Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Seven Mistakes New Leaders Make 
I thought this was very good advice from Career Builder.

It's even more important in the civilian sector than in the military, naturally. When a leader arrives in a new unit, he or she has the luxury of knowing military doctrine and the framework of regulations. And that doctrine and regulatory framework is the same throughout the Army, for example, though there are adjustments made for reserve vs. active duty components.

I'm transitioning from command of an infantry unit to command of an MI unit. And the way I implement things is very different, because I have a younger and less experienced, but more highly educated 'client base,' if you will. I communicate differently. But my policies are the same, and the standards regarding training and personnel management are identical.

Where policy in a new unit has strayed from Army regulation, I can feel confident making the change immediately, and I have a safety net and common framework for communication with which to impart my decisions - and the logic behind them.

Civilian organizations are all radically different, with radically different corporate culture and missions. The transition is much more difficult - and made more difficult still by the absence of positive leadership role models in some organizations.

The stakes are raised in the civilian world by the absence of a supporting channel for communications - the equivalent of the NCO corps, which acts as a heat sink and stabilizing force, and eases the volatility of changes in command.

It also makes sure that very young managers - commanders and platoon leaders - have access to advice and a reality check from more experienced leaders, even if junior in rank.

That said, I'd like to modify this passage:

Trap No. 2: Always having "The Answer" Too many leaders either come on the scene with "The Answer" (a predetermined fix for the company's problems), or they reach conclusions too early in their tenure. Many fall into this trap through arrogance or insecurity.

"Staffers become cynical if they think their leaders deal with deep problems superficially, making it difficult to rally support for change," Watkins says.

Defense: Embrace and express a spirit of inquiry, even if you're confident that you understand the organization's problems and the best approaches to dealing with them, Watkins advises. Give primacy to learning over doing.

"Time spent carefully diagnosing the organization's strengths and weaknesses is seldom wasted. The key is to be systematic and efficient at learning, establishing and refining an agenda, and adopting methods for gaining insight."

Absolutely true. But on the flip side, a leader must be able to recognize when nobody on the team has the answer.

In such instances, rather than accept paralysis, the successful leader must, in the end, be confident enough and have the balls to say "Ok, gang. Here's what we do."

And leaders of leaders will have the sense to empower their subordinate leaders to do so.

Splash, out


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