Monday, 10 December 2012

Leading vs Managing

I was lying in bed trying to rest but my overactive mind is still racing......

A work mentor once told me "Power used against you is called politics; power used for you is called networking.  Be clear which way the powerful winds blow."

My current work team is geographically dispersed, 2 of us in Asia Pacific, 1 in USA and the rest are scattered around Europe.  One of the reasons for changing roles within the Company is to have fewer night calls... my current work scope is global; the new work scope is regional.  At least.... in this Company, I may have a conversation with my boss when she asks me to join a call outside work hours.  Imagine that I have it written in my individual development plan under the authenticity > resilience area to limit my evening calls to 2 a week, or 10 a month. 

My American teammate has bent over backwards to accommodate my request to start team calls at 830pm Singapore time (630am for him in Houston) instead of 930pm.  B, I truly appreciate you, do you know that? *hugs* The other Americans that I have worked with, like to start calls at 930pm, 10pm, 11pm.... I am incoherent at that time after having worked in the day.

I love my work teammates. 

A LOT of that love is the leadership that my ex boss J provided.  And his ex boss H.  Together J and H gave us space to deliver what we had to..... recognising that the amount of work is always more than the time available to do the work.  Now that J has not been my boss for 4 months, and H for nearly a year, the distance of time enables me to see why the team pulled together to deliver the project on 1 Apr, and stabilise it up to end Jul.  This is my take, 4 months down the road, on why my current team is the best team I have ever worked in.... J and H were true leaders, not just managers.

For J and H, their word is their bond.  When J says he will do it, he will.  When I think of J and H, honesty, integrity, respect come to mind. Because of these personal attributes - honesty, trust, respect - I will always want to spend time with them and around them in the workplace.
I see their behaviours over time.... J stood up for me to H and H's boss, recommended me to lead a continuous improvement project, guided me when I was spitting fire over T's slowness to understand an issue, and then slowness to resolve the issue.... I know I can depend on him.  J's key to building trust is to be authentic, even to the point of being vulnerable and letting us see his flaws.  He used to joke about his lack of admininstrative and advertising skills.
In one face to face meeting, I walked alongside H and asked her 'How do you balance your work and your life?  As a leader of leaders, and as a woman'.  Because I trusted her enought to give me a balanced answer.

Great bosses care.  They show genuine compassion, care for their team as a person, not just another cog in the great scheme of things.  J started each week's one-on-one catch up session with me with "How are you?" and he cared about the answer.  When Medium Boy and Small Boy were down with coughs/colds, he knew.  When the Husband needed to be hospitalised and was then jobless, he knew.  When I told him I might need surgery, he knew.  He knew because he asked, and I answered because he offered a friendly ear.  He was the same to all of us.  One teammate (also J, let's call her JE) was in the midst of a marriage breakup early 2010.  J knew about JE's pain, but he never breathed a word to anyone else. 
Every time I talked to H, she exhibited both caring and positive energy.  She might not know the extent of details of my life as J did... however whatever I consulted her about work, she took in, reflected it back to me, and coached me on possible next steps.

The Company is financially stable.  I have every confidence that my paycheck will come in on time.... the basic need of every employee.  If even this is not fulfilled, why, I might as well set up my own business and take on the vagaries of the economic marketplace.  J as my boss was the one who offered me security, strength, support in terms of what our team goals were.  I know that his core values are stable, and that whatever changes he asks the team to make is necessary ("Define the burning platform = the case for change").  J kept us in the loop on what is expected, and helps me see how what I do impacts the Company's key metrics of process reliability.

The work team experienced a Dilbert (what the heck is happening?) moment when another person (AL) was inserted at the level above H's boss A.  AL commissioned an external study to test how the team engaged with stakeholders, received some feedback and promptly reorgnised the entire team within the first 2 months of his appointment.  In the midst of this organisational churn, J reassured us by sharing his personal impressions that AL was a leader that knows how the political winds blow, and this shakeup gives the entire team more credibility.  It was interesting really.... how J provided stability for the moment, and hope for the future.

J and H have developed me to the extent, that I am now developing others in the service centres.  They seem to intuitively understand that the only way to lead in perpetuity is to create a network of strong leaders that begins to grow on its own.... sometimes with tiny steps, but still growing....

And THAT is the difference between my previous manager-bosses and J/H, true leader-bosses. 

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