Some thoughts on leadership and accountability in a development team on CodedGamer.com

The Codedgamer.com website was taken offline to sort out some of the inevitable issues relating to pre-launch development. It is now back online.

I’ve taken the time to re-publish my thoughts on leadership and accountability in terms of achieving peak development team performance.

Go check the articles out, if only to be amazed by masterpieces such as this one.

Go check the articles out, if only to be amazed by masterpieces such as this one.

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On Accountable Leaders

It’s hard being boss. © 2013 – Max Shields

Accountability is a vital part of anyone’s character. Responsibility for one’s actions, and those of one’s team is critical to ensuring peak performance.

Read the full article over at Coded Gamer.

Why leading from the front is so important

A big shout out to my brother for finding this image on imgur.

There is a huge difference between a leader and a boss.

There is a significant difference between a boss, manager, and a leader. Being one does not imply being the other. These statuses can be distinct as much as they can be mutually inclusive.

There is a great deal of theory and research on the subject, but I find the image above sums it up quite nicely.

I will simplify some of the concepts below in order to make a concise point, so all you behavioural scientists, organizational analysts, and motivational speakers out there please cut me some slack when I say:

A boss is someone vested with positional power to make others do work.

A manager is someone who is good at juggling the resources needed to get a job done.

A leader is someone who can influence others in such a way as to accomplish a greater goal.

In an optimal organization, the boss is a an efficient and caring leader and a skilled manager. The boss need not place his desk apart from the others, nor whip them to achieve performance. She/he must share hardship and set the example. She/he must never ask those who work for her/him to do something she/he would never be willing to do herself/himself.

When a leader-boss-manager balances this triad appropriately, great things will happen.

On teamwork – Give me plumbers that work together rather than individualistic rock stars

A tight knit team.

A tightly-knit team can accomplish amazing things.

Over the last two days, we held a workplace hockey tournament. It is a longstanding tradition, and typically leads to cutthroat competitiveness on the ice. Bosses have the feeling that their careers can be made or broken with a puck’s resonant ping against the goalpost. The pressure downwards on the worker bees that make up the bulk of the team can be tremendous.

Many moons ago, our team was composed of valiant skaters, many of which had played at very respectable levels of amateur and university hockey. They showered our organization in glory. This year was not the case. Our best players would probably have been benched on the teams of yore. We even run the risk of making plumber leagues look like Gods of Ice. Overall, our prospects going into the tournament were pretty grim. Not nearly as skilled as the other teams going in, and without the numerous spares and extra shifts the other teams could bring to the rink, it was widely expected that we would be unable to win a single game.

Our traditional method of training for the event usually involved waking up ridiculously early, showing up to the ice, tossing a few pucks onto the ice and taking some potshots at the goalie as a warmup for ten minutes before immediately launching into a vigorous hour-long scrimmage. The new guys would try to survive learning to skate while the old pros would skate circles around them, scoring countless end-to-end goals, basking in the joy of believing they had something of the Great One coursing through their veins. Most of us eventually became pretty good at shooting a puck really hard from a relatively static position, but ran into problems when trying to combine skating with puck control and any sort of shooting. Skating backwards for defense? For most, it was a black art.

Then, some time earlier this year, one of our senior players decided to try something new. He flipped the paradigm on its head. We spent forty five minutes practicing, working on basic skills and drills. Then, we spent the last fifteen to twenty minutes scrimmaging, specifically trying to put into application what we had learned. New players were taken aside and taught to skate. It was all about fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals.

This approach certainly was not as fun as going all out against each other for an hour. In fact, it even got a little repetitive for the more experienced players.

But you know what? We won every single game in that tournament. We even won the finals. We won them even if the other teams had even taken the time to phone up top notch players that had moved on to other jobs, and therefore technically weren’t supposed to be playing. We won them even after the other side started playing dirty. Why did we win? Because all of our plumbers were working together, as a team. The one or two rock star players on the opposing teams just didn’t jive with their compatriots. It just didn’t click. It also didn’t matter if the top players could do all kinds of fancy tricks with the puck, because the others just weren’t able to support them to finish the plays.

This serves to confirm a few invaluable lessons which have been voiced previously by far greater sports minds than mine:

1. Average Joes working as a team will almost always beat stars playing as individuals. That’s why teamwork is so important. A team full of star players that work together will be unstoppable.

2. If you don’t master the fundamentals, it doesn’t matter how much fancy stuff you know. If a strong foundation is not in place to support your fancy tricks, got back to the fundamentals. Otherwise, everything comes crashing down, and you’re not going to perform.

3. Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

4. Even if you have the basics mastered, and you’re a pro of the fancy stuff, if your fundamentals start suffering, drop the high level training. Get back to the foundation, and work at it until you’ve got it squared away. Then you can worry about being fancy again.

5. Even your weakest player can turn into an unexpected play maker or game winner. Don’t exclude anyone from contributing. They may win the game for you.

6. A good coach can make all the difference in the world.

7. Despite your unbelievable victory, stay polite and display unwavering sportsmanship. This will ensure that you truly reap all the rewards.

A successful leadership speaking engagement

I have just returned from giving a presentation on leadership to a group of about 65 experienced individuals from across Canada. Although I’ve given many briefings and presentations, some on cutting-edge issues in front of larger crowds, it was the first time I had been asked to specifically discuss leadership. It was an interesting position to be in, since all of the members of the audience were mature leaders in their own right with their own significant experiential baggage to bring to bear. I guess after running things in various places for more than 15 years, I picked up a thing or two along the way which were indeed useful to others. Never underestimate the value of your knowledge.

It went quite well, and I am glad that both myself and my co-presenter were able to turn the event into an effective two way discussion. It is all too easy for this sort of event to turn the crowd into a collection of blowing goldfish kisses and nodding heads. Since nobody’s head careened into the chair back ahead of them, I think we made out alright. I even was able to pick up a thing or two to optimize performance in my own organization, and that is priceless.