination are an essential expectation.
It’s that can do, positive thinking thing. Most objectives are near impossible when they are served up by management. You have to be positive to be able to work out how to achieve something useful. There will be plenty of negative people in the team ready to accept failure from the start. Your enthusiasm and ability to find solutions will win them over so they can make a constructive contribution. There will be plenty of people outside the team ready to pull you down. You’re determination will prove them wrong.
See the Positive in Everyone
You need to see the positive in everyone, particularly in the team when often you have no choice over the members. Everyone has strengths that can be used to support the work and others in the team. Sometimes they hide them well — maybe that’s their strength!
People are People
Try to understand why people act as they do. It is often down to their conditioning, their background, and the environment that they are or were working in. The only way you will understand how people think is to get to know them. If you think badly of them then they probably think the same way of you. Is that how to do a good job? Give them a chance. They might give you a chance when you screw up!
Tell The Truth
“I have only two eyes and ears: there are other eyes and ears on the pitch and I am always prepared to listen.” — Lawrence Dallaglio
Tell your boss the truth. He can’t make sensible decisions without good information. Managers are idiots because no one tells them the truth!
Don’t wait until you have the full facts, it might be too late. Give your boss the pieces of the jigsaw that you have. Between you might be able to see the full picture.
Please, Thank You and Help!
It is simple courtesy to say please and thank you but how many managers say it? It’s also important to act on it. In an appraisal, a good rating or a pay rise says you meant it. Asking for help is a great compliment to someone and rarely an imposition. It also recognises that you are not perfect.
No job is worth it if there is no fun. The fun should be during the work as well as socially. Don’t do stupid hours.
Some managers and users won’t like to see your team enjoying themselves. You need to protect the team from the “Victorian” work ethic, it’s destructive. Why should anyone work for you if it isn’t fun?
If the personal contracts are in place then the team control themselves. Communication within the team is established to deliver the contracts. Reporting is automatic. Exceptions are reported as potential failure to honour a contract. Regular reporting is automatic to help you fulfil your role.
“Its not what you predict but what your imagination inspires. It is aspiration that creates the future.” — Zurich Group advertisement.
Work is about realizing a vision. That vision must be communicated and understood by the team. A bold plan is an honest plan. It doesn’t say more than is known — you can’t commit to a date until you’re on top of it. The management or client won’t like it but you have to tough that one out.
When you have information, create a plan that uses it. Don’t ignore the facts because they don’t fit.
Live the Plan
You have to believe in the plan for others to take it seriously. If others are to take it seriously then it must be credible and your belief in it must be credible.
The principles are simple but effective –
- Create expectation
- Expect the highest standards of yourself
- See the positive in everyone
- People are people
- Tell the truth
- Be bold
- Live the plan