Join Mike Figliuolo for an in-depth discussion in this video Staying connected to the team's reality, part of Developing Your Leadership Philosophy.
One of the worst types of leaders to work for is the one who's checked out. The one who has no basis in reality or understanding of what their team does. Because those individuals don't appreciate always the hard work that the team does. They also don't understand the challenges and constraints that the team faces which then can lead that leader to put unreasonable expectations on the team. You need a reminder to stay in touch with your team's reality, to get out there and get dirty, understand their jobs.
Because guess what? Getting dirty also can get you respect. My reminder and my maxim for staying in touch with my team's reality is a very simple statement. "He's under the tank, sir!" When I was in the Army and I was a young platoon leader, there was a field problem where we were out in the field, and we were pulling maintenance on the vehicles, and the Colonel, who was a very senior officer, came looking for me, probably to yell at me. He was always yelling at me for one reason or another.
He came up to my tank and he walked up to my driver, who was an 18 year old Buck Private. My driver saluted, and the Colonel saluted him. He asked my driver, "Where's Lieutenant Figliuolo?" My driver pointed to a pair of boots sticking out from under the tank. The Colonel looked at my driver quizzically and said, "No, where's Lieutenant Figliuolo with emphasis on 'Lieutenant.' I was an officer and in the Colonel's mind, officers are not under tanks.
My driver again pointed to the pair of boots sticking out from under the tank and he said, "He's under the tank, sir." The Colonel bent over and yelled my name. I sat up under the tank, smacked my head, crawled out from under the vehicle, and the Colonel said "What are you doing under the tank?" I said, "I'm fixing the track, sir." He looked confused. He said, "Why are you fixing the track?" Again, the Colonel had a view that officers don't fix track, officers give orders. Officers read maps.
He said, "Why are you fixing the track?" I said, "Because it's broken?" He got very confused and he stormed off. He forgot why he was even there to talk to me. The reason I was under that tank, and my driver wasn't under the tank pulling maintenance, was because my driver had been at it all night and he was exhausted. I saw he needed a break. I told him, "You know what?" "My work is done. "I'm done with the map. "I'm done with the orders. "Give me the wrench. "Let me go work on it for a little bit." I crawled under that tank and I turned a wrench.
Now that story got around the unit before lunchtime. I had other soldiers from other units coming to me and saying, "Hey sir, "do you have any room in your platoon because "I think I'd like to come work for you." I did it because it was the right thing. I had a member of my team who was tired. I went in and did the same work that they did. But that choice, that decision to crawl in the mud and turn a wrench, sent a very strong and very clear message to the members of the entire unit.
It said I'm not above any work that I ask you to do. It built a great deal of respect for me. It also helped me understand the challenges that the members of my organization face on a daily basis. I learned that you bang your knuckles up a lot under that tank, that it gets cold under there. I had a better appreciation for all the hard work that they do for me. As you think about staying in touch with your team's reality, how are you going to remind yourself to step away from the computer, to get out of your office, and get out there and see what your team does? How are you doing to demonstrate that you can do their job just as well as they can and that you're not above anything you ask them to do? Has there been a leader in your past who rolled up their sleeves and got dirty side-by-side with you? Think about how you felt about that leader.
Think about how much respect you gave them after that. Conversely, have there been leaders you worked with who tended to sit in their office and they weren't willing to get dirty, and they believed, well, the rest of the organization should work hard and I have something else important to do. Think about how little respect you had for that individual. Again, within those stories, that's the basis for your maxim. Think about the trigger, whether it was something that somebody said, or the name of the project you were on, or the particular piece of work that was being done, that trigger -- to transport you back to that story, so you can again feel those feelings, whether they're good ones or they're frustrated ones, and that trigger becomes your maxim and then you can share the maxim.
You can share the story with the members of your team, and say, "You know what? "He's under the tank, sir." Here's the story behind it, and here's what you can expect from me as your leader. That maxim will be your reminder to make sure you stay connected to your team's reality, build respect, and understand the challenges that they face.
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- Developing authenticity
- Discovering your personal inspiration
- Defining your goals
- Holding yourself accountable
- Setting team standards
- Making decisions
- Motivating, inspiring, and developing people
- Achieving a work-life balance
- Sharing your leadership philosophy<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.