Congratulations: you’re a Practice Lead or a Practice Manager. You are responsible for leading a number of consultants on site. You’re probably still in the field, so your role is still referred to as field leadership. You’re what Shane Anastasi¹ calls a player-coach. You’re worked to the bone, having to cover your own role (maybe PM), as well as take responsibility for the general quality across the project management group plus the skills development of the entire team.
You were pleased to be recognised when they gave you the opportunity, but this role is really tough. To progress through this phase, the company is looking for someone to demonstrate the ability to own and operate a part of the business. Shane calls this the Ownership Chasm because you will only cross it once you show an ability to own the business environment around you. This is more than just leadership. It is leadership plus the ownership of business results.
Here are my top 5 suggestions to cross the Ownership Chasm unscathed:
- Listen to understand not to reply
- Develop your charisma
- Become a guru
- Manage up
If you know what I mean by the points above – just go for it and IMHO you’ll see results quickly. If you want more detail on each, there’s more below, and if you want to actually dissect any of these points, talk to me via the comments below.
- Listen to understand, not to respond: or as Stephen Covey puts it in his Habit 5: Seek First to Understand Then to Be Understood. This is arguably the most important aspect of developing your Emotional Intelligence (EI) – a term associated most commonly with Daniel Goleman. Ironically, if you listen to understand what people mean (not what they say), it’s rarely about the actual words they use. What’s the tone of their voice? What’s their body language? What’s their choice of words around a topic – is it optimistic or pessimistic? And of course it’s not sufficient to just listen and understand, then you need to respond in a way that confirms to the other person that they’ve been heard (understood) – simplest way is just to repeat the meaning back to them in your own words for confirmation. Develop your EI and watch as your life becomes less stressful and your colleagues become honest with you (Good for your private life too!).
- Develop your charisma: Charisma is from the Greek χάρισμα (khárisma), which means “favour freely given” or “gift of grace”. Personally I like the “gift of grace” term. Charisma can be learned and there are plenty of courses, and not being naturally charismatic myself I’m not going to try and coach it here… but this is the reason it’s important: if you want to influence others – and after all, that’s what leadership is – then people must want to follow your lead. People will only do so much if you threaten them, but will walk over hot coals for you if they trust you, and you have the grace to call them to action. Grace… integrity… trust… lack of ego. Be real.
- Network: By networking I mean building the group of people around you that can support, mentor and advise you. I have found that many people are scared of networking and find it awkward. I won’t have it: networking needs to be real – you need to have a reason to talk to someone and ask for their time. So 2 rules to networking:
- Always have something to give – an opinion wanting feedback, a question that needs their skill to answer, and the most powerful, a request for their advice.
- Know who you’re talking to: Do your homework beforehand; Googling the person is not onerous… find out anything you can about them that allows you to legitimately have a meaningful discussion. It could be that they support a certain sport, or charity or just that their kids go to the same school as yours do. It doesn’t have to do with work, but it’s gotta be real!
- Become a Guru: Take a subject by the scruff of the neck and make it your own. It could be a technology, a product, or even a governance process. You want someone to say, “oh, you want to know about “X”, the person to see is (insert name here – you) – he/she knows all about that.” As your fame spreads, so will your expertise increase as you’re constantly tested. Embrace this guru status without arrogance and people will respect and trust you with not only your pet subject but other decisions too.
- Manage up: This sounds Machiavellian (after the master Italian politician and schemer, Machiavelli), but really it’s not. It’s just thinking in your boss’s shoes. For example, if you bring a problem to your boss, consider the implications for him/her: for you it might be a simple cost blowout – for them it’s next week’s payroll… for you it might be a delay in project delivery – for them it’s the beginning of a resourcing nightmare. Simply be aware of the issues your boss faces, and try and make him/her successful. It’s good training for you and believe me your boss will thank you for it.
¹Anastasi, Shane. (2014) The Seven Principles of Professional Services, Published by PS Principles