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Is manager same as leader? Is manager always a leader?

“No.”, writes Robert Heller in his famous Effective Leadership.

Though, I did read couple of online articles by Robert Heller, this was the first time that I came across the book in City Center Mall, Salimya, Kuwait.

He clearly identifies the leaders among managers as:

Leaders

  • Administer
  • Originate
  • Develop
  • Inspire trust
  • Think long term
  • Ask what and why
  • Watch the horizon
  • Challenge status quo
  • Are their own people
  • Do the right thing

Managers

  • Implement
  • Copy
  • Maintain
  • Control
  • Think short term
  • Ask how and when
  • Watch the bottom line
  • Accept status quo
  • Are good soldiers
  • Do things right

I believe mentoring is a core part of leadership; but that depends, is your manager a leader? Consider yourself lucky if she is, otherwise – find one, or buy this book.

Robert Heller goes into analyzing the role of a manager, and tells a way to improve the standard of quality of a team. He stresses to:

“Ensure that staff are motivated, well managed, and empowered to improve continuously; and the way to do that is to:

  • Train all staff in the skills and capabilities they need to meet their quality targets.
  • Practise two way communication; top-down, and bottom-up, through all available media.
  • Use coaching sessions to mentor as well as teach.”

Robert identifies a thought-provoking list of question that a “leader” must ask herself; a couple, as follows:

  • Do I communicate directly with my team?
  • Am I sure that every member of the team understands his/her role fully?
  • Am I setting sufficiently ambitious goals?

I believe the most effective style of leadership is with varying styles, which includes being “Peoples’ Person”. Which believes on the principle that success flows from team within the team. It seeks to develop a climate of open-ness, and work with-and-for everybody equally.

Contrary to many private IT organizations that “practicing/promoting” the bureaucratic-management work environment in Pakistan especially, Robert encourages:

“Taking into account the feelings of staff when promoting internally”.

At this account, I recall my previous boss, Shariq Mirza, a FAST graduate, living in the US for ~18 years now – helping United States Postal Services build great mailing solutions. Surprisingly(well, to my surprise), I have learnt alot from him. Surprised, because I was offshore all the time. I never thought I would get a chance to be mentored; but, lucky for me, the time that I spent with him, in email changes, telecons, personal phone talks, etc, has mentored me far more, has added in me far more “professional decor”, compared to the rest I could find in my entire professional career.

I learned alot; I learned about the trigger theory, team management, resolving conflicts, and how to be a team leader; how “leaders cover all the time”, and why, “employees leave managers, not companies“. I also learned about the green-light red-light approach of gathering requirements and then classifying it down to needs, nice-to-haves, and wishes.

When everything fails, communicate“, is what I tied down in my pallu, and use it often, the day he said that. (0: Leaders

If you are manager, or well… a leader, can you guess the reasons of the following few mishaps?

  • Lack of communication, which results in lack of trust
  • Un-gelled team
  • Developer spending more time in heart burn
  • Passive questions/explanation raised by manager
  • Avoiding positive feedback and recognition regularly for work well done

The above problems in a team always has a root-cause, a boss who sits in his cubicle, seldom comes out for a talk/discussion with his team; rarely encourages training; doesn’t know anything about mentoring. “Use” meaningless statements to down-rate in appraisal; rejects every idea that a developer has to suggest, questioning every request that is made, to reject.

You can’t talk to the bureaucratic-management; they have got a virtual firewall built around them, so you would think twice before entering into a discussion with them.

Quite interestingly a resignation letter caught a wild-fired-discussion and gained considerable amount of attention when the resign-ee made the private e-mail exchanges public. A UI Developer Jeff Ammons, when sent the resignation to his quite famous boss, Jason Calacanis. William Shields, also known as cletus on StackOverflow added his thoughts over the story. A google would reveal the actual email text changes.

But is that all fruitful? Does that result in a “gelled-team”? The point that I am trying to make is to gain trust between among the team, and which cannot, and I repeat just to avoid any confusions, “cannot”, be achieved without Communications.

So should leadership be expected from a manager?

Good day!

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Though several times attempts were made(by my sweet mom) to dispose off the contents of my small book rack, along with the rack! – reason being the space that it takes is too much.

While I was cleaning up and rearranging, I came across this Patrick Lencioni‘s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

The book is a gift from by previous Boss, who truly is a great mentor, back in 2007.

At some point you may feel that this text is moving towards a tangent, but in actual thats intentional; I would be “mapping” how the ideas of Patrick maps to the society that we live in, in specific, and the world in general.

The crux of the book is that, the key to any relationship, be it personal or professional, is Trust.

‘Trust’, as Patrick in his bestseller fable puts it, ‘is related to communication’.

Meaning? the more you communicate, the more you talk, the more you share, the more you meet, therefore ‘generally’ you tend to trust more; and that ‘trust’ part is inherent to communication.

The five dysfunctions of a team are:

  • Absence of trust
  • Fear of conflict
  • Lack of commitment
  • Avoidance of accountability
  • Inattention to Results.

He believes that trust is an essential part of (an emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually healthy) life — and it is truly a blessing to be able to feel comfortable/confident in a relationship.

Trust is the core; trust is when one would tell you something good/bad about you without having the ‘fear of conflict’. Professionally, if someones coming to you and telling you a fault in your project plan then that person is ‘trying’ to show the trust. Your reaction would set the bounds of encouragement/discouragement of the trust. If you would react badly, probably next time she is not going to discuss your faults with you; but if you are going to discuss about the fault, listen and resolve – then that would lead to greater trust, gelled relationship.

Now obvisouly when Patricks talks about it professionally – for a professional team of individuals, he means that attitude is important, a building block as a part of relationship. Observation and performance is coherent. Meaning if a person has as an attitude of performing well, he/she would perform anywhere. Make him a mochi(cobbler) he would become a great mochi, make him a doctor, he would become a good doctor; well… I hope you get the idea.

In his book he depicts a team of higly qualified professionals having tough time with each other and to deliver the output. There are several members of the team and how a Chief Technologist always keeps on typing on his laptop in every meeting. How a communication consultant was hired by the top management and the way she drags them to talk to each other and brought them to a point that they were able to even yell over each other without doubting the trust. By yelling I mean, even by questioning the authority of the decision. Imagine one department head questioning the decision of another department. Usually this doesnt happen in companies; it only happens there where trust prevails. And eventually how a decision was made a fired out of them.

Its a great one-sit read.

The pyramid that Patrick always refers to(I was able to find an exact image that is on the book) following figure.

But using what Patrick said, in terms of a Society; what is required, is to assure existence of an active cooperative process that makes people appreciate the contributions of others to the general society. And to support the potential for such cooperation.

The problem that I see with our society is that we lack trust upon each other; reason being seldom we communicate.

Imagine Scenario 1: Your Suzuki FX, which is on the front lane, is 5 seconds late when the green light pops on the traffic signal? The guy right behind you would see you like he’s going to swallow you along with your FX, unfried and with-bones! Some would even dare to yell like anything calling names and all other crap burning their hearts and releasing negative energy back into the society.

Imagine Scenario 2:
Some how while stopping your Suzuki FX on the front lane, you were able to say ‘assalam o alaikum‘ or ‘hello-how are you’ and wave your hand or nod your head with a little smile; and you get a similar response in return.

Now, you will notice that reaction would change; and even if you take 27 seconds to move your vehical past the green signal, the guy right behind you wont say a word(atleast he won’t’ say anything – don’t trust me, try it yourself). He is just going to wait. Why?

Because he just had a talk with you. So, whats with the talk? A natural behavior, after we talk to someone the actions inclines toward politeness. I believe that just comes as a basic human instinct; and this talk(communication) is what Patrick refers to, that turns on light the of ‘trust’ in society. And obviously we can always use “Assalam O Alaikum” as a tool to break the ice.

There is this last section of the book called “The Model”; and I would like to type some of it for you, because it worth listening:

“As difficult as it is to build a cohesive team, it is not a complicated. Infact, keeping it simple is critical…

…1. They trust one another

2. They engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas.

3. They commit to decisions and plans of action.

4. They hold one another accountable for delivering those plans.

5. They focus on achievement of collective results.

If this sounds simple, its because it is simple, atleast in theory. In practice, however, it is extreemly difficult because it requires levels of discipline and persistence that few teams can muster.”

At the end of the book there is team assessment technique that the writer has shared; with a table and a set of questions to help teams.

As-Salamu Alaykum! (0:

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