About management

I decided to save myself a session to the shrink and instead just write down my reflection on management. Who knows, some of you might help me and/or challenge my thought process.

I recently read a great management book called the five dysfunctions of a team by Patrick Lencioni . Instead of telling you what to do, the author highlights behavior patterns that are related to each other and when aggregated result in dysfunctional teams. I really liked the book because instead of a being a cookbook/playbook, this is more a fail book, in other words, it illustrates what you don’t want to do and explains why. It highlights very well the relation between various behaviors and nicely illustrates why teams of brilliant people can fail. The Kindle version is at less than $5, go get it and read it on your iPhone/iPad/computer/browser…

So this book somewhat changed my perception of management and leadership. Interesting enough, at Sony, my previous employer, they make a distinction between management and leadership. While they hope managers can be leaders, they don’t require them to be and to be honest very few are. I’m not sure that’s a good or a bad things, but I, for sure, was under different expectations. Finally, I spent a large amount of my life on the internet working on/with projects where meritocracy, respect and honor were key. The “ranking” is purely based on what your peers think of you and not based on your age/sex/origin/diploma/bank account. I do realize that this model has many pros but also some pretty major cons. My only point is that it did affect my worldview. In my world, seniority, a killer  job title or a fancy suit won’t buy you my automatic respect. On the other hand, job well done, great vision, honesty, over achievement will!

Taking these few trains of thoughts in consideration, I started thinking about my own expectations for a good manager/leader. I figured that if I were able to do that, I could possibly be able to define a work environment where I could thrive and maybe one day become a good “manager/leader”.

I’ve always questioned my ability to be a good leader. While most of the time, I have an opinion and can easily decide what I think should be done, I have a hard time relating to people who can’t see the “big picture”. While I usually can get decent results, I’m aware that it can unfortunately sometime be at the cost of a few bruised egos. I also know I have high expectations for myself and for others and I have a hard time understanding how some people can be ok with the “status-quo”. I’m a perfectionist who is only happy when he outperforms his previous achievement. I was raised to challenge and always push myself further, focusing on concrete end-results and achieved goals. And to be honest, that’s what I enjoy. But I also know for a fact, that many people are not like that and I can’t blame them for looking at things from a different angle and not sharing the same motivations. Furthermore, I know that most people actually don’t have the same driven temperament and that’s why I’ve questioned my abilities to lead others.

However, different temperaments can work together as long as there is respect. And by respect, I mean that everyone feel that they were being heard and know that their input was considered and addressed even though the outcome might not be as hoped for. But for respect to happen, you first need trust. And when people trust each other, Lencioni explains that “people don’t hold back one with another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal”. I think that as simple as it seems, it is the key to a successful team. A good leader should be able to create such an atmosphere where people can trust each other. In fact, I think that if a manger/leader/executive can manage to build trust as defined earlier, his technical skills or lack of vision don’t matter as much. He/she will be able to rely on people he trusts to help him make the right decisions. Of course, there is much more than to be a good leader, but I think that with this base, great things can be built, and without it, a much greater effort is required to get some good results.

Based on my findings, I think that I need to work on my communication so others don’t feel that they have to hold back and make sure everyone feels that their opinions were considered and addressed. To do that a key element is to admit my mistakes and weaknesses and asking others to help me improve. That’s it, sorry for the boring, not technical post. I promise the next one will have at least a code sample.

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  1. #1 by Chris Morris - October 12th, 2011 at 07:48

    Agreed – all of the people I look up to in and out of my field never seem to be afraid to admit when they don’t know something. I think that sort of honesty helps open the door for others to be vulnerable as well.

  2. #2 by Dennis - October 12th, 2011 at 09:28

    A good topic for discussion …

    Some important attributes needed to gain trustworthiness – avoid being judgemental of others, good listening skills, good ability to empathize, putting others interests ahead of your own etc.

    One out of ten people (artificial stat but you get what I mean) will judge the above attributes as being a sign of “weakness” and they’ll try to use those atributes against you – be on the look out without being judgemental :) – not an easy task.

    The other nine will begin to trust you with all the benefits that accrue from a trusting relationship. The tenth person is the price a leader has to pay – there is no avoiding it.

    It can usually be managed but not always – again a price of true leadership vs “enforced leadership” or “leadership through fear” – which everyone knows is not leadership but rather a form of dictatorship.

    As a somewhat related aside – a recent Ruby Rogues podcast discussed how a good programmer is empathetic towards those who will be reading their code and as such makes their top priority code readability at the sacrifice of “showing off” with “golf code” or using “golf code” to shave a few milliseconds off response times when it’s not needed – which is generally most of the time.

    My two cents with a few tangents included …

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