Heard and Valued: Three Short and Useful Bits of Advice for Improving Your Leadership Skills


I’ve been consulting on a couple of huge projects—multi-year, enterprise-wide, over-eight-digit-budget affairs. I was talking with one of the project executives about some of the current issues (there are always a few), and we were reviewing what information was being shared with the team, with executive management, and with other stakeholders. There was clear traceability of the significant issues and, they were discussed openly with executives. She said, “I like to play the cards face up on the table. I’ve promised my boss—no surprises.” I firmly agree with that approach, and it was refreshing to hear someone else embrace it.

Projects—particularly large ones—never go completely smoothly, and to expect otherwise is foolish. Because the issues were on the table and being worked for this project, everyone could focus on the issues rather than expending energy trying to fix blame or put political spin on what was happening. The transparency allowed true collaboration and let senior executives deal with issues in stride.

Contrast the approach and consequences of this transparency with projects that gloss over issues and try to give the illusion that things are going smoothly. On these projects, when a problem can’t be dealt with at the lowest levels of the organization and is escalated, it shatters the illusions of the executives involved and often they have trouble calibrating their response. It can also undermine the credibility of the project team.

This is a good reminder that, if you play your cards face up on the table, people can quibble about how you play the hand but will be hard pressed to say that you cheated.

So, here are three good leadership points to consider this year:

  1. A good technique to encourage people to ask for help (rather than asking someone to help them)
  2. A suggestion about selling and pacing organizational (or personal) change so that it is more likely to succeed
  3. A reminder that transparency reduces surprise and helps to build trust

Are you looking for good leadership ideas? What good leadership lessons have you picked up recentlyr? Any you wish to share?

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