On Instagram, from July 6 to early August, I am sharing ‘things I know’ from 20+years of managing and leading people. These are my ‘universal truths’. So I thought I might unpick some of them here.
Disclaimer: Yes, these observations are gross generalisations and won’t apply to everyone or every situation. But hey, in my experience these apply to most, and while they are my universal truths, they don’t have to be yours.
Two types of truth
a) The warm, fuzzy, empathetic, uplifting, inclusive and engaging side of management and leadership.
b) The dark, tough, toe the line, I’m the boss, you are not, don’t try me side of the management and leadership.
I want to share with you the ying and the yang, one from the warm, fuzzy side and one from the hard arse, dark side. It’s kinda like Star Wars and the force. We need both to keep the work universe in order and ticking along productively.
It’s too easy, when we talk of leadership and managing people, to focus on the inspiring side of leadership. We forget that there is a very real counterbalance required, if in fact, you are going to really lead and make a difference. It’s not all beer and skittles, coffee dates and sharing birthday cake. No, to be an effective leader means that some of the time, some of the people will not like you. At all. Not even for birthday cake.
In sharing my universal truths I hope you find something that makes you think, smile or question. Let me know in the comments what your universal truths are as I’d be keen to explore this subject more. Cheers Le
Universal Truth #1a
Progress beats perfection any day of the week.
Short story: Be certain you are not killing your team’s productivity by being highly critical of their efforts or insisting on your brand of perfection. Just because Mary ‘did it her way’ does not mean it is the wrong way. Let progress, not perfection be the goal.
Long story: Too often I see good people focusing on perfection over actually making progress. This came from my tourism days, where time was literally money and getting the job done right was better than getting the job done perfectly, but two hours after the customers had left. Timing was everything.
When I moved to local government, I saw procrastination, obsession with perfection and their room mate, indecision. These attributes swallow up huge swaths of time. Some projects had been ongoing for years and years. For years, and not the kind that should, but simple stuff. Progress was not the goal, there was no sense of urgency. Avoiding failure was more important than actually getting something done.
This is tied up in a complex web of policy, red tape, fear of failing with public money, arse protecting and avoiding responsibility or, sometimes a lack of delegated authority to act in the first place. It took a while for my teams to understand how much progress matters, but once they did, we got moving. Three things made a difference. I communicated that I value progress over perfection, secondly I would have their backs if something did go wrong and finally I delegated to them the power to progress. They now had permission to progress, security to progress and the power to progress. So move on!
The Dark Side #1b
A workplace without common courtesy will be slipping down an organisational cultural slide to nowhere good.
Short story: Manners, my work place needs to have manners and common courtesy. If, you as the boss let manners and common courtesy slip, well then the culture is going to slip too, and shift to a darker place. It’s insidious and a disease that permeates, and as the boss it’s your mission to call it out, cut it out, and heal it, one toxic lump at a time.
Long story: Rude people. Ick. I am sorry, not sorry, but when someone in the workplace says ‘good morning’ to you, then the expectation, my expectation, is you will lift your head and respond. Not ignore the greeting, not respond with a grunt or a nod, but with a salutation of your own making. I will take everything from ‘hi’ to a full blown ‘good morning, how are you today’ greeting. What I won’t take, is no response.
When a person is prepared to treat you, the boss, like that, how are they treating everyone else, the team and your customers. I don’t accept the ‘I’m an introvert, who never says g’day to anyone’ excuse. Well, time to learn a new skill set my sweet and valued little introvert, it’s a soft skill called ‘getting on with people’.
I once worked for a French chef who sacked people on the spot for not responding to his cheery ‘allo allo’. If he was in a good mood he might just throw a tin of pears at your head. I’m not that bad, but I have been known to chuck a U turn mid office walk thru and go stand by your desk and engage until I get a response. Please, be a nice human and be human.
As to the executive manager who claims not to be a ‘people person’ and therefore cannot say morning to the team, I say we are paying you six figures so I will make it a KPI if I have to. Say good morning you pompous twit. Don’t be that guy. Building daily connectivity with the humans who you work with is the basis of you developing executive insight and emotional intelligence. It’s a management superpower and without it you will never make a great show of being a leader.