Managing Yourself & Your Team

As part of reading a new book each month, I want to try and internalise the lessons learnt by writing about them on my blog. In this way, I will get reminded of what the lessons are and at the same time help spread some interesting concepts. I will not be writing about the entire book though; I will only focus on a few key areas which I wanted to highlight. Today I will be sharing some concepts involving managing one-self and managing a team as a leader.

1. Developing Yourself As A Leader

The main theme in managing yourself as a leader is having self-awareness. Why do we need self-awareness? Do you realise that there are different versions of “myself” that is available out in the world today? I’m not talking about piracy or identity theft. Think about it this way. Your colleague sees one version of you, while your spouse sees another version. The versions could be vastly different due to the common experiences and the different ways you choose to interact with different persons. Saying the same thing to somebody might trigger different results to another person. Furthermore, everyone has different expectations of how you should be. In addition, the version you see yourself is different from how other see you.

Now that we have squared away the concept of having multiple versions of yourself, we can move on to learning how to understand what others feel about you. This will be about obtaining feedback and giving feedback:

1.1 Obtaining Feedback: Feedforward Concept

Everybody talks about getting feedback about ourselves. However if you are a leader of a team, you might find yourself being in a position where nobody would be comfortable about giving you feedback as that would involve criticising your leadership. Hence there is a new concept called “Feedforward” which essentially means, “How can we do it better the next round”. The focus shifts from what had happened (and thus assigning blame) to what can we do to make it better (and thus generating forward looking suggestions). Feedforward can then be self-extrapolated backwards to discover what was not right that needs moving on.

1.2. Giving Feedback: What went Well, Even Better If

This was something that I had learnt as part of my National Service (who says we don’t learn anything productive) that can be applied for everyone in a leadership position. In the SAF, we call it the “After Action Review” and as part of it we talk about what went well and what went badly. The book suggests though, to concentrate on “What went well” and then move on to the “Even better if” concept. The “Even better if” concept is similar to that of a feedforward as we talk about what we can do even better the next round. But this is applied mainly to when we are giving feedback to our subordinates. The book says not to use the word “but” as it has a negative connotation. E.g. “You did a great job managing the database of information but you could really speed things up a little” vs “You did a great job managing the database of information. And it would be even better if you could find ways to speed the process up.”

I don’t know if anyone can see the difference but from my point of view, I can.

1.3 Coaching

Coaching is an important part of being a manager. To me, coaching is an opportunity to align your team mates to the same vision and motivate them to achieve success. It is also a chance to guide them back on the right path and provide the clarity of leadership to them. Coaching is essentially an investment of time in yourself and your team mates.

An interesting model mentioned is the GLOW model which stands for Goal, Reality, Options, Way Forward. These are the possible steps that we can take during coaching sessions. Identify what the goal is, talk about the current reality, guide them towards providing some options on their own and show them a possible way forward. Easy?

There are also some qualities of a coach which I felt was necessary to share, so here goes:

  • Self Aware
  • Confident
  • Approachable
  • Patient
  • Generous; believes in other’s potential
  • Authentic
  • Open & Receptive
  • Always learning & improving
  • Good role model

2. Developing yourself as a Employee (and well, also applies to being a leader)

2.1 The other part of Self Awareness

The other part of Self Awareness has nothing to do with feedback or feed forward. It is about how well we know ourselves in terms of our strengths and weaknesses. Following which we will be able to use our strengths to our advantages and find out ways to improve on our weaknesses so it would become a strength.

2.2 Time Management

Time Management is such a big concept that it could be an entire post on its own. I have read many different books with different theories of how to manage time and sometimes I try them out to see how effective they are. However the essence of time management is the question, “Do we want to control work or to have work control us?” Judging by how most people place work life balance relatively high on their priority list, it does seem like we should learn how to control work.

Essentially time management is about planning. To plan requires us to come up with some form of to-do list where we can allocate the tasks we require of the day. It is about prioritisation and the end ability to act on it.

What essentially we need to do at the start of the day is to plan what we need to do. At the end of the day, we have to do some self reflection. For me, I thought what was important is to have a week in review as well where we look at the meetings we have of the week and do the necessary to prepare for such meetings.

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