Talk about your character-building experience...
I was a young hot-shot project manager on an engagement that I had sold to a client. I had it all planned out and had delusions of completely delighting my client with an issue-free project. It all seemed so simple, then the project started...and never finished.
I'll spare you the gory details of my harrowing experience but what I can tell you is that I put more focus on selling and planning the project than I did on its execution. I took a naive attitude of the project being able to pretty much run itself with some junior analysts running the day-to-day aspects of the work. It blew up in my face and I got booted from the client never to return again. It was my inaugural visit to the project management guillotine.
Some time back I was reminded about a crucial attribute that all seasoned leaders possess. What surprised me was that it didn't come from what I do in my work life, it came from an interaction I had with my then 15-year-old son.
Sparing you some of the gory details, we had a situation where my son and I had to have some "man talk" where I expressed some displeasure with his behavior. It wasn't pretty and was very uncomfortable for him and not at all pleasant for me. Given that I took some huge withdrawals from the emotional bank account with him I recognized that I needed to have a more grounded follow-up discussion with him the next day.
In Part 1: Ten Differences Between a Secure and an Insecure Leader, I contrasted ten key attributes that distinguish a secure leader from one who is insecure in his or her abilities. Part 2 is dedicated to giving you eight nuggets to help you succeed under an insecure leader.
For years I was an insecure leader. My greatest fear in leading others was that I would be "found out" and that everyone would see me not as a strong, competent leader but as a bumbling fool. Through the years I've learned that the quest for infallibility is impossible to reach and that making mistakes is part of the growth process. I'm less insecure today because I am more comfortable saying "I don't know" without everyone in the room thinking I'm an incompetent twit. Having said that, I am secure in knowing I will continue to screw up until my Maker calls me home.
Some time back I was working with a leader who was having difficulty with his employees feeling empowered in their work. Ned (not his real name) was frustrated. "I don't understand it!" he stammered. "I assign tasks out, stay out of their way while they're completing the tasks, hold them accountable to dates, and praise them when the task is done well. I do all this yet my employees tell me I don't empower them. I'm ready to pull my hair out (ironically he was folically challenged)".
Several years back I conceived and funded a small business. My partner and I were very excited about the concept and had sky-high aspirations about the prospects of the business. While the idea was great, I ultimately decided to shut the business down as I felt the cost of keeping the business afloat would continue to outstrip the revenue. I'm not going to bore you with the details of the business; what I do want to do is talk with you about the decision process I went through and how the "morning after" decision making process tipped the scales for me.
Some time back I was talking with a fellow project manager about a difficult issue he was having with his new boss. The thumbnail summary of the discussion was that the project manager was feeling overly scrutinized and micro-managed. Now I knew the project manager to be a capable professional who could confidently handle the work assigned to him. Yet his boss insisted on managing every detailed aspect of his work. More so, his boss was very critical of the work being done even though it was performed to professionally acceptable standard. The situation became unbearable for the project manager; he ultimately left the organization.
So maybe you think you're all that and a bag of chips and that you can get more things done than most people in your organization. As managers, though, it's not just about you getting things done on your own; it's about you getting your team to be as effective (or more) as you.
I deliberately use the term effective versus efficient. For me, there is a very clear distinction which I believe is crucial in driving results.
In an earlier leadership role I had been striving to create focus and accountability within each of our major work areas. The team responded beautifully with doing their best to adjust to roles, to stay focused on their areas, and to minimize confusion by stepping across boundaries. They did exactly as I asked.
We were in a team meeting and I could see that there was erupting confusion around contacting customers in an effort to close some sales. There was a lot of respect for my sales & marketing manager in not stepping in on her turf when it came to customers. Where the problem arose, though, was in the fact that the team was confused as to who was supposed to be following up on some key sales activity that had begun prior to our organizational re-alignment.
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