Still Life

A Series of Mental Snapshots

Lessons Learned in Leadership – A leaders vocabulary and opinions matter!

Posted by Steve on September 16, 2008

In my last position I was the team lead for a release cycle of a product at PlateSpin, Forge (a web based disaster recovery application). The experience was very interesting, challenging and often entertaining, in short it was an incredible experience. I learned quite a bit form it, and from the conversations I had about the postion with my mananger Adam White. What follows are just a few of the things that I have learned

Be Careful of Your Vocabulary
This comes from a conversation I had with Adam. Many times in meetings with my team members (who I was managing) I would say that we ‘should’ do something, for example I said that we ‘should’ do 3 sessions per day (session based testing is a method of testing, one which I am definitely a supporter of, for more info, look at anything James Bach has written). The issue here is my choice of words, I said ‘should’. This comes from my past experiences of interacting mainly with peers. In the peer situation, I would use the word should because we were equals and everything was up for discussion. When you are in a leadership position you must be authoritative in situations where you want things to happen. Continuing with my above example, instead of using the word ‘should’ I began to use the words ‘we will be…’ ‘we have to’, ‘we must’ and so on. Previously I never realized how important the vocabularly I used was

Be Careful of Your Opinions
How many times have you heard the phrase “I know it sucks to have to this, but we have to ok.”? I am guessing its at least once, and even if it is only once, it is too many times! Your attitude towards the things that you HAVE to do (even if you do not like doing them) is incredibly important. If you are negative towards these tasks, your team will pick up on that and they will therefore (in general) also have a negative opinion on these tasks therefore if you want people to do the things that are, at times, annoying to do, you have to have a positive opinion on them, at least on the outside!
So those are just two of the lessons I learned in leadership, there were obviously many more, and some of them I’ll be sharing!

–Steve

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