Double, Double Toil and Trouble

“Double, double toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble” – William Shakespeare from MacBeth

Earlier in my career, I worked for the most god awful boss.  You had probably already guessed that based on the Shakespeare quote at the top. She preached mediocrity and begged for us to keep her off the radar.  She wanted us to stay near the middle of  the pack.   Specifically, she preached for us to never be at the top, nor near the bottom. Therefore, working for her was truly pure hell on earth.  She was a manager, not a leader.  Unquestionably, she was product of an horrible work environment that couldn’t retain talent at any level.

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When I moved on, I swore I would never go back into leadership again. I was not going to subject myself to the horrors I had experienced working for her.  Some how I forgot my plan.  Consequently, here I am in a leadership role again.  Fortunately, I have a team of amazing leaders working for me, whose talents blow me away.  In addition, I have the privilege of leading two very high caliber teams.  My employees are amazing.

Each and every day, I remember how bad it was working for her.  I hold on to this because I never ever want to treat my employees as poorly as she treated me and my counterparts.  This was the lesson she taught me.  I will always treat my employees right even when I’m treated poorly.

With this purpose in mind, here are ten of my leadership guidelines:

  1. If you’re shooting for mediocrity, you shouldn’t be leading people.
  2. Every employee comes to you with a blank slate and an opportunity to shine or fail.  The key is they own their opportunity.
  3.  Do not surround yourself with yes men.  If this is you, you’re not a leader; you’re a coward afraid to challenge convention.  Yes, I’m talking to you.
  4. Surround yourself with people that can do the job better than you.  You cannot succession plan if your bench strength is below par.
  5. Don’t ever be a thunder thief.   If you’re the type of douche canoe that rides your employees’ work to the top by taking credit for their work (a.k.a. a thunder thief,) you’ll quickly lose quality employees.  You won’t be able to maintain the charade once they’re gone, since it was their work that got you promoted.  Consequently, this is a surefire path to failure.
  6. Celebrate your employees victories and milestones.  My old manager could have cared less about me, my counterparts or our employees, she was always just checking the box.  Be invested in your employees.
  7. Be Genuine – no explanation needed here.
  8. Right Person= Right role:  Consequently, just because an employee isn’t successful in their current role doesn’t mean they should be terminated.  It costs a lot of money to train employees.  It behooves us as leaders to look within our organization to see if there are roles that may be a better fit for struggling employees.  If you don’t do this, you could unintentionally let good talent walk out the door.
  9. Know your business:  This should come as no surprise, but to be an effective leader you need to know your business inside and out.  To be clear, this doesn’t mean just knowing your numbers.  As a leader, you need to know the operations, the regulations, the personnel, and the technology better than anyone else.  If you don know them, you’re in the wrong role or your organization isn’t being well served.
  10. The Carly Simon Principle – If you think this post is about you, it probably is.  You’ve heard the song “You’re So Vain” right?  Simon write “You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you.”

This list isn’t exhaustive and quite frankly its mostly common sense.  These are things I remind myself of everyday.  To be a good leader, you need to be a decent human being, expert in your field, have a thick skin and love working with people.  Being a leader isn’t about a paycheck.  If it is, your motivation is wrong.  Rather, it is about bringing the best out of yourself and your employees each and everyday.

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble is a rhyme extracted from Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

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