Twenty-One Tips to Be an Effective Leader

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8. Don’t Tolerate Dishonesty
Do you need to trust your team? Do team members need to trust you and each other? Lies of commission (saying something that isn’t true) or omission (remaining silent rather than correcting something that is incorrect or false) can’t be tolerated because they undermine trust.

9. Forgive
The fist time a team member violates a rule, assume you didn’t make yourself clear and review the expected behavior in private. This was hard for me at first, but in the long run it helps sort errors in judgment from bad intentions. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes.

10. Don’t Hesitate to Say “I Don’t Know”
This sets a tone for your team that cuts down on posturing and gives team members permission to do the same.

11. Don’t Reward One Behavior While Expecting Another
Incentive systems can be perverse, rewarding long hours rather than productivity, bug fixing rather than fault prevention. Be on the lookout for incentive systems that reward individuals (encouraging competition) while extolling teamwork.

12. Never Throw Your Troops Under the Bus for the Boss or Client
You are responsible for everything your team does or fails to do. If they screwed up, you screwed up. You should have trained them better, supported them better, given them clearer instructions, or resigned because you weren’t up to the task of leadership.

13. Never Throw the Boss or Client Under the Bus for Your Troops
If you are working for a dysfunctional organization, leave. Clients and executives usually have rational reasons for what they do, even if you don’t always agree with those reasons. Trying to understand and explain decisions that seem arbitrary is hard, but ultimately it is more motivating for team members to understand why a decision didn’t go their way than having them believe that they are being subject to capricious or arbitrary decisions.

14. Expect no Better Behavior Than You Exhibit
If you fudge the expense report rules, you give your team permission to fudge the rules through your example. If you speak ill of a team member when he isn’t around, you establish that as a norm for your team. Your dedication, enthusiasm, and ethics should be beyond reproach.

15. Care about People
You should have an interpersonal connection to each team member. You do this by going to lunch or breakfast or getting a coffee. You don’t have to be best friends, but you should have a sufficient relationship that people trust you to tell you what’s really going on.

16. Learn to Delegate
The key to delegation isn’t just giving work to other people, it’s learning to let them do it differently than you would have done as long as the results are minimally acceptable. This is hard, particularly when your experience tells you there is a better way. Empowering people to do the work means letting them explore their own approach.

17. Learn to Coach
The best professional coaches don’t necessarily tell you what to do, they point out bits of context or information that you might have missed or consequences you may not have considered. They show you how to discover your error and what cues you may have missed. The gentlest and most effective way to do this is by asking questions rather than telling. Compare, “Don’t do it that way, it will be harder to back up!” with “How will we back this system up?” Which teaches you more? Which lesson are you most likely to remember?

About the author

Payson Hall's picture Payson Hall

Payson Hall is a consulting project manager for Catalysis Group, Inc. in Sacramento, California. Payson consults on project management issues and teaches project management. Email Payson at payson@catalysisgroup.com. Follow him on twitter at @paysonhall.

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