Journey into leadership: Success!

New leaderThis post is part of a series that follows A.M. Starkin, a young manager taking his first major steps into leadership. Starkin writes here to share his experiences and to get input from others, so please share with him your thoughts and ideas.

There have been some nice successes since last: Our youngest team member has been the most reluctant to buy in to the new deal, and has been looking for work everywhere in our area. Yesterday I heard that because of the way the ambience in the office is developing she has decided to stop looking and start staying. Nice!!

My deputy is taking a lot of initiative. The huge file handling backlog she has been blaming on the system, the management, the company, etc. This week she activated her “out of office”-assistant and decided to get rid of the backlog herself, thus giving the operations team the time they need to reorganize and enable themselves to stop accumulating backlog. I first thought that I would have done it differently, but 2 seconds later I thought: Well, thats excellent! It sends powerful signals about her making a choice about getting busy winning or getting busy quitting.

She has also delegated the task that pertains to her core competence to a colleague, so that she has time to learn her new, self-chosen responsibilities. Learning for everyone, progress….happiness!

Our operations manager has never been managing anything, neither before he got his title nor after.
He is very polite and very afraid of not doing things correctly. We did the write-your-own-job-description-exercise last week, which motivated him immensely. He really wants to be the operations manager with everything that traditionally pertains to the job. We made the job more tilted towards process re-engineering and a less towards timekeeper, which his analytic mindset would be great for.

Now the question is whether he can be as sharp as he is soft. He has asked me for help, is asking for detailed advice on everything that pertains to leadership and asked me to announce his authority so that everyone automatically would respect what he said.

Clearly this will take some work. What he needs to be is the natural go-to person for operational problems, a creative developer of the way we work, and the guy who takes the intiatives when it comes to reorganizing work. I have decided to push him into it and check his swimming reflexes. But the more I think about his unsure voice on the phone I second-guess and wonder whether I should tell him exactly how I would do, so that he at least has something to model for the beginning. Because apparently it is his fear of failure that prevents him from taking independent steps.

If I can get my cautious ops manager moving within a weeks time, his and my deputy’s combined efforts will create time for everybody to begin contributing to owning the many tasks we have to work on like Ben suggested in a comment.

When you read this I will have had an interesting meeting with my boss which I chose to schedule following a comment from Matt and another one from Alexander. Matt said I should hire someone in – if that was what it would take, and Alexander asked whether it would really be possible to incur lasting change being just the guest of the week. I have warmed up by saying that either he gives me 75% of my time in my new job or he lets me hire someone in.

Let’s see what happens!

Receiving help or praise without having asked for it is one of the best feelings I know – and it is one of the only ways I make the term “luck” make sense. Otherwise I believe that what we normally call luck is when our opportunity and action coincide.

So of course I am tremendously happy to see people giving me advice. My reason for writing here is not to get help. It’s a nice side-effect which I appreciate, but what I am really hoping for is some creative thinking with regards to how we act in everyday leadership situations like mine! So if you think that I am doing alright, then wouldn’t it be interesting to begin discussing how one could go from alright to kicking serious butt?

AM Starkin

2 thoughts on “Journey into leadership: Success!”

  1. Nice. These are great postings and it’s fun reading about the change, so thanks for sharing, and keep them coming.

  2. Great posts! I’ll be starting my own journey into leadership in two weeks. I’m sure I will get a lot of inspiration from your posts.

    My own situation is a bit different in that I will be a program manager, not a line manager. Most people who will work on the projects in my program have a regular job elsewhere in the organization and will be available to me for some hours per week only. Most won’t like being pulled from their jobs, because they don’t think they have enough time for their regular tasks anyway. I’m already thinking about creative ways to get them inspired and happy to participate. But it’s going to be quite a challenge!

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