November 16, 2008

Judged by the Quality of Rivals

Quantum of Solace the new James Bond movie got me to thinking about leadership, when in it, Bond says - "you're judged by the quality of your enemies." Bond's enemies are evil villans, in the real business, we usually are just rivals.

Would you put your rival on board your team? This past week there was a news leak that President Elect Obama is considering his rival Hilary Clinton for the position of Secretary of State in his cabinet. Many leaders wouldn't bring on their rival into their team. They'd see the rival as a threat, a risk, someone who would go rogue when it suited their self interest.

Perhaps. In the real world, I believe that roles must be filled by the most qualified person...even if that person might overshadow the leader. I subscribe to the "A's hire A's, and B's hire C's." A good hiring decision is defined when that new hire (an "A" type) excels in the role and is rapidly moved into challenging and highly visible assignments. When this happens it means you've done your duty as a leader!

So how can you identify an "A"? MiniMicrosoft - the famous anonymous Blogger nails the definition of an "A" by stating (in a recent post):

"They can own a room: they aren't warming a seat but rather can take charge of a conversation and represent such a deep level of knowledge that they gain respect for what they say and earn a good reputation. Their focus stays on accountable results and this person can bring resolution and closure together.

Expert: They are sought after to be in meetings, for instance, so that good decisions can be made.

Results-focused: they are focused on getting great results and don't entwine their ego to particular solutions. They don't get defensive if their ideas are revealed to have flaws but rather delight in being able to move to a better solution.

Leadership: pro-active leadership that convinces team members of the future direction and even helps to implement it. This is a big difference between those who can complain about the way things should be and those who can actually bring it

Solutions, not problems: following up on the above, they aren't complaining about problems on the team but rather implementing and driving solutions.

Makes other great: the team benefits and grows from the person's contributions. Answers questions from the team, from support, from customers. Knows what the team delivers backwards and forwards. They are a good mentor.

Influence when they can, scare when they must: they have fundamental skills in influencing people, but if they need to flip into junk-yard dog mode, they can.
They don't give up and walk away but rather fight when they need to fight, escalating only when needed and with lots of justification.

Makes the boss great: if the team and your boss are succeeding because of you, of course you'll be succeeding too.

Not doing it for the promotion: if you're out for a promotion, don't do work specifically chosen to get the promotion. This is like meeting the Buddha on the road. If you come up with a pretty plan to justify your promotion, you've already lost it. Such plotting is obvious and actually detrimental to your career."

Well said!

Note - apologies to those of my former colleagues at Microsoft cringing at my quoting of MiniMicrosoft...sometime he writes inspiring stuff.

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