Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

Leadership: How to Inspire and Enable Your Team

This week I attended my last event of the year, back at General Assembly in London - Leadership: How to Inspire and Enable Your Team.

I do not manage a team right now, but I would like to help my manager more, and I am very interested in why some people make great leaders while others make terrible managers.

The session was run by Gillian Davis, author of First Time Leader, and she started by telling us that there is no set formula for success, we just have to see what works with each team - and they will be different.

She also reminded us that those bad managers do not get out of bed thinking about how to be a terrible manager, it can happen to anyone. It is about having good self awareness.

She said the three real traps for being a bad manager are:

  • 1. Following old predecessors - even when they are out of date.
  • 2. Staying in our comfort zone - which normally leads to micromanaging and
  • 3. Getting an ego - which leaves no room for anyone else.

We should be aiming for the real keys to being a good leader - authenticity and courage. You have got to be up for the challenge and understand that you cannot please everyone.

But there is a framework which can help - BRAVE. It stands for:

  • Behaviour
  • Relationships
  • Attitudes
  • Values
  • Environment

We actually started with Environment. She said we should start by getting a real understanding of the environment we work in. Make sure we can see the big picture and not just how our team works but how it fits within the company. After all if we do not understand our business how can we lead?

We then looked at Values. She reminded us that the values written on the wall or company website are not always the real values which are rewarded. We need to look, as leaders, at what values we reward and see if they match.

This led on to Attitude which together with Values combines to make culture. Attitude also informs business strategy. Again you need to be authentic if your team are going to trust you and work well together.

In a way these are the easy ones to look at. The last too are harder as they involve real people.

Under Relationships Gillian talked about how we connect with people. The most important skills here are self awareness and feedback.

You need self awareness so you can understand your energy levels and when you are most productive. You also need it so you can match your leadership style to suit different team members to help you get the most from them.

You need to work on how you give and receive feedback to make sure you help your team to grow but also give them a safe environment to give you feedback. And always document feedback, you never know when you’ll need it.

She also suggested that performance reviews do not have to be once a year. Regular feedback is much better than saving it all up!

And lastly she spoke on Behaviours. Here she suggested that delegation is key. You should enjoy your work and so you should have a team that can cover the stuff you do not enjoy or do well yourself.

After all as a leader you should be making an impact which you cannot do if you are micromanaging your team.

Key learnings:

  • As a leader you have direct influence over company culture
  • Lead by example
  • If there is a problem do something about it
  • But you cannot please everyone
  • You are a change agent

It was a really great evening and I feel I learnt much, some of which I hope I can put into practice right now, even without a team.

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