Wednesday 27 August 2014

Why Organisational Culture Comes From the Top

When you are a doer, you want people to let you do your job and to help you improve at it. You need senior people who enable you.

When you are senior or a lead, you want people to let you do your job and to help people around you. At this point, you know how to improve yourself but you need to be allowed the space to grow and move.

When you are a team, group or organisational leader, you want people to let you do your job and to enable those around you to do their jobs. You want to aid in individual and organisational growth.

If one of these points in the hierarchy doesn't want to enable others and instead focuses on themselves with little to no regard towards those around them then organisational culture changes. In my opinion, it changes for the worse.

Too many places I have worked see leaders who see their career journey and their need to climb a corporate or financial ladder as more important than the people around them. When they finally achieve the power required to drive their own careers, they declare it "every man for themselves!" and start kissing up and kicking down. Or worse, they simply neglect their teams.

I asked a recent manager in a past job if he cared about his team at all and the dysfunction that was tearing his team apart. He said to me "I don't have time to care." At that point, I reached out to my network and found myself a new job.

You shouldn't work for a manager or leader or boss who doesn't have time to care about his or her team. Nothing good comes from that.

If you look above you in an organisation and don't see anyone caring about the people who work for them then leave. If you look around you and can find no allies who will fight for your team over themselves then leave. If you don't want to enable the people you work with or aren't allowed to then leave.

I once had a manager who told me to stop enabling people because it was getting in the way of them working. He also thought bums on seats was more important than productivity which ultimately drove his subordinates to avoid his desk to take coffee and toilet breaks so he wouldn't see them. He didn't want anyone to be allowed to grow and achieve in their roles. Instead, he wanted them to clock in and clock out and show him the appropriate amount of fear inspired respect. As you can imagine, his team ended up as toxic and broken as he was.

Organisational growth comes from its leaders. So does organisational rot.

If you can respect the leaders around you then you will like your job and where you work. If you can't get near them, don't know what they represent or purely dislike their ethos then you need to go somewhere else.

Organisations can not be healed from the bottom. They are shaped and scented from the top.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

I was humble once and I was awesome at it or 5 Rules to Being a Great Team Lead

I often mock humility with my favourite saying "I was humble once and I was awesome at it."

The truth is that I think humility is a virtue. It is a moral excellence and one that many claim to possess but then fail miserably at.

The reason I bring it up in this context is because you can not enable and serve a team unless you possess the ability to put yourself last and not aspire to take the credit.

In the last few years, I have worked with egos that would sink the Titanic. Most have been brilliant individuals that for some reason craved the acknowledgement of their brilliance to sustain them.

There is one thing that I do well and it is building teams. That doesn't mean I am awesome at hiring geniuses. It doesn't mean I am great at finding combinations of people that work together. That doesn't mean my teams exist because of me. The one thing I do well is serve my teams. I exist to build a safe and sustaining environment that allows people to do their jobs.

People want to do good work. They want the 8 hours they spend every day to mean something. Most people don't want to run the world. In fact, they want that kind of rubbish to be kept out of their way so they can contribute to the best of their abilities.

I have five rules that I believe make a great team lead:

  1. Lead from behind - enable your team to do what they do best. Don't pull them along by a collar;
  2. Share the fame and share the blame - don't single anyone out as a hero or a villain. Teams produce great results, not individuals;
  3. Celebrate all the wins, no matter the size - don't wait for external validation to celebrate your team. Make the little moments big moments and the big moments, amazing;
  4. Lead the charge and die trying - always be part of delivery and contribute to success. No one will follow you if they don't think you truly understand what it is like to be them; and 
  5. Have fun - life is too short to be serious all the time. There is a time for seriousness and that is usually with your clients. With your team, you should be a person who laughs or cries or falls flat on your face. Being real will allow people to be themselves and when they are themselves, they will be great.
Humility involves succeeding and failing. Both are valid. Failing is ok as long as you learn from it. Success is ok as long is it doesn't go to your head.

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