Musings on a lame staff meeting (AKA: Valuable leadership lessons)

Several years ago I spent about eight months in an engineering group that had a very ineffective manager. His inability to provide strong leadership for the group was most apparent during our weekly staff meetings. During one such meeting I found myself particularly frustrated at the lack of clear direction, so I pulled out my PalmPilot (yes, this was a few years ago). I quickly jotted down six thoughts that were really bugging me, and gave them a great cynical title that properly reflected how I felt about the time I was investing.

Although the group did not accomplish much of value during the time he was in charge, I did come away from that period in my career with some valuable leadership lessons.  I’ve reviewed these six points regularly as I moved on to higher leadership positions, and recalling the utter frustration I felt at the time has given me the conviction to ensure I didn’t do the same to my own team members.

Here are those notes.  I hope you find them useful:

Musings on a lame staff meeting:

  • Goals should be succinct, limited in number, and quantitative.  Better to leave lower priority things off the list than to list so many wordy and unclear objectives that no one knows where to start.
  • Show that you have a clear vision and a plan to achieve it. It’s ok if some team members disagree with it. Presenting a vague vision that no one can disagree with is not helpful. If no one disagrees with you, you probably aren’t making a difference.
  • Don’t be afraid to stick to choices you have made and make others work to convince you otherwise.  People want to see a confident leader. If you preface every statement with “I may be wrong, but…” people will wonder why you are in charge.
  • When you defer to team members for every single question asked of you, you look like you don’t know anything about your group or what they are doing. As the leader, you must know enough details about your group to be able to answer some questions yourself.
  • You are in charge. Know why you and your group exist, what you are good at, and what you are not good at.
  • Hope is not a strategy.  ‘Nuff said.

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