I believe the success of innovative products depend upon the dedicated team driving that product. Because there are so many forces opposing new products entering the market, the development team has to be unified and focused on the goal to succeed. The team has to have a leader they respect and are willing to follow when those opposing forces are bearing down.
That responsibility can be a lot for a leader. Especially when that person is having to play the corporate political game at the same time. Too often team leaders can focus their energy on impressing executive management instead of impressing the development team. Yet, these are the people who are the engine moving the new product to market.
I have written before about the importance of being the foundation for those you lead. How we as leaders should not view ourselves as being propped upon the backs of our employees, but rather a foundation that the team is built upon.
My team has recently been going through a time of expansion. I have been interviewing many potential candidates and reading countless resumes. I noticed a trend as I was skimming through all the resumes piled on my desk. The candidates never listed references who have worked for them, only past bosses or peers. And many of these candidates had past management experience.
I started to think about why I was seeing this pattern emerge. Since we first enter the work force, we are taught to always impress our boss. I don’t think that is a bad thing. It is my goal to accomplish the tasks that my boss assigns me. That is the job I was hired to do and is one way that I can succeed in my organization.
What I am suggesting is that I would be impressed with a candidate who had references from people who had worked for them. What would those kinds of referrals say about that individual? We all know that any of us should be able to get a half way decent reference from an old boss. I mean, we invest so much of our energy every day trying to impress our bosses.
How much harder is it to get references from those we lead? And not just one or two people, but the majority of the people we lead. How many CEO’s of fortune five hundred companies could get a positive referral from the majority of their workforce?
I believe as leaders we should invest just as much energy (if not more) into impressing those we lead instead of trying to impress those we follow. Imagine the impact that would have on our teams and subsequently our products. If the team really is the engine pushing the product into the market, is that not where we should be investing our energy?
Here are a couple other questions for you to consider:
- What would happen right now if we asked those we lead to write us a letter of recommendation?
- Would they say yes?
- What would they write?
My challenge to you is to write down the names of all the people you currently lead. Highlight the names of people you think might actually write a letter of recommendation for you. The real value is the list of names that are not highlighted. Work this week and every week after that to win those people over. I am willing to bet that as you do, you will notice improvements throughout your entire department.