One of my former grad profs had a chip on her shoulder about a particular theory in our field. She made no secret of the fact that she thought this theory was rubbish, that it represented the most shallow and scattered type of scholarly thinking. The problem was, it was a popular theory, one…
Managing without authority
Lots of managers start out in a position where they need to lead others without having formal authority over those people. No one made them the boss, and they certainly don’t have any inherent mandate to tell anyone what to do. This is a tricky situation, but I believe that succeeding in a leadership position before having formal authority is a major predictor of future ability as a manager and leader.
If you want someone to do something and you don’t have authority over them, you only have one choice for how to approach the situation. Before you say anything, you need to be a trusted and respected part of your team. If people don’t trust, respect, and like you, why the hell would they ever do what you say? If you’ve already built up that reputation, good for you. If not, good luck.
The second part is how you communicate with your team. People may respect and trust you, but if you lord over them with your self-granted authority, you’ll soon find yourself with a self-made rebellion. Be polite and respectful. Work just as hard as they do, harder if you can. Don’t tell people what to do; ask them. Thank them for their work. Broadcast their successes.
And when you do get authority, keep doing those things.
Clients & colleagues
A friend of mine recently conducted an informal study, only one question. It was, “Who is more important, your colleagues or your clients/partners?”
I thought about it a bit, but couldn’t decide. In my mind, the separation between colleagues and clients is a false one. When you’re working with someone to achieve a goal, who cares whether they’re internal or external? So many of us fall into an “us” vs. “them” mentality, routinely badmouthing clients or complaining about client needs and requests.
The worst is when people in leadership positions speak this way to their teams. Spreading this combative mindset can rob you and your team of a major source of joy and motivation at work. Several studies and articles (example) have determined that helping others (including clients!) makes people happier, increases work output, and leads to more creative and innovative solutions.
Why make the client into the enemy when the alternative is so much more awesome?
“Leadership isn’t about your title, nor is it about bossing others around. Being a strong leader means thinking about the teams’ needs before your own, helping other people to grow and maximize their own full potential, and sharing credit when it’s due (and shouldering blame as needed, too). ”
We have met the enemy… and he is us
Dearest Priscilla -
I’ve never experienced the true horror of war like I did today. Our battalion joined with the 7th and 8th battalions at Deer Creek. We saw the enemy no more than 100 yards away on the other side. We caught them by surprise and had them outnumbered three to one. We had just replenished our artillery in Parksburg, so we knew we had them outgunned. We advanced on the right flank, while the other battalions advanced on the left flank.
Then, the unthinkable happened.
The other battalions opened fire on us. Men wearing the same uniforms as us and carrying the same flag as ours turned their guns and cannons on us. We were so shocked that we didn’t know what to do. One by one, our men fell to the fierce attack. By the time we realized what was going on, we had lost at least half our men. We fled into the swamps to hide, but we were so panicked that we scattered everywhere.
After the other battalions marched on, we escaped the swamps and regrouped at Crayburn’s Landing to tend to the wounded and dying. Our supplies have been taken and we barely have enough to survive. I’ll never know why our troops opened fire on us. I thought I had seen the worst of humanity during this dreaded war, but I had never seen the worst until today.
I send my love to you and the children.
What is unthinkable in war - turning against your own - is sadly common in the business world. We invent cute terms to describe this workplace behavior, like “playing politics”, “throwing people under the bus” and “stabbing co-workers in the back”. But the intention is to make yourself seem better by hurting a fellow co-worker. You advance your career by hurting your co-worker’s career.
Teams are the biggest losers in these confrontations. Teams should be focused on accomplishing their goals, not allowing their team members to fight among themselves for individual honor and rewards. Losing teams focus on which individuals will get blamed for the team’s failure. Winning teams focus on the score and the trophy they’ll get for winning.
Leaders have to stand up for their loyal followers and not tolerate team members who attack their own.
A thousand times, yes.
I was running today and I overheard a snippet of a conversation between a couple walking through the park. As I slipped past them, the woman said “…it’s like, everything you want is outside your comfort zone.”
I don’t know what came before or after that, but it doesn’t matter. I caught the important part. She’s right.
Lately I’ve realized that the only things that push you forward and make you better are the things that scare the hell out of you. Whether it’s public speaking, getting lost in a strange city, or interviewing for a new job, if you’re afraid of it (but also a little excited, deep down), this is the clearest signal that you should do it. Leo calls it Joyfear, which I think is perfect.
If you fail, at the very least you learned something about yourself. But what if you succeed?
Don’t think about what can happen in a month. Don’t think about what can happen in a year. Just focus on the 24 hours in front of you and do what you can to get closer to where you want to be.
— Eric Thomas (via thatkindofwoman)
If you think life is unfair, the odds are always stacked against you, fortune favors everyone but you…try working twice as hard.
Getting things done > whining.
The effect of high expectations
I think about expectations a lot. Expectations that we have for ourselves and others, those that our parents had for us while we were young and that our friends, colleagues, and spouses have for us as adults. How do these expectations come about? What effect do high expectations have, versus low expectations? What if we have no idea what an important person in our life expects of us?
A recent article in The Atlantic discusses whether parents assisting kids with their homework actually helps kids in the long run. An informal study mentioned in the article found that the most successful children had parents who set high expectations, then stepped back and let the kids do the work to meet them. Clear communication of desired results from authority figures + room to breathe and figure out how to succeed = long-term achievement. I know that’s how it was for me when I was growing up.
These concepts apply at work too. It may seem kind to give people a break, accept their minimal effort, solve their problems for them. But what if, instead of being kind, you’re failing to push them to be the most excellent version of themselves?