Thursday, June 20, 2013

7 Characteristics of a Good Leader. 10 Key Challenges for a New Manager. 3 Common Problems Caused by Poor Leadership.


Unfortunately, the skills that make a good technical staff member do not always translate well to management. How do you make the leap?
There are a lot of pitfalls for people making the leap from technician to manager or team lead. A typical scenario is the IT hero syndrome:
§  You know that you can do things better, so you do them yourself.
§  You get frustrated with your team members because they aren't pulling their weight.
§  The situation deteriorates as you assign yourself more and more of the difficult work.
§  You spend so much time solving technical problems, you fail to provide leadership to your team.
§  You make yourself the indispensable person—right up until the moment you burn out.

Characteristics of a Good Leader

There may be several of your team members who saw themselves in the team manager role. They may resent that you were given the job instead—regardless of whether you came from outside or were promoted from within.
The hard part is that you have to earn your team's respect. What makes this even harder is that this type of interpersonal dynamic does not come naturally to many skilled technical people.
There is no easy way to get peoples' respect. But there are some characteristics that go a long way toward earning it:
§  Be fair-minded. Put yourself in the other person's shoes. Try to understand how things look from the other side of the fence. You don't have to give in to their demands, and you don't have to adopt their world view, just understand and respect it. This applies to your subordinates, your management, and your customers.
§  Be honest. This includes telling people what you intend to do, setting reasonable expectations, and coming clean when you mess up or when you are not going to be able to deliver as promised.
§  Be ethical. There will be many opportunities to take advantage of your employer or your subordinates. Don't. You have an internal compass; you know what is right and what is not. Do the right thing. Even if it makes people mad at you, they will respect you for sticking to your guns.
§  Be approachable. Your subordinates and customers are going to see problems before you do. How are you going to find out about these problems if you don't make yourself available, physically and emotionally, for them to talk to you?
§  Have clear expectations. Your team is made of professionals who want to make things work the right way. The manager's job is to provide a clear set of expectations that your technical staff can meet.
§  Recognize achievement. How will your team understand what you want, if you don't point it out when they do it?
§  Identify and resolve failures. Problems don't just disappear; they fester. Take them on, find a resolution, and fix them.
Being the boss is different from being a good team member. You are not just another teammate any more. It is your job to set the direction, strategy, and tone for the team. If you aren't willing to make the tough decisions, they aren't going to be made. If you don't keep your team's respect, they will fight against the decisions you have to make. But if you don't trust your team members, you will not inspire them to reach their potential.


  1. Set standards, but allow flexibility for team members to exercise their strengths.
  2. Emphasize delegation and collaboration.
  3. Be accessible, but maintain discipline.
  4. Be decisive, but make the decisions after you understand the situation. Recognize that one of your team members may know more than you do—don't be afraid to ask questions.
  5. Make the tough decisions, but be humane and fair. Leaders lead. They don't hide from responsibility.
  6. Simplicity is almost always better than complexity.
  7. Develop a healthy respect for Murphy's Law. If something can go wrong, have a way to recover from it.
  8. Establish reliable, repeatable processes. Good processes help your team do jobs consistently and well. Then look for ways to improve those processes.
  9. Challenge the status quo and look for ways to improve the environment.

Problems Caused by Poor Leadership

A team is more than a group of talented people. A team is formed to work together to accomplish a goal. If the talented individuals do not have clear direction, each will make decisions based on what that particular person knows.
When a team has a weak leader, everyone only understands a small piece of the overall project or environment.
Here are some common reactions to weak leadership:
§  Inaction. Someone may be afraid of doing the wrong thing, and do nothing at all while waiting for instructions. Progress grinds to a halt.
§  Individual judgment. Someone may proceed based on an understanding of a small piece of the puzzle and cause problems elsewhere in the project.
§  Conflicting priorities. Team members may work on tasks in an order that does not match the organization's needs; this results in project delays or an unstable environment.
The leader's responsibility is to help the team members to see how their particular part fits into the overall whole. A good leader helps his team understand the end goal, how every contribution is important to achieving the goal, and why the goal is important.
In short, a good leader inspires and organizes the team to work together to help the organization meet its overall goals.

The Core Challenges

You don't have a lot of time to make the necessary changes. In most environments, you may have 90 days to get your team working toward a common plan and achieving real results. If you haven't made measurable progress toward your end goals by then, you are in trouble.
Management guru Michael Watkins categorizes the key challenges facing a new manager as being the following:
§  Promote yourself. Your company has promoted you. Now you need to promote yourself. Break away from your old thought patterns. Make the transition to thinking like a manager. If you don't do this in the beginning of your tenure, it will be increasingly difficult to do it later on.
§  Learn fast and well. Learn as much as possible about the organization as quickly as possible. This includes information about what the company does, and how the company does it. It also includes information about the company culture, and how it affects the overall company mission.
§  Identify the right strategy. Every job is different. Don't stick slavishly to a plan, even one that worked somewhere else. Come up with a plan that will work here and now. If your initial plan is not going to work, change it so that the new plan has a ghost of a chance of working.
§  Achieve early wins. Early wins build team momentum and credibility. You will need both to tackle your team's challenges going forward.
§  Negotiate success. Manage your boss's expectations. Present a 90-day plan to your boss, identify the early wins you expect to accomplish, and negotiate what success will mean for those early wins.
§  Align. Work with your boss, your peers, and your partners to make sure that your team is pulling in a direction that helps the overall company mission.
§  Build your team. Evaluate your team's members. You have to pick the right structure for your team. And you have to select the right people for the right slots.
§  Create coalitions. Just as your team needs to work together to really get things done, your team needs to fit into the larger landscape for the company to move forward. Identify people whose support you need, and figure out how to work together with them.
§  Keep your balance. There is a lot to do, more than you actually can do. Prioritize. Keep your sense of perspective. And remember what your overall goals are.
§  Transition others. The faster you can get your direct reports, your bosses, and your partners used to how things work now, the faster you can start to achieve the results you were hired to achieve.


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