04 February 2009

When I am King

I'm back in classes for the Spring. After this only one more semester until I have my Master's degree. These new classes make me think, and many of my thoughts are not precisely pertinent to the question being asked in the class, so I turn to my web-log and you, my reader.
The question of teamwork was recently raised in classroom discussion, specifically asking after teams in which we have participated. I pointed out that I've been lucky enough to work on teams where we could each finish the other's sentence, reading minds and anticipating needs. Those have been some good times, and definitely rewarding (and award-winning) circumstances. I've also had the displeasure of working for teams that never seemed to really cohere, that worked at cross-purposes or where getting the job done was like pulling teeth. In one of these cases I was the leader of the team.
There is one common thread that makes or breaks a team, I've found: the leadership. This is where we get to the part about "When I am King".
The leader sets the tone, disperses the information, holds the members accountable, and is himself personally responsible to the customer for the work the team produces.
But Rob, tell us about the time your team sucked! Show us your humanity! Okay, okay. It was only for a school project, and we collaborated exclusively over the internet. I could make excuses that there were cultural differences (like socio-geographic, not corporate) that impeded communication, or that the team failed to respect deadlines, or whatever, but the fact remains that we fell short of our goal (Grade A work. Overall I think we had B/C work) and I was the one in charge. My failure was in my giddiness to lead I didn't make my desires clear, and spent a lot of time clarifiying items that I should have given more thought to before broadcasting to the team. My lesson? Clear communication is paramount when you are king. If your subjects (er, staff), don't understand what you're asking of them, your statue will likely end up with you charging forth mounted on a large ass, rather than mounting a charger while striking down an heroically large asp. You get my point.
When I am King, I will be the leader of my team. I will make certain that I make my requests clearly and with full disclosure. Unless my team has been working with me for years, I will not assume that they are mind readers, swamis of software and hardware, PC augurers who can read silicon entrails to divine my will.
I will lead my team by example, working just as hard - if not harder - than the people for whom I am responsible. This is something I have learned by observing everyone I have had the honor of serving under. I will also, however, groom my staff to be proficient in all areas so that I am not working so hard in a reactive mode.
I will be a source of joy and pride, when I am King. My staff will want to come to work each day because they respect me and want to work for me - not just because the company we all work for pays them to be present. I'll work hard to earn that respect, and I'll hopefully generate laughter with my impeccable sense of humor, though I am more likely to generate some behind-my-back unity in my team as they bond in the face of my sense of humor (if you've been reading these web-log posts, you will understand).
Finally, I will maintain the sort of leadership that allows my staff to come to me when I've asked them to do something and haven't been clear enough for them, and I will help them to understand what needs to be done without making them feel dumb, because I know that the people workingwith and for me will be intelligent people who won't have to divine my will, though hopefully we'll enjoy the sort of career together that will make such a thing entirely possible because we'll have grown together.

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