CIO Straight Talk - Issue 11 - 25
the leadership qualities that are the source of
your success can lead to even greater success in
As I pondered my leadership style, I realized
that it is defined by several factors, all of them
governed by an overriding "mantra." I hope this
story about my identification of my leadership
traits will serve not so much as a leadership
template but as a catalyst for others to think
about what makes them effective leaders.
Consider the following situation, which may
have a familiar ring. A software architect has
developed a solution that is technically elegant
but falls short on performance. You tell him that,
no matter how beautiful the software design,
the performance is unacceptable: the screento-screen change time must be reduced from
10 seconds to two seconds. He digs in his heels:
"There's a lot of data involved. I can't think of any
way to shorten that process. It can't be done."
Now consider an alternative approach. Instead
of going to the software architect with a demand
to reduce the time, you take him inside the
customer's problem. There's a pediatrician sitting
in front of a patient, trying to call up the patient's
growth chart. The doctor clicks on a button.
The patient is waiting. The mom is waiting. Ten
seconds pass (one-one-thousand, two-onethousand, three-one-thousand...). Finally, the
growth chart appears. By putting the architect
in the doctor's seat and creating some empathy,
this becomes a problem for the architect to solve
rather than an order from you on how to do it.
People Support What They Help Create. The
phrase, generally attributed to Edward Deming,
the father of the "Total Quality Management"
movement, serves as the foundation of my
leadership style. The best way to build a
motivated team is to allow them to set the
direction their work will take. I believe this with
all my heart.
It's easy for most of us to slip into
micromanagement, to prescribe a task rather
than describe a desired outcome. We're
particularly vulnerable to this when we're under
time pressure. And in fact, there are situations
when you need to dictate what an individual or
team needs to do.
But dictating action, rather guiding people
toward an outcome, runs counter to "people
support what they help create." Even in those
few situations where you know exactly what you
want your team to do, taking the time to explain
how you reached that conclusion will increase
their engagement with the task.
The benefits of this approach go beyond
engagement and motivation. Your trust in the
team increases members' trust in and respect for
THE SOFTWARE ARCHITECT DIGS
IN HIS HEELS: "THERE'S A LOT OF
DATA INVOLVED. I CAN'T THINK
OF ANY WAY TO SHORTEN THAT
PROCESS. IT CAN'T BE DONE."
you. Furthermore, you'll often find that a team
empowered to chart its own path to a desired
outcome will add value to the process, growing
an idea beyond what you initially envisioned.
HOW TO TREAT PEOPLE
Once you have identified your leadership mantra,
how do you incorporate it into the basic blocking
and tackling of managing people and teams?
I've found it's useful to break this down into
four areas, the first of which is the way you treat
One of my favorite management books, which I
often have my team members read, is "The Three
Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers,"
by Patrick Lencioni. The book starts with the
idea that happy employees are productive
employees - and then describes three things that
make employees miserable.
Anonymity. People cannot be fulfilled in their
work if they are not known, if they aren't
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CIO Straight Talk - Issue 11