Saturday, August 09, 2008

Thoughts on leaving "management"

Well, it's time for me to leave this job and pick up another. I'll be an "individual contributor" for a while, maybe for good. I will miss the people on my team. I will wonder how they will do under new leadership. I will wonder what we have each learned from one another during mine.

It took me a long time, but I think have finally learned something about leadership and teamwork.
Leadership is what it takes to produce teamwork. Teamwork is essential to real productivity. So how do you succeed at being a manager of people?

I've given this a lot of thought over 18 years of people-management. I've finally learned that you don't "manage" people, in any direct sense and you certainly do not create a team by issuing instructions. Many factors go into the "team" behavior of a given group: setting, history, individual drive and capability, external challenges, and sheer accident: they all come down to something very simple: trust.

You do that by working with yourself first. The burden of proof will always work against you.

Behavior trumps claims. You cannot merely ask to be trusted. You must act so that others learn you can be trusted.

Paradoxically, you have to place trust others, even when you have insufficient evidence to do so.

When you let others down, expect to work a good while to re-gain their trust. When people let you down, you have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

As the leader, you create the atmosphere for trust to be learned. Eventually, most people will live up to your example.

No matter what you do, not everyone will strive to be trust-able to the rest of the team. The hardest part of being a manager is to know when it's time to take a person off the team. When that determination is made, it's essential to act decisively.

This simple but nearly useless bit of wisdom is all I can manage.