Thursday, January 10, 2008

2 cents

As I moved to larger and larger projects, I noticed that I needed to be in the details less. It was hard. I’m a details guy at heart. However, I worked long hours, couldn’t balance meetings with doing work too, was personally always on critical path, and generally stressed.

This is the point where I started leading by guiding principles. I cannot be available 24x7 to the team – meetings, different time zones, vacation, and more. At the beginning of the project, I establish project guiding principles to help guide the team when they have questions.

I also noticed that to support guiding principles, I also needed to enable confidence in the team so they could be self-sufficient. The team needed to be confident in their own knowledge and less dependent on me. I started answering questions less and asking the team to answer each other’s questions or directing them to the guiding principles. It can be hard. Again, I’m a details guy at heart.

A Businessweek article showcased a book that helped, What Got You Hear Won’t Get You There. It highlighted that past practices that make you successful might be less useful as you continue up the organization. One that spoke to me was “Don’t add too much value.” By being the answer man, people were less self-sufficient. I don’t need to give my thoughts on everything. In addition, as you get higher in the organization, simple brainstormed ideas can be interpreted as edicts that the team should follow. Need to be careful of the power you have.

When I catch myself giving too many answers, I literally pull out two pennies. You see it coming … I can only give my 2 cents worth. For questions directed to me, it reminds me to try to get the team to answer first before I give my thoughts. Sometimes I can be very passionate about a topic where I need to constrain myself from dominating the discussion – I literally can only give my 2 cents worth. I think … if I can only give 2 responses in this meeting, am I willing to give up one of my cents. It helps me evaluate the value that the comment will have.

TAKE-AWAYS: Watch adding too much value. If you keep answering all the questions and have to be involved everything, the team will be dependent on you; you will be on critical path. To build a self-sufficient team, you need to manage how much value you add – don’t add too much value.

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