Monday, March 21, 2016
Graduating from a good Manager to a good Leader
There is always the excitement in moving up the ladder, moving to the corner office, getting a C role and title, professional and personal achievement of making the grade. In recent times there have been many first timers getting there with the earlier guard making way by virtue of retirement after a full term or decision to get off the treadmill and focusing on life. Both way the new bunch is full of excitement, charged up and raring to prove their mettle in the cutthroat corporate world of one-upmanship.
Newbies start with a lot of enthusiasm and desire to make a quick impact with low hanging fruits. They push hard at times exposing their naivety while go soft in situations where they could have gotten away. Balance comes to them over a period of getting tossed around while they understand the group dynamics and their impact on the team where they are a new entrant. Most of the older folks are happy to help, coach, mentor, be a buddy should the newbie approach them with due humility of inexperience.
For first-timers, survival in the management group comes relatively easily in comparison to own team especially if the person has come from outside and even more so if team members have had long tenures. Teams can be visibly hostile to the newcomer if internal candidature was ignored though deemed adequate. Such was the situation of the bewildered newbie CIO who approached me for help to get the team to start cooperating and listening to him; even after spending seven months, he was struggling.
He had a good track record as a Project Manager who had managed and successfully delivered complex cross-functional projects. Over a dozen years of work experience demonstrated growth path and ability as he had climbed the ladder to start knocking the door aspiring for the corner office. At his last workplace, he was part of the team that managed an outsourcing contract playing an important role. Overall his resume stacked up on the capabilities required and thus he was hired as the CIO.
Settling down within few weeks, he took some time to understand the business which was new to him; his team was a mix of old and new with a couple having long tenures. Not that any of them would have made the cut, they recognized their limitations for the role they did not get. They found the CIO unsure of himself but easy going and good to get along with. He had played roles similar to themselves until he came on board – excited and wanting to prove himself with all the knowledge he had gathered by association to his CIO.
So he talked big words, Governance Risk & Compliance, IT Maturity Model, Economic Value Add, a language that was alien to the team. His reporting manager took kindly to the young star who he had hired, indulging him in his use of jargon waiting for him to start creating change. Discussions with the new CIO were interestingly filled with possibilities which could have created better outcomes than what the business had experienced thus far. The team however did not know what is that they needed to do differently.
As time passed by, review meetings had better information on progress than observed before, the CIO was a good communicator and spoke with fair conviction. His team continued to toil as usual waiting for some of the new initiatives to take off. They wanted their situation to change, they wanted the respect of the business; they wanted to explore the technology landscape to create better solutions for the business. They did not see any path breaking ideas that they were expecting from their new leader.
With better reports creating visibility on IT activity and projects, he was seen as a good manager who was able to keep the team focused on the tasks at hand improving delivery timelines to some extent, while adding resources to increase the speed of delivery. His persona was efficient, articulate, but someone who had not been able to charge the team to leap forth beyond incremental efficiency. The business needed a different level of leadership that was invisible thus far, the team wanted a leader to lead the way, not a better manager.
With the team, building trust is the foremost task for a leader; the team needs to share the vision and believe in their leader to themselves leapfrog performance to the next level. For the leader it is important to approach the team with an open attitude, listening skills, and empathy. Teams are ready to follow the leader in adversity spurred by a dream and nothing else. The transition from Manager to Leader happens for few, the rest continue to partake a journey that keeps them wedded to acceptable performance.