CRM software runs my life

Tag: Management

Are you a teacher or a teller?

Recently I was given Cameron Schwab’s book “What leaders can learn from football“, which was followed up by a webinar with Cameron to apply the book to the current COVID remote working situation. I’d like to share my key takeaways.

Boards are more distant than ever

There is an increasing gap between boards and the team. Boards are asking how we take advantage of this seismic change, how do we be more bold? Teams however are over the groundhog day of lockdowns, constant ambiguity and juggling their lives. How do leaders bridge that gap?

Firstly leaders must build a foundation of trust. This involves empathising with their teams. Listening. Starting every conversation with “how are you?”. Take 2 minutes to check in and connect. Recognise the struggle they are going through. Empathetic conversations don’t have to take a long time. You have to aspire to be a better human and it will resonate. Trust is the outcome of showing your authenticity and mettle through tough situations.

Name your 6-7 most meaningful relationships inside the company. That’s your measure of trust, buy in, clarity and connection. That’s your key to leadership success. You can’t maintain any more relationships than that.

Once trust is built, then as leaders our most important role is to reduce ambiguity for our teams. Leaders are makers of meaning – they create a story of “us”. They are makers of place – creating a sense of belonging. You belong to this team because of your attitude/character, your capabilities and whether you connect in personally.

The contradiction of a board is they have the least detail on the company, but are charged with making the really key decisions. What does winning look like? What do we need to be good at? Can we get an alignment between ambition and capability? If not, we have set expectations incorrectly.

Leaders overpromise to their board because of this, they overstate capability to match the board’s ambition. You need to be honest about what we are going to do – We can’t do everything, the most important thing is choosing what to do. Prioritising.

How will we know if we prioritised correctly? If there’s a gap between ambition and measurement. Do the board agree your measurable goals are ambitious enough?

Teaching and Learning

Your team cannot outperform your leadership. Leaders set the culture, which drives behaviours, which drive results. Your main responsibility as a leader is to create an atmosphere where your team can do their best work.

Transparency is the key behaviour, keeping your teams informed so they can solve problems and role modelling the standard of behaviour expected.

Again the building block of is trust. Carve your mistakes into the wall. In this way you use your own learnings to build trust into the team.

Leaders need to be connected in the future. Make sense of the world quickly and be decisive. Be a transparent learner and then great teacher. If you’re wrong it’s ok, bring those learnings into your team. Be able to adapt quickly. Be a great storyteller around that. Cross a bridge of vulnerability to teach your experience.

Authenticity from the top

Leadership has never been more important and expectations have never been higher. In business, we promote people to leadership before we teach them leadership. In sport, leadership is taught and expected from the start – every player needs to step up during key moments and lead when the ball is in their hand. An extraordinary number of people climb the leadership mountain and then find they don’t like the view. You have to get to the point where as a leader you can walk into a room and not have to fake it or you will burn out. People can smell fake leaders.

Work flexibility

By telling teams they can work flexibility, you’re actually putting the onus on them to go figure it out. The reality is that for some people remote work is an advantage, for others it’s a disadvantage. Not everyone is treated equally by this, but they should be treated fairly and with empathy.

The people who complain that culture is hard remotely, probably had a good culture by accident before. You need to be more deliberate. Put the challenge to high performing teammates, what can you do to help others? Leaders need to disperse responsibility to the team. Be surprised by the insights teams have into each other, then can leverage their perspectives and insights.

User manual

Developing my Leadership User Manual

Leadership User Manuals were popular back in 2018 as high growth companies tried to scale their leadership. Claire Hughes had probably the most famous example she created after leaving Google to join Stripe, where she took a very comprehensive and tactical approach.

Although I’m in a much smaller growth business, I do think it’s important for growth leaders to be self-reflective and communicate widely with their teams. To achieve this, I drafted and then asked my team to refine a leadership user manual of my own. This exercise in itself is a great test of psychological safety on your team! I’ve decided to share my manual publicly below, for me to reflect on in a few years, to inspire others to share and to provide an even higher level of personal transparency.

Scott’s User Manual


How I view success

Enjoying what you do (almost) every day. Australia is a land of privilege and we have a responsibility to do something that both makes ourselves and others happy. Even when you don’t enjoy it, feeling that at least you chose this path and are learning through the process.


How I communicate

  • When you’re not hearing much from me – You are doing a good job, and I appreciate your work.
  • “Please do this” – You need to do this now, and I shouldn’t have needed to tell you. Tell me when it’s done.
  • “To be perfectly honest” – This is an intervention because you’ve strayed way off track. Come back to me with what you will do next before you do it.
  • Bullet points – It helps me to structure my thoughts logically.

Things I do that may annoy or be misunderstood

  • I change my perspective on what should be done between meetings
  • I introduce a new idea or priority without much warning
  • I give directives without context
  • There are usually 2 reasons why I change my decision:
    • New data – When I hear new data, it might cause me to change my decision. I then sometimes skip steps in bringing my team along with exactly why I changed my decision. If this happens, please challenge me with “What data made you change your mind on this?”
    • An important stakeholder has had input – I will always name the stakeholder and be transparent with their feedback. My instinct is to test responses with the stakeholder immediately so I can better guide my team. When I then communicate to my team, it is very directive because I feel I have already tested a response and aligned on a narrative.
  • Not being clear on whether the problem you are raising is a delegation or an FYI
    • I’m sharing because I value transparency, but if there’s no immediate ask then it’s a stretch goal for a future quarter

What gains and loses my trust

  • Gains – proactivity
    • When you admit a mistake or weakness and ask for help.
    • When you preempt an extra question – I appreciate knowing the details.
    • When you follow through with something you said you would do
  • Loses – inconsistency
    • When I get information just before/after a stakeholder update. I lost face because I didn’t know something was wrong. I appreciate knowing the details.
    • When you stop doing something that was your responsibility because I stopped paying attention. I trust you to own your area especially when I’m not watching.
    • When after a pattern emerges (e.g. repeated issue) you don’t at least seek to put a system in place.

My strengths

  • Bringing order to chaos – structure, prioritisation, frameworks, data

My growth areas

  • I need to be more explicit when giving feedback, particularly around whether it was acceptable or not
  • As per misunderstandings, I need to provide more context when changing a decision

My expectations of my direct reports

  • Own your shit – Surprise me with ambitious goals, follow through on what you said and show me that you know the key details. Autonomy should be your goal, and then my role is to challenge you with greater opportunities.

Logistics

  • My calendar is always up to date and public, I always accept/decline and appreciate edit access so I can reshuffle if necessary
  • Anyone can book my calendar at any time. I love drop in 1:1’s, particularly for a coffee or walk around the city.
  • 1:1’s are your time to drive the agenda. If I have no questions then I’m feeling confident in your ability.

Giving and Receiving Feedback

  • If I’m doing this well, then my feedback will never be a surprise. Tell me if you are surprised or if it’s consistent with past feedback to help me calibrate here. Surprises should never happen.
  • If you are not getting enough feedback, I hope you feel safe enough to ask.
  • If you ask and don’t get what you want, keep asking. I respect persistence when I don’t have a good answer for you.
Helping up the building blocks of culture

Taking culture personally

Many years ago I had a direct report who had been very successful in a similar role at a previous company. They were rightly very confident in their technical ability. They knew what they were doing. 

But when they moved companies, they unexpectedly recognised that they were missing clear and mutually agreed targets. Something was wrong.The issue couldn’t be anything professional, because their skillset had been proven in a previous role. The issue couldn’t be personal, because as a person they hadn’t changed. So what’s left? It must be a cultural fit issue.

This is where it gets tricky. Culture in an organisation permeates everywhere, but ultimately it comes from the top. It’s very confronting and complex to determine how the role you know and love is perhaps wildly different in this new culture. You need to question your own strengths and weaknesses and decide whether you can or even want to adapt.

Instead it’s far easier to pin the cultural conflict on one or all leaders within the company and put it down to a personality conflict. “I’m doing the role right, it’s the company that needs to change”. This may in fact be true and even in the best interests of the company, but you’ve effectively decided it’s you vs the company. That never ends well.

How to give effective feedback

It’s performance review time of year again! It’s hard enough to clear your head and objectively self-reflect on your own performance, let alone on the performance of others. For many of my team this was the first time that they’d been asked to provide 360 feedback on their peers, and so there was an extra level of discomfort. I recorded the following Loom video demonstrating the Situation, Behaviour, Impact (SBI) framework, in order to help them approach the feedback process and make their feedback more actionable. I hope it’s useful to others too.

Leading Product through COVID-19

Last week Liam invited me to participate in a webinar titled “Pivoting Product and Product teams through a Crisis”. It was a real honour to be invited, as the panel was made up of a number of great product leaders from Sydney. Mable in particular has seen some big swings in supply and demand, as well as winning a very exciting Department of Health contract.

If you’d like to view the webinar, please see this YouTube video:

Pivoting Product and Product teams through a Crisis

Agile development management

We recently started moving toward Agile software development at work, and I was feeling a bit uncertain. The core reason for this uncertainty was that Agile is a developer-centric methodology and I didn’t understand how I fitted in as a Business Analyst, Project Manager and/or Product Manager.

Now I am a big fan of constant change, I just felt that developers were being given tasks that (despite being scoped user stories) still contained a large number of unknowns. I didn’t know if I trusted them to call me in when they got stuck, rather than finding the quickest route themselves. Additionally the roles of Project Manager, Product Manager and Development Manager were stepping on each other’s toes. Normally I am happy to write the requirements up front and then manage the project. Now there were no complete signed off requirements documents, project management was on a wall and the development team was in control. What am I meant to be doing? I am not someone who likes to sit back and wait to be called upon! I eventually found the following presentation, which was literally one of the only sources I can find about how Agile development management is meant to work:

View more presentations from allan kelly.

Even though I am only just beginning with Agile I felt the presentation gave me a good sense of where I fit. What are your experiences in Agile management outside the development team?

Company Culture at Netflix

How many companies clearly define their culture and HR policy in a public way? Jack Welch of GE famously held the view that the bottom 10% of the company should be fired every year, but in the days of labor shortages that would be frowned upon. That’s why it was refreshing for me to see this slideshow from Netflix. Have a read for yourself, although be warned it is quite long and detailed:

So what do I think? Firstly it is awesome that a company publishes this kind of presentation, everyone should be proud of who they work for and have no problems articulating that to the public. I don’t think there are many companies who are so upfront, open and honest about who they are (in many cases even being aware would be a great start).

In particular I liked:

  • “adequate performance gets a generous severence package” – provocative but also highly motivating to myself at least. There is nothing better than being in a team where you know everyone cares as much as you do, and nothing worse than putting your heart into something that sits in someone’s “to do” list.
  • Brilliant Jerks –  the cost to teamwork is too high. I have had managers who make excuses for a brilliant jerk because they hate the thought of rehiring for a person that is currently letting them put their feet up.
  • Rare Responsible Person – Doesn’t wait to be told what to do, Never feels “that’s not my job”. Everyone should pitch in, no-one should feel territorial. If I am struggling I will put my hand up and ask for advice, and I expect others to do the same and welcome my input.
  • Value simplicity – No-one can manage lots of small products successfully. Focus on what works, and keep making it work even better.
  • High Performance People make few errors – Hire well, trust your people to do their job. Don’t cotton wool bad people and have checks and balances to make sure they don’t do damage. That adds huge amounts of waste and overhead.
  • Control through context– Managers should communicate a clear strategy and whatever happens within that strategy is up to the employee.

What did you get out of it? Does your company even have a policy or statement on culture?

Top 10 traits of bad leaders

Harvard Business Publishing summarised the 360-degree feedback data on over 11,000 leaders from a study completed by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman. Here are the 10 most common leadership shortcomings, how many apply to you or your leader?

  1. Lack energy and enthusiasm
  2. Accept their own mediocre performance
  3. Lack clear vision and direction
  4. Have poor judgement
  5. Don’t collaborate
  6. Don’t follow the standards they set for others
  7. Resist new ideas
  8. Don’t learn from mistakes
  9. Lack interpersonal skills
  10. Fail to develop others

It is interesting to note that the most successful and least successful differed most significantly in their energy and enthusiasm. Can a good leader therefore be trained or are they born? I see some similarities to the concept of “culture comes from the top”. If the CEO demonstrates energy and enthusiasm this has a huge impact on their report’s motivation to follow, and this energy in turn cascades down the chain. Finally poor management is one of the top 10 reasons employees quit their job, so the consequences of bad leaders are serious.

Management Execution

I was referred to this article by Seth Yates, and the bullet points covering the priorities of management execution struck me as being a nice focused summary:

  • Do enough, no more (at least for this release!)
  • Get it right, quickly – not necessarily the first time
  • Build a firm foundation for growth
  • Be able to add a steady stream of new features
  • Delight your customers!
  • Be better quality than anyone else (stability, ease of use, performance…)
  • Scale gracefully

Of course trying to achieve these things in a competitive market is always going to be tricky. It does summarise how companies like Google execute well; get a Beta out, progressively update, scale and aim to be the best.

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