Friday Five: The Philosophy of Management

Friday Five is a weekly series at QAspire where I curate five articles (with excerpts)/quotes/tweets/visuals shared on my personal learning network each week that I found particularly useful, and hopefully you will find some of them valuable too!

This edition features insights on the softer aspects of leading others and why they are so important and on how streams are changing the way we lead and learn.

The Philosophy of Management

This note sums up the underlying philosophy of management and leadership. The key however is to know, how to earn these things. That, according to me, is the #1 challenge of leadership today.

What the world needs now… – John Wenger at Quantum Shift 

Being nice is not just about more effective teamwork; it’s related to doing what we can to establish what Margaret Wheatley has called “islands of sanity” in a world that may feel increasingly mean-spirited and ugly.  At the risk of sounding a bit of a little old-fashioned,  there is nothing wrong, and everything right, with bringing more kindness into our lives (that includes our working lives).

This brilliant piece by John Wenger talks about something we so badly need today in society, families and organizations – genuine compassion, care and love. A must read!

The Serendipity of Streams – Breaking Smart

If the three most desirable things in a world defined by organizations are location, location and location, in the networked world they are connections, connections and connections.

Our perception about reality is formed and altered by the streams we follow. This essay sheds light on how these social streams of updates, information and knowledge coupled with our own ways of consuming them are altering how we solve problems.

Culture, Careers Drive Employment Brand – Josh Bersin  

As IT and business leaders, CIOs bear responsibility for finding ways to offer their people opportunities for learning and continual reinvention. This means letting employees take developmental and stretch assignments, providing a great deal of project-based work, and rewarding managers not only for execution but also for coaching and development. A focus on culture, development, and leadership can pay off in more ways than one can imagine.

So much research we have proves that softer issues like culture, leadership and development are vital for getting and engaging the right talent and yet when we see around, we know we have a long way to go.

I See You – Squawk Point

Trust is the lubrication that allows organisations to tackle tough problems.  It helps them weather the storms of uncertainty.  It is also the glue that keeps a team from despair and fragmentation.  It keeps an organisation aligned when other forces are trying to pull it apart.

This excellent short post by Walter McIntyre outlines the essentials of “I See You” Management – a great way to build mindset of acceptance, understanding and trust!

Leadership: Start With Trust

Leadership starts with influence and influence starts with trust. Ability to truly connect with others is vital for leaders to build an environment where a leader is trusted for the intentions before being respected for competence.

I once worked with a new CEO who came on-board, took charge and immediately got into action. I remember when he first met a group of senior folks, he started with his introduction and talked at length about his past experience, competence and all the great things he had accomplished. Soon after requesting a short template introduction from all of us, he started off with his grand plans about the organization. He clearly failed to build a non-threatening space for other leaders and came across as someone who was ego-centric and hard-nosed.

Our first instinct as human beings when we assume a leadership role is to show our strength, competence and skills and prove a point about our fitment to the role.

I was reminded of the CEO (and many other leaders I worked with) when I read the classic Harvard Business Review article titled “Connect, Then Lead” which says,

A growing body of research suggests that the way to influence—and to lead—is to begin with warmth. Warmth is the conduit of influence: It facilitates trust and the communication and absorption of ideas. Even a few small nonverbal signals—a nod, a smile, an open gesture—can show people that you’re pleased to be in their company and attentive to their concerns. Prioritizing warmth helps you connect immediately with those around you, demonstrating that you hear them, understand them, and can be trusted by them.

I think of the CEO again who was, through his aggressive show of strength, able to generate dispassionate compliance to his decisions. One of the biggest challenges for leaders is to create an ecosystem where people exercise their discretion (tapping into intrinsic motivations). Trust is a good place to start.

I strongly recommend that you read the HBR article “Connect, Then Lead” by Amy Cuddy, Matthew Kohut and John Neffinger for rich insights on this topic.

Here is a short summary of key insights that stood out for me from the article in a sketch note form.

Related Resources at QAspire

  • Graceful Leadership 101: Free PDF Book

  • Taking Charge of a Team? Avoid These 4 Mistakes

  • Leading Others: How NOT to be in Control

  • Leadership and Building Emotional Infrastructure
  • 6 Lessons in Leading a Cross-Functional Team

    Being into quality and organizational improvement, I have always worked with cross-functional groups. By definition, a cross-functional team is the one where members from different functional areas work towards a common goal. A few years back, I got an assignment to lead a cross-functional team (xFT) and it was a great learning experience. Our goal was to implement information security management system spanning all departments, support groups and technical production team. It was an interesting ride because of challenges it posed, and challenges = lessons.

    Recently, when one of my friends was also asked to manage a xFT in a different context, I ended up sharing the following key lessons (and challenges) on how to lead a xFT effectively:

    In xFT, like in anything else, leader is an enabler: Every team member’s contribution to the team is vital because they carry the knowledge of their own context. The role of leader in a xFT is that of a coach – an enabler who eliminates roadblocks for team members to surge ahead in their priorities.

    Leading xFT = Managing Diversity: Functionally, all team members are diverse and have their own reporting relationships, beliefs and values. They have to be led without the strings of formal reporting structures attached. This also means their time allocation may be diverse, so would be attitude and skill level. A leader’s challenge is to elicit their involvement without binding them into traditional management structure.

    Trust is even more crucial for success: Since they don’t have a formal working relationship with the leader, building trust is the only way to move things forward. Leading is all about trust, more so in the case of leading a xFT. With trust, people self-organize, think favorably and take right decisions. As a leader, be inclusive, respect their opinions, showcase their contributions, recognize their work and be positive.

    Clear goals are drivers of autonomy: In a xFT, decision making is bottoms-up. They decide the course of action and have autonomy to change the course depending on situation. So, the only way a leader drives these discrete decisions is by setting very clear goals and defining clear outcomes. This also means that leader has to work extra hard in setting up rituals for communication and status tracking.

    Early “wins” are important: When a xFT starts working together, there will be a lot of ambiguity and doubt in their minds. They may not be confident about their ability to work together. They may be swayed away by their own departmental priorities. In such situations, if they see early wins, it reinforces their confidence. A team that achieves constantly, in increments, is the team that stays together productively. Early wins make the work and progress visible.

    Constant communication is the glue: that binds the team together. Establishing rituals and communication forums (formal and informal to create face time is critical to keep team on track. These routines also helps a leader sense problems even before they actually happen, manage expectations constantly, provide feedback, learn about each other and manage conflicts. Communication is the most important tool in a leader’s toolkit for building trust.

    Building a high-performing team in any situation is difficult and when team members are from different functional groups, a leaders role in creating a performing whole from discrete parts is both a challenge and an opportunity.

    – – – – –

    Stay Tuned: Subscribe via RSS, Connect via Facebook or Follow us on Twitter. You can also subscribe to updates via email using the section at the bottom of the page.

    – – – – –

    Related Reading at QAspire:

    10 Key Lessons On Leading Virtual Teams Effectively

    We live in times where more and more work is executed by teams that are geographically distributed. Leading a virtual team, fostering collaboration and binding them to common set of objectives is one of the key challenges for business leaders.

    In most of the troubled projects I have seen, the real challenges were not technical/engineering ones but communication/collaboration ones. Having been a part of distributed team and having managed a few projects with virtual teams, here 10 most important lessons I have learned:

    Leadership

    • Share Leadership Responsibilities: Success of distributed team depends largely on leadership model. When team is distributed, leadership responsibilities should also be distributed. Command and control leadership model generally fails.
    • Foster Peer Leadership: It is even more crucial when the team is distributed.
    • Clearly articulate team goals and vision: It helps in aligning the team. When team is driven by the purpose, they are better equipped to take right decisions. The team should also know how their work fits into the larger picture.

    Trust and Empowerment

    • Lack of trust is one of the biggest killers in a virtual team environment. They way you manage the team tells a lot about how much you trust them. People will back off the moment they feel that they are not trusted.
    • Don’t get insecure: When a team is away, leaders tend to get insecure and start micro-managing. They just push decisions to their teams, rather than involving them in the decision making. This works against building a culture of trust and empowerment.
    • Be human – people in your virtual team are still human beings who possess a set of important skills, who carry a self-esteem and who are emotional. You can treat them as “resources” or treat them as “human beings” – that choice makes a lot of difference.

    Effective Collaboration

    • Even in virtual teams, face to face communication is very crucial. The best way to start a project is to have entire team interact with each other on a one to one basis. Even in virtual setting, it is important that team members know each other well.
    • Establish formal and informal communication rituals to stay constantly connected with the team. Technologies like real time/video chat and phone calls really help in establishing a two way dialogue where people can freely express themselves.
    • Provide clarity to all team members on roles, responsibilities, protocols and basic expectations on communication, deliveries and quality.
    • Have a system that provides clear status of the tasks and results of each team member’s efforts. Central management systems helps everyone stay on the same page. These systems can also be used to automate a lot of communication and collaboration.

    – – – – –

    Join in the conversation:

    Have you been a part of a distributed team? Have you led a virtual team to deliver results to your customers? What best practices would you like to share?

    5 Ways To Build Trust (Lessons from a Conversation)

    One of my friends recently joined a new organization at a senior position. When we met over a cup of coffee a few days before his joining, he mentioned to me that his primary challenge would be to build trust. As professionals, we interact with a wide variety of people including our customers, suppliers, new team members, cross departmental folks and people at the customer’s end. Success of these interactions largely depends on trust we are able to build.

    Our conversation took an exploratory turn and we started thinking about ways to build trust in a new assignment. The following prominent lessons emerged out:

    • Deliver Results: This comes first on the list because in a business setting, trust is difficult to build without first building a track record. When you are new, let your work make a profound statement. Focus on early-wins. We instantly agreed on this one.
    • Keep Commitments: Consistently meeting your commitments is a great way to build trust. Clients love it when you ship on time. People love it when you keep your promises. Use productivity tools, reminder systems, whatever. But keep your commitments.
    • Give Respect: Trust and respect go hand in hand. If you want to be trusted, you first need to be respected. Giving respect to others is the starting point of building meaningful connections with others. Respect people, respect their views, listen to them and respect their time. Ditto with trust – extend trust and you get it back in equal measures. Lao Tzu said this, "He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted."
    • Clarify Expectations: When you are new to an organization, it is very important that you manage expectations well. Let people know what they can expect from you. What you expect from them. Clarifying expectations helps you gain a focus on results.
    • Be Integral: Simply put, integrity is congruence between your thoughts, words and deeds. Practice what you preach and preach what you practice. When new in an organization, people carefully observe you to gauge the integrity. Transparency is important too.

    As a leader, when you are engaged to build a team and make a difference, you need to carefully examine your own behavior. Thinking a step ahead, we realized that the above findings are equally relevant to the organizations too, when they deal with their customers and build trust. Most companies loose clients/people either because they are not trustworthy or their people aren’t.

    Walk the talk and talk the walk – that’s the simplest formula for building trust as a leader, professional or an organization.

    On that note, have a wonderful Wednesday!

    P.S. BIG Thanks to Wally Bock for selecting my post 5 Ideas To Ensure That Lessons are ‘Really’ Learned in Management Improvement Carnival #104.