How to get “Movin’ on up…”

If I paid you to think, you could cash your check at the penny arcade.

If I paid you to think, you could cash your check at the penny arcade.

John Baldoni’s post (here) identifies one of the leadership lessons I’ve had to re-learn continually — letting go of my self-image as the “go-to” or “indispensable” person.  It saps my team’s effectiveness when I don’t remember to step back from my tendency to want to know it all (and to “show that I know” to all).

John is riffing on a while paper from Scott Elbin’s firm (the firm’s site is here, Scott’s Next Level blog is here).  I won’t recapitulate the post; John’s summary (below) is effective enough on its own:

[L]eaders accomplish little by themselves; they can accomplish much by working with others. Those who are in positions of identifying and grooming next generation leaders would do well to select managers who know how to achieve results through the actions of others. Competency will get you promoted one or two rungs on the ladder; working with and through others will open doors to senior leadership.

PM Quote of the Day — Florence Nightingale

Apprehension, uncertainty, waiting, expectation, fear of surprise, do a patient more harm than any exertion.

This quote resonates during these uncertain and surprising times.  Florence Nightingale was one of the first medical professionals to recognize that the mind and body work, or don’t work, together.  Her insight was not merely derived from anecdote.  She pioneered the use of statistics in medicine, especially the visual representation of those statistics for non-expert audiences (example here).

Most of us don’t need a statistical analysis to know our teams will flounder without direction, especially now.  I’ve found a couple of posts that address this challenge:

  • Rita McGrath points out (here) one approach to getting teams unstuck — clarifying assumptions, reaching out to the future, and making decision rationales clear. 
  • John Baldoni focuses (here) on just how and why these are especially tough times for managers, and gives some suggestions that parallel Rita’s.

Adding 100s of meetings to your calendar…yikes!

At least that was my reaction when I saw this post by John Baldoni (here).  But when you read the post, it doesn’t seem quite so crazy.  Here’s an excerpt:

Andrew Solnordal, a regional manager at Gulf & Fraser, a credit union in British Columbia…, is responsible for a nine-branch operation and more than eighty employees. He has committed himself to visiting with each and every employee once per quarter. Think about it – he’s adding 320+ meetings to his schedule per year.

That sounds daunting at first.  But even if each meeting were 30 minutes long, Andrew would still be spending less than ten percent of his time on these one-on-ones.  Not so crazy, eh?

My weekly jour fixe/standing meetings (not progress, status, or forecast meetings) with my team and most important stakeholders make up about five percent of my week.  Of course, my community numbers in the thousands, so talking to everyone isn’t practical.  But I should have the time to reach a bit deeper into my stakeholder pool. As Baldoni notes, this approach is

a key leadership behavior: go[ing] where the work is… [or] gemba, going where the value is.  

What is toughness in a leader?

I like John Baldoni’s distinction between exterior and interior toughness (post here) as outlined below:

I am not referring to what’s on the outside (gruff and ready), but rather what is inside the individual (character and resilience). 

The post has a good set of comments as well, so it’s worth reading all the way down.

Finally, IMHO, humility is important because it acknowledges the obvious.  When I don’t recognize and admit mistakes — mistakes that everyone affected see for themselves — I essentially am showing my stakeholders that I’m disconnected from reality. 

It is rare that we’re really fooling anyone about the consequences of our bad or mistaken acts.  Admitting error and making amends ASAP is only common sense.

Manny Ramirez, Theo Epstein, and Leadership Do’s/Don’ts

Two posts on terminating top performers at HarvardBusiness.org (here and here) had my ears perked when I heard Theo Epstein, General Manager of the Boston Red Sox discuss the events in and around the Manny Ramirez trade.  Manny was, and still can be on occasion, one of the greatest right-handed bats in baseball history.  He does, however, have a unique attitude and deportment that is simply known as “Manny being Manny”.

I wondered how Theo would discuss what was, in essence, the termination of his top performer.  There is a lot to admire about his management style.  He’s not even 35, yet Theo is one of the more self-possessed, articulate, mature, and successful sport executives around.   Let me pass along a few “Theo’s do’s and don’ts” that I derived from the interview:

  • Don’t bad mouth past contributions — This makes one look bitter and foolish.  For goodness sakes, Manny averaged nearly 40 HR/110 RBI in a Red Sox uniform.
  • Do answer specific objections/questions with facts — That said, don’t let objections lie.  However, answer the objections with facts.  When Theo was asked about the secondary effects of losing Manny on David Ortiz, Theo could easily demonstrate that Ortiz’s production was unaffected by Manny’s previous absences.
  • Don’t, in the words of Theo, “parade around and tell people what’s going on behind the scenes, just to make ourselves look good“.  Too many sports leaders get caught up in trying to ensure everyone — fans, the media, and especially the players — knows that “they’re the boss”.  Continue reading
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