I had a direct experience a while back of how much my own attitude contributes to the success of my team. Like many others in IT, most of my experience is in “negotiation leadership.” This is the situation where I’m not directly in charge and have had to use my influence and power of persuasion to get things done. I’m used to motivating people and getting them excited so they want to participate on my project. I’ve had a “public face” I’ve shown to my customers and a “private face” I’ve shown to my team. I’ve also accepted less than what I really wanted, because volunteer labor only goes so far. Now that I’m on a project where I’m leading a team made up of non-volunteers, I’m finding I need to update my management style. It’s part of growing up as a leader. What I’ve learned is that my team needs me to be just as excited with them as I am with my customers. No private face – just the same one for everyone.
I came into a meeting not sure how we were going to meet our deadlines, and talked about scaling back and perhaps accepting less than what we wanted. I felt like I was reacting to the group’s nonverbal communication, the “we can’t do this, we don’t really support this project, we have too much to do” vibes. I left the meeting feeling discouraged. Here I’d promised something really great to our entire community, and now we can’t deliver? I moped around all the next day and had to have a colleague give me a pep talk. The next day, I met again with them, said we’d gotten off to a bad start, and talked up both the project and my faith in the team’s ability to deliver. The relief in the room was palpable — I never realized how much they needed me to be 100% enthusiastic and committed. My positive attitude was as much a necessary ingredient to our success as their technical skills.
Lessons I take from this: don’t project your own worries onto the team, and be 100% committed to the outcome. This can’t be fake – you have to really believe in the project and have faith in your team. People can tell if you’re just paying lip service to it and don’t really believe it. We can acknowledge that some things are hard, and at the same time have faith in our people that we can accomplish whatever we set our minds to. Constraints do exist, but we don’t have to let them stop us — they’re just a reason to be creative. Having a positive attitude is an essential component of leadership.
Very true, it’s not always easy to balance between keeping positive and sympathizing with the aura of the Team. Certainly part of leading is leading attitude.
Thanx for sharing the personal growth experience.
Hang in there, and keep up the good work!
I agree. There is nothing worse than a boss with a negative attitude. I’m with you – you want a real person but their optimistic side. It’s almost a function of position – as a junior employee it was easy and ok to be super self-depracating or critical. Doesn’t do well as you move up the ranks.
Great thoughts, Emma!
Your title reminded me of a book that I keep close at hand called “Attitude is Everything” by Keith Harrell. One of my favorite quotes:
“We like to think that our attitudes are affected by what people do and say to us, but in reality, it is what we say to ourselves that has the greatest influence on how we present ourselves to the world.”
This becomes especially true as a leader. When the voice of discouragement or doubt creeps in, I try to remember this reality and change the conversation in my own mind!
In one of the leadership classes I took, they said “what you focus on, expands.” So when we focus on our problems, they get harder and harder. When you focus on the road ahead, you get there.
I’m reposting articles I’d written for meritalk here (or will post, one at a time over the next few weeks) with the goal of blogging more regularly. I like the short essay format! And the supportive comments from my friends. 🙂
Thanks for sharing, Emma! I’d love to hear more about successes in “negotiation leadership.”