I have met some great leaders over the last thirty years. Here are 10 things I see them do:
- Set achievable deadlines with input from their staff. Anything else will destroy people’s motivation.
- Routinely communicate goals. People appreciate knowing the bigger picture of what they are working on.
- Ensure staff members are trained in the domain they work in, e.g., banking skills for banking systems, radar skills for radar systems and medical procedures for medical software. Anything less can cause significant risk of failure or inefficiency.
- Assess and manage risks (potential problems) and don’t wait for them to become large problems that throw the organization into chaos.
- Show up at meetings on time all the time. Have an agenda and stay until the end. Don’t play with your phone implying that the subject of the meeting is not important or that the meeting is beneath you. Your staff is looking at your every move.
- Assume that each job in the organization requires a unique personality and skill set. In other words, a title change does not make a developer suddenly become a great project manager or a great tester. Great leaders don’t suddenly become great product owners or architects with an additional title. People are not plug-and-play. If that were true, you could be replaced by a junior developer today!
- Don’t put up with status quo if you don’t like it, for example, too many released defects, missed deadlines, or daily surprises. Work with your staff to determine the causes, and know that you may be a cause. Admit what is wrong and work on corrective actions.
- Use lessons-learned data. If projects routinely collect lessons learned and the organization continues to have problems, then assume that improvement has not been set as a high enough priority. Lead by example, give people time to improve, and reward desired behavior.
- Lead the way. Whatever you want people to do, adopt it first and then demonstrate it to others.
- Avoid learned helplessness. When challenged by staff on deadlines or other sticky issues, don’t say, “There is nothing I can do,” “It has always been like this,” or “My hands are tied.” Live up to the purpose of your title or acquire the skills to do so.
- One additional action: Every so often, shake hands when you meet your staff so that they feel respected.
If you would like feedback on how you lead, what is working and what is not, contact us.
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