One of the most difficult practices of leadership in organizations is delegation. In order to delegate, for true Ownership of work and results, you have to know how to let go.
This is also true of your personal leadership.
Sometimes you simply have to let go.
Over the past months I have been quietly doing just that. With the help of some amazing colleagues and friends, KSP Partnership has been reformed, and refocused.
With that in mind, I invite you to subscribe to our YouTube Channel – KSP Partnership – and view our micro-lessons. If you like what you see please feel free to pass the link along. You’ll find that each of the topics will be its own playlist and will contain 3 or 4 micro-lessons of no more than 4 minutes each.
If these micro-lessons give you an idea that you’d like to have made into this type of education please let me know! And further, if you want to white label or customize specific topics we’d love to work with you to help guide your teams to higher levels of productivity.
For many people, and I am one of them, the #timesup campaign has been the moment when we spoke up on an inherently political issue – on an inherently social and ethical issue – on platforms that had large audiences. These audiences would be larger than just the relatively safe environment around the dinner table or having a glass of wine with friends.
At one point, I previously pointed out to one questioner that each person who has dealt with trauma has the right to determine how he or she will deal with it. The decision to publicly discuss it is one that I feel strongly belongs to the individual central to the trauma.
As more and more people participated in the discussion I watched from the sidelines, taking in mountains of data before coming to information that would inform my final decision to weigh in.
One of my newly favourite authors, Dr. Sarah Churchwell, wrote about the impact of misogyny in literature and the social influence that can result from that sorry state of affairs. She made a powerful case for how deeply the ‘boys-will-be-boys’ attitude is ingrained in how society is depicted; which depictions are considered more acceptable or normal. She argues that this is a key reason women need to rewrite the story. Using the powerful tool of compare and contrast, Dr. Churchwell demonstrated how differently authors and stories are treated depending on the gender of the most powerful characters in literature. She ties it all to a common manipulative device – gas lighting. If you are told something often enough, can it become real? Yes – even if it is never actually true.
Her work reminded me of a TedX talk by Kristen Pressner entitled “Are You Biased? I am”. Ms. Pressner, an HR executive (yes, she sees and addresses the strength of that particular irony), does more than discuss bias. She suggests a self-test for it. Flip it. If you think you are not being biased in your considerations flip the gender, race, or generation of the person central to your judgement or decision.
Deliberating a decision that will affect a man? Would you come to the same conclusion if – all other things being equal – it was a woman?
Assessing a judgement call regarding a younger colleague’s request? How would you consider the same request if it came from a more seasoned colleague?
Is the request coming from a member of the dominant society? How does it affect your thought process if it comes from a minority member of society?
And, of course, each of the questions I posed could be reasonably considered in reverse as well.
Keeping in mind Dr. Churchwell’s points, it seems reasonable to use Ms. Pressner’s suggestion. It is particularly important where you don’t think you are biased. That is the heart of the power of unconscious bias, of bias that has become the norm, bias that is practically built into the social DNA of our lives.
You may ask, what on earth does this have to do with team leadership?
One of the Key Success Parameters central to culture’s impact on productivity is Collaborative Spirit. Collaborative Spirit is built on the trust and respect that Clear Definition and true Ownership can foster. There is no room in an environment of mutual trust and respect for privilege due to anything other than merit and collaboration. Privilege or consideration based on anything else – gender, generation, faith or ethnicity – undermines the very strength of how and why true Collaborative Spirit is so powerful.
It sets a dreadful example of maladjusted leadership. It condones marginalization. It depresses creativity, cooperation, collaboration, and collective productivity.
How profitable can teams be when they are freed from those depressive and oppressive pressures?
I don’t know.
I’d sure like to find out.
What about you? Do you think your teams might be ready to evolve to that level? If so, let’s talk – let’s start.
For some time now I’ve been suggesting that we re-examine the basics.
This has meant the basics of communication, the basics of project management, the basics of team dynamics, and the basic understanding of how a culture feeds into and affects the behaviors of teams.
I am in the midst of exploring Eric Weiner‘s The Geography of Genius. He offers an expansion of the definition of culture. That, and the resulting tweak of its impact on us as people, struck me.
According to Weiner,
“Culture is more than what the dictionary tells us: “a set of shared attitudes, values and goals”. Culture is the enormous yet invisible ocean in which we swim. Or, to put it in modern, digital terms, culture is a shared IT network. Yes, it’s temperamental and crashes too often for our liking, but without it, we can’t communicate with one another or accomplish much of anything.”
He also makes the point that within every culture are sub-cultures – a part of, but also apart from, the overarching culture.
Think of it as the difference between how a person from manufacturing might view a new product versus how a person from product development might view it. Then throw in the folks from finance and the human resources department.
Each area of expertise has also generated its own sub-culture. The finance department of a company, focused on manufacturing consumer products, will likely have a different sub-culture than one that focuses on services in a business to business perspective. The sub-cultures of these two finance companies will have a great deal in common with each other. They will also have significant differences due to the underlying culture of the organization where they work.
Project teams (and specifically new product development teams) are particularly vulnerable to this as each project team – temporary in its nature – will also develop a sub-culture of its own. That sub-culture is still connected to the ambient culture of their organization. It also has the opportunity to become something more than the best parts of the larger culture – more productive, more focused, more profitable – by the simple fact of being separate, temporary, and often smaller than other groups that will form their sub-cultures.
These sub-cultures are a bit independent of, yet must align with, the higher level organizational cultures, an Organizational Breakdown Structure that focuses on culture, if you will, that focuses on the culture. The dominant culture may prize precision. The new product development team has to be able to embrace a larger level of uncertainty. Each sub-organization, each team, must change their behaviors to embrace and align with the larger culture without losing their specific focus points. Additionally, how will you keep from accidently affecting beliefs and values, resulting in behaviors that are counterproductive or downright destructive?
Weiner opens his book with this quote from Plato. I have long felt that it is one that would bring great benefit if more people would spend some time and give serious thought to it. It proves how far back you need to go, sometimes, when you go back to basics.
“What is honored in a country will be cultivated there.” – Plato
What is honored in the ‘country’ that is your team’s home and how is it manifested in their behaviors and productivity levels?
Key Actions for Higher Performance:
Gain clarity: what is the existing cultural norm? Do a project team's specific SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analysis on the potential impact of the organization’s overall culture on your team.
Enlist and enroll key stakeholders in this exercise. Each member of an existing sub-culture that will participate in the project’s lifecycle and eventual success can give you valuable insight into the questions – and even answer some issues for your stakeholder analysis.
Prioritize! Choose the single area that you believe can either make the greatest difference, the fastest win, or the most visible win – and, based on what is most valued in the dominant culture of your organization, pick that one thing to work on first. The Key Success Parameters of any high performing project team are so beautifully intertwined that you will begin to affect other areas with a solid shift in one.
Contact me if you want to put our Team MRI to use in this effort. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be glad to set up a link for your specific teams so that your results are immediate, discrete, and actionable. What will you do first with the results of this diagnostic tool?
Come to the Orlando Premier CIO Forum on Dec. 13 and hear me speak on “Defining Teams and Cultures That Deliver”. Join me and your peers for networking and hearing experts discuss IT topics and trends that are important to CIOs and IT Executives. Register now
When you work with organizations to help accelerate the productivity and profitability of their project teams there are questions that keep coming up:
‘So this is project management, right? Do you teach scheduling or something? Can you fix our project management application?’
The long answer is that we work with teams and they become more productive because of how they work together rather than the tools they use as they work together. Project management is the cloak that covers the down and dirty business of changing the behaviors and dynamics within the team. This is because, as a seasoned project manager, there is an assumption that underlies each team.
The assumption is that they already know the basics of scheduling, estimating and risk management. Well……you know what they say about assumptions.
Regardless of whether you use Agile, eXtreme Lean, Six Sigma or Prince2 as an approach there are some things that remain true.
You need to be able to communicate to your stakeholders.
How long will it take?
What will it cost?
When will it be done?
Why might it fail and what can we do about it?
Are there possible opportunities to wring other benefits from this work aside even from the stated goals and objectives of this project?
Sometimes you find that even your most fundamental assumption is groundless. Sometimes you find that, under the extreme time pressure of an ever-faster pace of business, people have lost-forgotten-abandoned some of the basic tools and approaches that would serve them well.
With that in mind, I am delighted that Michael Bender has taken on the challenge and has begun the task of creating micro-lessons – called uLessons on YouTube. These lessons will be taking you back to the basics. No lesson is very long – you could probably take one or two in and still have time for coffee.
Teams that are on the way to becoming more productive will still actively consider the value of their tools and approaches.
And there are times when a refresher isn’t a bad idea.