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Tag: business decision

20 Mantras Great Leaders Live By Every Day

Written by James Curtiss | @

Original post

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This post originally appeared on the Sales section of Inbound Hub. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

Leadership can be a difficult characteristic to understand. Which qualities make someone a good leader? Do those same qualities translate to all aspects of life, or can a person successfully lead a sports team but fail in the boardroom? Are people born leaders, or can anyone inspire others to follow them?

I won’t pretend to know the answers to these questions, and I doubt that many people do.

But when I think about what it takes to be an effective leader, I am invariably reminded of late summer conversations with my grandfather on the deck of his home on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. We talked about anything and everything together — from the current state of Red Sox Nation to the most effective technique for shucking the cherrystone clams we collected earlier that day. But, on occasion, the discussion would drift towards more business-oriented topics and I got a free lesson in leadership studies from one of the very best.

To provide a little background, Don Davis, my grandfather, left a distinguished career in corporate America in 1988 to pursue his “retirement” as a professor at MIT’s Leaders for Global Operations program. During his 22-year tenure at the school, he shared the lessons he learned from his time in business and inspired more than a few of today’s most influential leaders.

As I am sure any of his former students will tell you, it would be nearly impossible to boil down all of his lessons into a single blog post. Fortunately, those same students were kind enough to compile a Memory Book after he passed away in order to share some of his most important teachings, namely the 20 leadership mantras that were core to his curriculum.

Here are those 20 mantras, along with some insight from our Martha’s Vineyard discussions. (For a more personal explanation of how these mantras helped various students succeed in business, you can find the Memory Book in its entirety here.)

1) Leaders don’t choose their followers. Followers choose their leaders.

One cannot simply choose to lead a group of people. You may be a leader in title, but you’re not a legitimate leader if your followers do not believe in you and your vision.

2) Followers choose leaders they trust, respect, and feel comfortable with.

If you don’t have the trust and respect of your followers, how are you supposed to make the connection necessary to inspire them to achieve great things?

3) Be yourself. The number of leadership styles is limitless.

There is no scientific formula for what makes a good leader, only a belief in your own ability as well as the ability of your followers to be successful.

4) Leaders need a base of power and authority — but the more they use it, the less there is left.

Needless to say, effective leadership requires a certain amount of authority. Like most forms of capital, that power is finite. Use it sparingly and only when necessary.

5) The best leadership is based on persuasion.

Anyone can have a vision. Leaders have the ability to persuade others to believe in their vision.

6) Leaders set the ethical standards and tone of their organizations by their behavior.

As a leader, you set the example. Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want printed on the cover of the New York Times. Your followers are avid readers.

7) Integrity is the bedrock of effective leadership. Only you can lose your integrity.

Unethical behavior is a slippery slope. Avoid the slope at all costs because everyone slips.

8) “Selfship” is the enemy of leadership.

A true leader cares more about the success of his/her followers than their own success.

9) Be quick to praise, but slow to admonish. Praise in public, but admonish in private.

If you’re going to praise someone, do it big. If you’re going to reprimand, make sure it is warranted and do so in a respectful manner.

10) One of a leader’s key responsibilities is stamping out self-serving politics when they emerge.

As a leader, your job is to inspire the entire group. No single person is bigger than the group, not even the leader.

11) Be sure to know as much as possible about the people you are leading.

How can you inspire someone if you don’t know what motivates them?

12) One manages things, but people lead people.

It may be a bit cliché, but at the end of the day, followers are human beings. Don’t lose sight of that reality.

13) Diversity in an organization is not only legally required and socially desired — it’s also effective.

Every problem, obstacle, or issue has a different solution. Different perspectives make it much easier to identify the right solution.

14) Leadership should be viewed as stewardship.

Leader and teacher are synonyms, even if the Thesaurus tool in Microsoft Word doesn’t agree.

15) Don’t make tough decisions until you need to. Most will solve themselves with time.

Procrastination isn’t always a negative tendency. Don’t jump to conclusions. Sometimes you just have to give the problem time to work itself out.

16) When making decisions about people, listen to your gut.

Believe in your ability to identify the right talent. It’s your vision, so you should be able to recognize when a person embodies that vision.

17) People can see through manipulation and game-playing. Everyone can spot a phony.

This goes back to the mutual respect and trust that must exist between a leader and follower. Don’t undermine that mutual respect via manipulation. You’ll lose followers.

18) Learn to say, out loud, “I was wrong” and “I don’t know.”

You may be a leader, but you’re not omniscient. Don’t pretend to be.

19) If you know a plan or decision is wrong, don’t implement it. Instead, keep talking.

Don’t try to jam a square peg in a circular hole. Work with your team to figure out a way to round the edges of the peg so it fits properly.

20) Each of us has potential to lead, follow or be an individual contributor.

Potential is limitless and everyone has the ability to contribute to the success of a particular vision. It all depends on how strongly they believe in that vision.

There is no recipe for what makes a good leader, but these mantras can provide valuable guidelines. I wouldn’t trade those talks on the deck for anything.

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Design Your Agile Project, Part 1

by: Johanna Rothman

Find the original post here: http://www.jrothman.com/blog/mpd/2014/03/design-your-agile-project-part-1-2.html

The more I see teams transition to agile, the more I am convinced that each team is unique. Each project is unique. Each organizational context is unique. Why would you take an off-the-shelf solution that does not fit your context? (I wrote Manage It! because I believe in a context-driven approach to project management in general.)

One of the nice things about Scrum is the inspect-and-adapt approach to it. Unfortunately, most people do not marry the XP engineering practices with Scrum, which means they don’t understand why their transition to agile fails. In fact, they think that Scrum alone,without the engineering practices, is agile. How many times do you hear “Scrum/Agile”? (I hear it too many times. Way too many.)

I like kanban, because you can see where the work is. “We have a lot of features in process.” Or, “Our testers never get to done.” (I hate when I hear that. Hate it! That’s an example of people not working as a cross-functional team to get to done. Makes me nuts. But that’s a symptom, not a cause.) A kanban board often provides more data than a Scrum board does.

Can there be guidelines for people transitioning to agile? Or guidelines for projects in a program? There can be principles. Let’s explore them.

The first one is to start by knowing how your product releases, starting with the end in mind. I’m a fan of continuous delivery of code into the code base. Can you deliver your product that way? Maybe.

How Does Your Product Release?

I wish there were just two kinds of products: those that released continuously, as in Software as a Service, and those with hardware, that released infrequently. The infrequent releases release that way because of the cost to release. But, there’s a continuum of release frequency:

Potential Release Frequency

How expensive is it to release your product? The expense of release will change your business decision about when to release your product.

You want to separate the business decision of releasing your product from making your software releasable.

That is, the more to the left of the continuum you are, the more you can marry your releases to your iterations or your features, if you want. Your project portfolio decisions are easier to make, and they can occur as often as you want, as long as you get to done, every feature or iteration.

The more to the right of the continuum you are, the more you need to separate the business decision of releasing from finishing features or iterations. The more to the right of the continuum, the more important it is to be able to get to done on a regular basis, so you can make good project portfolio decisions. Why? Because you often have money tied up in long-lead item expenses. You have to make decisions early for committing to hardware or Non Recurring Engineering expenses.

How Complex is Your Product?

Let’s look at the Cynefin model to see if it has suggestions for how we should think about our projects:

CynefinI’ll talk more about you might want to use the Cynefin model to analyze your project or program in a later post. Sorry, it’s a system, and I can’t do it all justice in one post.

In the meantime, take a look at the Cynefin model, and see where you think you might fall in the model.

Do you have one collocated cross-functional team who wants to transition to agile? You are in the “known knowns” situation for agile. As for your product, you are likely in the “known unknowns” situation. Are you willing to use the engineering practices and work in one- or two-week iterations? Almost anything in the agile or lean community will work for you.

As soon as you have more than one or two teams, or you have geographically distributed teams, or you are on the right hand side of the “Potential for Release Frequency” chart above, do you see how you are no longer in the “Complicated” or “Obvious” side of the Cynefin model? You have too many unknowns.

Where Are We Now?

Here are my principles:

  1. Separate the business decision for product release from the software being releasable all the time. Whatever you have for a product, you want the software to be releasable.
  2. Understand what kind of a product you have. The closer you are to the right side of the product release frequency, the more you need a program, and the more you need a kanban to see where everything is in your organization, so you can choose to do something about them.
  3. Make sure your batch size is as small as you can make it, program or project. The smaller your features, the more you will see your throughput. The shorter your iteration, the more feedback you will obtain from your product owner and “the business.” You want the feedback so you can learn, and so your management can manage the project portfolio.
  4. Use the engineering practices. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you do not keep your stories small so that you can develop automated unit tests, automated system tests, use continuous integration, swarm around stories or pair, and use the XP practices in general, you will not have the safety net that agile provides you to practice at a sustainable pace. You will start wondering why you are always breathless, putting in overtime, never able to do what you want to do.

If you have technical debt, start to pay it down a little at a time, as you implement features. You didn’t accumulate it all at once. Pay it off a little at a time. Or, decide that you need a project to prevent the cost of delay for release. If you are a technical team, you have a choice to be professional. No one is asking you to estimate without providing your own safety net. Do not do so.

This post is for the easier transitions, the people who want to transition, the people who are collocated, the people who have more knowns than unknowns. The next post is for the people who have fewer knowns. Stay tuned.

Johanna Rothman

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