A satisfying aspect of the new book was I achieved the intended goal of providing actionable advice. After a brief introduction, I list the 30 specific practices you can start with today to improve different aspects of leadership. I then go onto to tell the story of how I discovered or refined that practice.
The reason this is satisfying is so much leadership advice is “it depends” advice. I’ve learned this during the Q&A sessions after a talk. I’ve just finished a 30-minute speech, and you stand up in front of 499 audience members and ask me a zinger. It’s a good synthesized question. It’s on topic. It’s specific, and about ten words in, I can tell it’s an “it depends” question.
The types of situations you’ll encounter as a leader are as varied as the humans who build them. Yes, your question strikes a familiar chord with me, but with that familiarity comes the experience that informs me that unless I understand the specifics of the situation, the value of my advice is suspect.
But I have to say something, so my advice moves to the abstract with the hope that if I describe the general problem space with equally general approaches that you’ll take those generalizations, combine them with your knowledge of the specifics of the situation, apply good judgment, and find a productive path forward.
High-level hard-earned advice and well-intentioned generalizations threaded through a good story were the first two books’ approach. I wanted to get you thinking about a problem space, and with that in mind, let’s pivot to your mid-year check-in.
It’s halfway through the year. We remain in unknown territory for most leaders as many of us continue our month-long work-from-home pandemic set-up. For me, I spent months thinking, “This is temporary. Don’t get used to it.”
I’m used to it. This isn’t temporary. It’s time to start thinking of how you will move forward as a leader in these strange times. To get you thinking about this problem space, I present ten questions.
- Are you a manager, manager of managers, or manager of directors?
How long have you been in that role? The prior role?
When was your last promotion, and what was your internal headline for that promotion? (Example: “Reliable manager finally gets the promotion to a senior manager after the successful release of X.”)
Who are your credible sources of actionable feedback? What the most recent memorable feedback from one of these sources? Why was it memorable?
What are your areas of strength? How do you know that?
Where are you focusing on improving your leadership skills? Why?
Have you identified your next role? If so, what is it, and what’s your current plan to get there?
What’s your current most significant challenge with your direct reports? (A specific issue with one of your directs or an overall issue with all/many)
What’s your current most significant challenge with your manager?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
While I am intensely curious about your answers to these questions, that is not the point. These questions are designed to show you at least one essential truth about your current leadership role. What are you going to do with that truth?