Well I haven’t been in a “leadership” position for much, but there are some things I have learnt, both form my previous experience (and what my old “bosses” did right and wrong from my point of view) and what has been an exiting journey so far.

Not so long ago I was a self employed freelance designer and programmer. Most of the time I struggled to survive and make a living, the remaining time I struggled to handle tons of work that seemed to come the same month. With such “work randomness” I had to work alone. Before that I manly played music (and had not-worth-mentioning-jobs) which is done in a group but has a lot of individualism as well (manly on the composition side). So, before IBM (and then Lenovo) I didn’t have a lot of teamwork experience. Right before I started working this kind of made me nervous: would I adapt?

I did. And I loved it. Quickly enough I could see that 4 people together could do a lot more than 4 people working alone. And quality is much better. The whole is more than the sum of the parts. Even better if there is a good leadership.

I had both good and bad leaders in the past (and will have both kinds in the future, for sure), I hope people consider I am in the first group, but that is not for me to say; but I can scribble a couple of concepts I think are good to keep in mind.

M stands for Motivation.
I cannot state strongly enough how key this is. If people are motivated they are unstoppable. They can achieve whatever you ask them to do, and more.
So, what motivates people? Well salaries are the obvious answer for many, but I think that even if good salaries are a must, they don’t motivate that much (on the other hand, bad salaries kill motivation as fast as light). You can’t motivate if you pay poorly, but a healthy pay check wont motivate people per se.
The enumeration isn’t looking very good this far, 1 thing that kills motivation but is not a motivation itself; lets try to do a little bit better now.

  • Create a good work environment. Enhance participation, make people comfortable.
  • Promote creativity. People have ideas, most of those are good, listen to them, take good care that their ideas see the light of day and that credit is given.
  • Absorb the punches, pass congratulations. Most “rants” about things gone wrong should be absorbed by leaders, lessons must be duly learnt and positive feedback should be passed along in every case (even in case of screw-ups). Every now and then a warning might be necessary, most of the time it’s not.

Communication is the base. Listen and learn. The best way to learn what’s going on in a team is to listen to what people say and listen harder to what they don’t say. (Tricky, ain’t it?).
Take the time to listen to suggestions and issues. And do not “just listen”, take action to prove you are actually listening.
Make them out-stand.
The worst mistake I’ve seen leaders do is to “stop” their team members from doing things mostly because they are afraid of either loosing control or to be “out-shined” by them. In my experience the exact opposite is true. The better people in a team work, the better the leader looks. In terms of control, just re-read “Communique”.

Preach with the example.
“I don’t expect you to work more than I do”. If you prove you work, listen and are yourself motivated you’ll transmit exactly that. Works like a charm.

Always stand by them.
Make your team members life as easy as you possibly can. If you have to choose between covering your own back and theirs: cover theirs. You will never recover from a “treason” to your own team.

Final word.
I have always been part of creative teams. I know nothing about, say, working on an accounting team; but I think the same basic principles apply to all sorts of teams.

As I keep learning on a daily basis I’ll keep the blog updated on this regard.