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Five Leadership Lessons From Former Bosses

Over the past 16 years I have had a chance to work for more than 12 different bosses. While some have been better leaders than others I’ve tried to learn from each of them. Below are five leadership lessons that I’ve picked up from them and subsequently been able to use with my teams.

  • Retain Talent – Go out of your way to retain your good people. Make it personal and include the family when possible. One of my star players shared with me that she had dinner plans with her husband for their anniversary. I called ahead to the restaurant and bought them a bottle of wine with the message “Happy Anniversary and thanks for all of your hard work.”
  • Success Metrics – Use team success metrics to motivate your team and create a strong culture of driving to success rather than some arbitrary stopping point like a release. As we’ve written about before don’t confuse product releases with success. Identify and start to measure business metrics that the team can understand and rally around. Determine what to measure based on the drivers of revenue and cost of your business. Share these metrics with your organization and celebrate success and dig into areas where you are falling short to identify a get-well plan.
  • Guiding Principles – Empower your team with guiding principles that help them to make day-to-day decisions. Similar to architectural principles, guiding principles empower your team or organization to make decisions on their own. Have the team help develop them and make them visible. Revisit them on a regular basis. This especially helps during times when you need to drive mindset change. You will be surprised at the questions and conversations that come up as you drive to calibrate on mindset shift.
  • Poor Performers – Do not ignore your poor performers. Use these three axes to evaluate employees performance. If the problem is performance, attempt to help the employee by coaching and mentoring. If the problem is behavioral or if they don’t respond to coaching, you need to manage them out quickly. Depending on your organization, it may be difficult to manage poor performers out but this is not an excuse to ignore it. Poor performers can be a drag on the team, poor behaviors can be cancerous. And don’t forget they are a reflection of your work as well.
  • Feedback – Give feedback to your team members frequently and in real time. Don’t wait until the annual review to give feedback. Gen Y and Millenniums are more accustomed to instant feedback and communication. That means you may have to adjust your style as you work to coach and guide your direct reports. Utilize all available communication medium to praise. Send them an email recognizing them for their actions and tie it to the positive impact it had on the business or the team. Leave them a voice mail. And of course the good old fashioned in person or one by one conversation works well. You will soon seen the positive motivation you inject into your team.
  • Business KnowledgeUnderstand the business. The only way for you to be successful is to be able to speak and work with other business executives, which means you need to make the effort to understand their roles. Block off your calendar to sit with peers to see what they do on a day-to-day basis. The path to a CIO/CTO role is by being a great partner to the business.

Hopefully you can use some of these with your teams or at least make you aware that you should periodically look back for lessons learned. Often these lessons learned make great one-on-one topics for junior managers interested in improving their leadership.

Comments RSS TrackBack 8 comments

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  • Driving Change

    in March 17th, 2013 @ 20:09

    […] The larger the organization, the harder change can be. We touched on this in an earlier blog titled Five Leadership Lessons From Former Bosses but decided to dive into a little more detail this time. As a former manager of engineers and other […]