Set Yourself up for Success
In today’s video I talk about how to set yourself up for success as a leader.
Expectations or Assumptions?
The first advice I want to give you is to move from expectations to assumptions. Success is when we meet expectations, failure is when we fail expectations, that’s fairly straightforward and I’m assuming you know that. One thing that many people don’t realize is how much of a difference it makes, whether you hold an expectation, or whether you hold an assumption. If I am meeting you and I’m expecting you to be on time and you are not, you are wrong. If I assume you to be on time and you’re not, I am wrong. Dealing with me being wrong is something that is my responsibility, it’s something that I can deal with. You being wrong is a much bigger problem and it’s a problem I don’t want to have. I don’t want to take responsibility for dealing with that, especially if the simple difference between you being wrong and me being wrong is just me making an assumption versus me making an expectation.
Assumptions and Agreements
The bad thing about assumptions is they’re barely known to ourselves and they’re usually not known to the other. To be successful with your assumptions, you need to share them. This is one of the first leadership principles that I teach in my classes, it’s that we need to move from assumptions to agreements. We need to have conversations about how we assume the future to be, how we assume our collaboration to be, how we assume our relationships to be and we need to move towards agreements. Leadership agreements are one of the most fundamental tools that you will need to employ to set yourself up for success.
But what does a leadership agreement look like? Well, there are lots of answers to the simple question “How can we make each other look good?”. That’s a phrase from improv theatre, where things fail, things happen, surprises come along all the time. It’s just like real life and day-to-day leadership, right? The first and foremost agreement that we need to make is to set ourselves up to look good, set ourselves up to be successful and to help each other become successful. As leaders, we get paid to make people more successful than they would be without our leadership. That’s a simple truth about why leaders exist. I am successful if my people are successful. I am successful when my boss is successful.
Therefore go around and talk to the people who report to you, the people you’re leading with, your peers, people you’re delivering to, who deliver stuff to you, upstream and downstream in terms of workflow, go to your boss… You may start with any of these relationships today. Just have a conversation about how can we make each other look good? How can we support each other? How can I contribute to your success?
What kind of leader do you need me to be tomorrow?
Especially when we talk about agile organizations, where we’re working with teams who are supposed to improve and change the way they work and collaborate, increase the way in which they are autonomous, increase the ways in which they take responsibility instead of just doing what they’re told. I need to change my leadership. I want to be proactive about it. I don’t want them to run into a glass ceiling and then complain about, “Yeah, Olaf. Sorry, but we couldn’t do that, because…” I want to go to them and say “Okay, with your regular cadence of improvement, with the things you have decided in your last retrospective, what kind of leader do you need me to be in the next month, in the next week? What kind of leader do you need me to be tomorrow?”
If you’re daring, you can take things a step further and ask for feedback with the question: ”What’s the hardest thing about working with me? What’s making working with me the hardest? That’s the thing I’m committing to changing as best as I can and as soon as I can.“ Make regular improvement part of your work.
Dee Hock, the founder of Visa, wrote a book about the founding of Visa and the birth of that organisation. The book is called “Birth of the Chaordic Age”. He muses about how managers should spend and invest their time and capacity. His advice is very simple and very straightforward. There’s lots of wisdom like that in the book. He says, “Spend half of your time on managing yourself.” Half of your time. Seriously. I think that’s really, really good advice and it’s a really hard stretch for most of us who are already 100% busy with managing whatever needs managing, right?
Spend half of your time on yourself, one-third of your time managing your boss, one-quarter of your time for the people on your level, your peers, suppliers, customers, people who deliver things to you, people you deliver things to, people you have commitments with and also any influencers like regulators, legislation, any peer who influences the system you are working for and you are managing in. Some of you might wonder “What about the people below you? What about the people who report to you? Don’t they need management? Isn’t that why you are their manager?”
He says, very simply, “You hire smart people and tell them to do the very same.” You let your people manage you.
My application of that advice is having these leadership conversations, having conversations with your directs on what kind of leadership they need, what kind of support they need, where you can step out of the way and where you need to support them.
The Rescuer Trap
In later videos continuing this, we will talk about one specific trap. That’s the “rescuer trap”. Those of you who are familiar with Steven Karpman’s Drama Triangle might know the rescuer role. The rescuer trap is particularly luring for leaders and that’s deserving its own video.
Write a Leadership Journal
We’ll be talking about writing a leadership diary or a leadership journal. You’ll be keeping a journal of what you’re doing day to day, so you have something to reflect on. Reflecting on and improving one‘s leadership is really hard because leadership is ephemeral. It goes away as soon as we’ve done it and then there’s the next thing to do. So paying attention over time to what I’ve done, what happened and how I can use that information to actually improve in the long term, that needs conscious practice and we will cover that in one of the next videos.
Thank you! Get in touch!
Thank you very much. I want to publish regular advice, conversations, coachings and inspirations around leadership, around leading better relationships in this world, meeting the challenges of this world in a better way, developing ourselves in a better way and generally advancing humanity, advancing our planet, advancing how we treat it. There are so many causes right now that need attention. There are so many topics that need thinking about and that need solving. I want to contribute to that.
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