Canadian geek in Myanmar

Tag: Management

Set the finish line, not the route

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” ~General George Patton

I couldn’t agree more. I am a big believer in management setting up the finish line, and ensuring everyone knows where that is but letting your team determine the route to get there.

This is especially true in building technology. Giving the developers the ability to work through bumps, hiccups and bugs on their own will allow the teams to collectively move so much faster. If the leader needs to be there for every little snag, nothing is ever going to be pushed through. Bottlenecks are the death of rapid iteration. Yes, letting go of control is a little scary but if you’re doing your job right, you would have hired people smarter than you anyway. Trust them. Besides, no one likes a micro-manager and as a leader, don’t you get paid too much to just babysit?

That’s not to say that you can just step back and watch. This method of leadership only works if the managers are available to help and step in if/when necessary. I’m not sure what’s worse, a micro-manager or a totally disinterested one.

Vietnam’s acceptance of mediocrity

One of the most frustrating things I find about shopping in Vietnam is that all the sales people continually tell you “it’s fine, it’s fine” while they’re imitating a bobblehead toy on an offroading expedition I’m sure everyone here has come across this. I ask for a size 6 shoe, they only have a size 5 but it’s fine. No green paint? Here’s some red. It’s fine. I get that they are just trying to make a sale but it’s irritating to be pushed to buy something I’m not looking for. Sometimes, it is fine despite the fact that it’s not what I asked for – living in a country like Vietnam, you just need to get zen about some of this stuff.

However, when it comes to work, it’s certainly not fine. The “it’s fine” excuse is used all time. The allowance of a half-assed job breeds a culture of mediocrity that is not okay. Everyone in the organization must understand what excellence looks like, how it can be achieved and their role in owning that.

Build a cult of excellence
Humans have a natural inclination to seek acceptance – no one wants to be the proverbial fat kid picked last. So ensure that everyone understands that when they are not delivering, they are not only letting themselves down, but their team mates as well.

Get rid of the deadweight
If everyone around you is an A player who delivers exceptional work, the mediocre ones are easy to pick out. Working at a huge company like EA, you can see B and C players hiding amongst the rock stars. In a start up, that’s a whole lot harder to do. In either cases though, leaders must take ownership of their team. Take the time to train and develop your people but don’t shy away from making tough decisions either. If you can’t break the it’s fine factor, you need to let them go before they infect others. Otherwise, you allow everyone to believe that excellence is optional, which is a slippery slope.