Leadership behaviours

Located in: Leadership


Subbu Allamaraju

I've highlighted snippets from Subbu's blog post. I recommend reading the entire thing.

Setting the Pace

A crucial part of a leader’s job to set the pace for the team. As we see time and again, as teams grow and change, organizational inertia sets in often. An issue first noticed by a team member could linger for weeks and months without a solution.

Setting the pace includes goal setting, tracking progress, timely decision making, continuous progress towards outcomes, hiring, addressing performance concerns, tackling lingering topics, anticipating issues, and asking lots of questions like there is no end. It is upon the leader and their leadership team to create a flywheel to keep things moving.

How might setting the pace appears in action? It depends.

  • It usually starts with a watch for lingering topics and chasing and resolve those as quickly as possible. Nobody likes to work in a team when problems remain for too long. By resolving lingering issues rapidly, you provide direction and a positive working environment for the team. When you let issues linger, you let apathy develop. People stop believing their leaders. They stop caring and move on.
  • It also involves some processes or rituals to check the pace regularly. Some time ago, one of my friends and an ex-colleague explained the idea of bringing information to you to scale better....Other areas require other types of rituals to bring information, uncover problems and manage the pace.

Watching for excuses

Nobody likes the word “excuse,” but the reality, we may not realize when we’re making excuses. But where do excuses come from? There are several sources, but let me share some patterns.

First, constraints offer a great way to make excuses. Think of everyday examples — “we lost this particular person to attrition;” “we’re not able to hire quickly;”...Recognize that leadership is a constraint management game. Of course, your parental instinct might indulge you in listening to those constraints and sympathize. But I believe that, as a leader, you can’t accept such reasoning as inalienable and must probe into why and let the team come up with multiple options when no option seems possible.

Second, Making decisions to suit convenience. When making decisions with incomplete information amidst constraints, I ask if you’re making a decision because it is convenient (say, to avoid some difficult people, org or technical problem) or believe it is the right decision.

The third one is stopping at boundaries. As organizations grow and multiple teams form, people tend to stop at team boundaries and make excuses of why such and such is not working or slow or not meeting some other expectation. I often remind my team that stopping at such boundaries limits the outcomes we can get for the customer, but it also limits personal growth. When we stop at team or org boundaries, we let apathy and passive aggression grow. That’s because you are signaling your team that poor outcomes are somebody else’s fault.

Using your leverage

The titles that come with leadership roles are not privileges...[instead they are] expectations on those individuals to use those titles effectively as tools of leverage to get things done.

To this day, when someone brings a problem to me, I remind them their roles and titles give them the power to solve the problem themselves.

Following through with commitments

Producing timely and quality outcomes is an essential leadership behavior. I believe that people in leadership roles grow as leaders when they help their teams make difficult results possible quickly. Likewise, when leaders take quality and timeliness seriously, teams will develop creative options when they find obstacles.

Sharpening your knives

I work in the technology industry and deal with certain kinds of technologies. Therefore, I must understand the technologies in use, how we’re building our systems, their strengths and deficits, and trends in the industry. Moreover, I must ask good questions, immerse myself in details when necessary, and know what types of strategic bets to make for the future.

But watch for pitfalls. Managers with deep technical experience tend to chase details, offer opinions, and tell their team how to solve their technical problems. Nobody likes to be told. The trick is to curiously ask questions and let the team explore. Use your expertise to ask better questions to promote thinking but not to dispense opinions.

Picking up the hard parts of growing people

Growing people does not stop with learning and development activities, providing autonomy, coaching, mentoring, etc. Those are all necessary things. It also must incorporate hard parts:

  • Continually stretching your team beyond what they think they are capable of and making yourself and your team uncomfortable every once in a while
  • Setting unarguable goals for the team and challenging them with care and respect.
  • Providing timely feedback without sugarcoating
  • Active performance management. When you let someone go with a development mindset, you will favor that person to discover a future elsewhere.