As I wrote last week, I try to start from the premise that people mean well. I have to believe that we all start out with good intentions. Over time, however, even the best intentioned of us stray from the path. As leaders, it’s very easy to get up every day and go to work, fight the fires and deal with the unplanned interruptions, just to do it again the next day. Before we know it, some very unleader-like traits can rear their ugly heads.
Even if we find ourselves doing things that won’t show up in anyone’s “Leadership 101” book, we can choose to change them. Here are five limiting behaviors that can be purged, and five alternatives that can get a leader back on-track with those best intentions.
Recently, our organization brought someone new on board. In our first meeting, I felt an immediate kinship with him. Though we just met, each time we talk, it’s like we’ve known each other for years. Sometimes it’s like that – an effortless connection or affinity with someone new.
When he asked me for insight to the politics and people of the organization, I was happy to oblige. But first, I had to explain to him the way I “see” people.
I evaluate two things – intent and alignment – when I want to engage, pitch, and otherwise work with others. When evaluating intent, the question I try to answer is “does the person mean well?” For alignment, it’s “are we coming at this [issue/opportunity] from the same perspective?”
I was at an industry event this past week, spending time with executives across large and small insurance carriers. We were there to talk about the business of insurance and how technology plays a key role in that business. As a result, the executives crossed a variety of business and technical roles. A VP of Claims, a CIO, and maybe a Senior Director of Strategy all at the same table. And in the middle of it all was me…the only PMO-type in the room.
Spring is almost here in New England. The weather is warming up, which means talk has turned in our house to motorcycle season. If you will recall, my husband started racing as a rookie late last year. This year, he’s part of a race team and plans to race once a month starting in the next few weeks.
I can’t turn around without hearing talk about parts, practice and paint. It reminds me of starting off on a new project in my early days as a project manager. Previously, I wrote a post about what aspiring or new project managers could learn from motorcycle racing. Expanding upon the theme, here are five tips that are key to winning a motorcycle race that can be applied to successfully completing a project.
1. Get a good start.
Racers line up at the start, gunning their engines to get a jump off the line. They want to get ahead of the pack early, as zipping around curves and racing down straightaways is easier in a clear field than in traffic. A slow start can mean having to make up time and distance later in the race, when energy levels may be lower and unforeseen events require additional adjustment. Project managers have the ability to start out projects strong, with clear expectations and high energy. Early leads provide additional contingency to address late breaking issues and risks.
One of my most prized possessions is a toy tow truck, given to me by my team when I left the Marine Corps. From their perspective, I was always there to get them out of a jam. The toy is a simple reminder of the leadership trait my team valued most. One that I continue to model over a decade later.
As leaders, we need to wear a lot of hats – be many things to many people at different times – to be successful. Looking beyond the tow truck, I sought out other opportunities to recognize important leadership skills in a fun and simple way.