Practical Application of the Word of God
“The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell and a Hell of Heaven.”
Paradise Lost, Book 1 – John Milton
The next several posts will be about the interactive relationships involved in teamwork, project management, and leadership. They will analyze, in a building block fashion, the components and processes, and then will analyze what factors – and they can happen anywhere and, sometimes, everywhere in the relationships – determine success or failure in the big picture.
As initially tedious and uninteresting as this may seem, there are actually a lot of life lessons, physically and spiritually, to be gleaned from this discussion. This post will deal with the people-as-individuals component, both as team members and leaders.
But first, a brief overview of the big-picture and the responsibilities from a leadership standpoint.
In any organization, there are discrete business units (departments or divisions), and those business units have projects and goals they are expected to complete accurately, on-time, and within a budget. Depending on the size of the organization, a business unit may have only a single team and single leader or it may have many teams and many leaders, each of which is working on just a part – that will be combined with those of the rests of the teams upon completion to form “the project” – of the business unit’s projects.
A leader’s function is to macro-manage his or her project or part of the project. Let me say that not all leaders are good managers and not all managers are good leaders. That is a sure way to hinder any team-based endeavor from the start, and it happens a lot of the time. However, some teams manage to coalesce and thrive in spite of poor management and/or leadership, and why that can happen is really the core of this post. I will use my own method of leadership, which I’ve developed from my own experience – and frustration – with poor management and poor leadership, which has proven to be effective most of the time, as the model for how this process should work.
The first thing that a good leader recognizes is that you manage things – money and resources – and not people. People manage themselves. A good leader should provide an atmosphere that encourages investment, growth, and development, in which people learn to manage themselves in a way that meets or exceeds the core values and principles of the business unit (the leader sets the example; more often than not, in the 21st Century, organizations as a whole are the most abysmal examples of good core values and principles, so this leader stands out in strong contrast to a general environment of dishonesty, corruption, and bottom-line greed). In other words, by the end of a project, team members should be co-owners and they should have demonstrable growth in both competency and value to the organization.
A good leader is also responsible for providing the framework for the team and assigning tasks to each team member, making sure that the task and the person are suitably matched (another pitfall of poor management and poor leadership) to ensure the best result. That means the leader has to actually know and understand his or her team members, know their strengths and weaknesses, and be willing to shake things up and move people and responsibilities around to maximize the productivity of the available skill set and also to avoid setting anyone up for failure (everyone will fail from time to time, and some people will fail all the time, but to not even have a chance to succeed is a leadership failure). “That’s the way we’ve always done it” is the one answer I will not accept as a reason for why something is being done a certain way, because that answer tells me that the job or function is being performed on archaic or non-existence data that may have made sense back in the day, but is totally useless now.
A good leader shows what the end result should look like, but does not micro-manage the process and the team members every step of the way. There is a saying that there are many ways to skin a cat (I don’t even want to think about the context from which that saying came to be). But, using that phrase, a leader’s job is to recognize and communicate acceptable guidelines and definitive outcomes, then let his or her team take the ball and run with it. I’ve learned my way is not always the best way, the smartest way, the fastest way, or the most efficient way to do something, and I’ve actually learned a lot along the way from my teams. So, not only does this invest them, but it provides growth and development for everyone.
A good leader guides, advises, steps in to help or intervene if the situation requires it, and provides feedback along the way. The feedback mechanism, which is the informal process of day-to-day interaction and involvement with each team member as well as the formal process of regularly-scheduled performance development reviews, will be discussed in the next post, along with the annual performance review.
But let’s talk about people, the core component of teams and leaders. The driving force that determines how every person thinks, is, and interacts with everything else he or she comes into contact with is attitude/mindset/motivation, hereafter referred to simply as mindset. When you strip away all the layers of complexity we humans are both designed with and develop, there are two basic mindsets that we approach life with. One is “have to.” The other is “want to.”
Although at times, we all switch between the two – there are routine “have-to’s” that are associated with life that we may not necessarily want to do – each of us has a predominant mindset, because it’s become how we relate.
And the success or failure of both teams and leaders is directly tied to these two mindsets. The first thing that a mindset tells about a person is how they see themselves in relationship to everything else. One of the key differences in these two mindsets is that a half-to will do something because it benefits him or her, while a wants-to will do something because it benefits everyone. So the have-to mindset is all about me, while the wants-to mindset is all about us.
Want-to’s tend to thoroughly immerse themselves into whatever they’re involved in. They go beyond what is spelled out and clarify and question until they understand the totality of what is required of them. Want-to’s are living, eating, breathing whatever they’re involved in. They are totally invested. Want-to’s will spend whatever time and effort is required to achieve a successful outcome. They usually delivered better-than-expected results.
Want-to’s are in tune with the world around them. Because they think in terms of “us,” want-to’s will, without prompting or threatening, do something simply because it needs to be done or because someone needs help. Want-to’s are background people who don’t demand or want attention and the spotlight on them. They need affirmation in a personal and quiet way that they are on the right track or that their contributions are helping everyone, but they prefer attention-wise to fly below the radar.
Want-to’s see and understand the big picture. They understand that what they do is a key element in how well the whole turns out, and they also understand that helping others when they’re able is also a key element in the final outcome. Want-to’s understand that “we all stand together or fall together.” A want-to’s mantra is “what can I do?” They, interestingly, are also interested in fairness, but from a completely different angle than a have-to. Want-to’s address fairness head-on when they see others being treated unfairly. King David, the patriarch Abraham, and Christ come to mind when I think of want-to’s.
Have-to’s are letter-of-the-law. Their involvement in any part of life tends to be superficial. Have-to’s never see the big picture. They are the proverbial tree-watchers. Have-to’s are good actors, and will usually talk a good game, but they never deliver the results. They will do exactly what is spelled out and no more. Have-to’s are attention junkies. If something isn’t about them, they will find a way to twist it around to make it about them.
Have-to’s are clock-watchers, never giving more than the absolute minimum required in time and effort. They will not volunteer to help anyone else and tend to be disdainful and condescending in their relationships. The only time have-to’s will take on anything outside of their codified scope is if they believe they will gain something in return. And even then, the first thing a have-to will say is “that’s not my job.” This is a half-to mantra.
Have-to’s are not invested in anything but themselves and their entire lives revolve strictly around themselves. They do not build and apply knowledge and carry it with them through life. Have-to’s are never wrong. If something goes wrong, it’s always someone else’s fault. Have’to’s, additionally, spend an inordinate amount of time with the issue of fairness – specifically to or toward them. “You’re not being fair” is the favorite phrase have-to’s have about fairness. They also talk a lot about their rights. The Pharisees, as a group, as well as Judas, are good examples of a have-to mindset.
So what happens when both of these mindsets exist on a team? How do they interact with each other and with the team leader? How do they respond to performance development and performance reviews? How does this affect the outcome of projects? I’ll examine that in the next post.