Every so-called failure that one faces is an opportunity to learn how not to do things. It’s still experience and while sometimes the consequences can be major, it definitely makes up for a good lesson learned. I recall three mistakes I’ve made when I first took a management role.
I don’t feel embarassed and I don’t feel sorry. I know these were important lessons and for sure they weren’t the only mistakes I’ve made, however they all thought me something.
Here they are, along with what I’ve learned from each one of them.
I didn’t challenge estimations. In times of waterfall delivery and fixed price contracts, this one was really painful. People tend to give estimations that they simply feel comfortable with, exceeding a normal risk margin. Challenging them, allows you to find the basis of the estimation and to distinguish between effort and duration, since no one is paying for idle waiting time.
When you challenge estimations you also find out the assumptions made. Assumption and omission are the mother and father of all f… -ups.
I’ve granted autonomy to people who were not ready for it. Empowering people is good and as managers we have to do this. Depending on the degree of actual autonomy, some folks can deliver independently while others require intermediate checks. I didn’t turn to micromanagement, but it taught me to better evaluate people’s capacity to perform without supervision.
Granting autonomy and encouraging initiative are mandatory to help people evolve and not get them stuck in their role.
I’ve tolerated wrong behaviour – from aggressive verbal attitude coming in from team superstars, to a way too flexible schedule.
I am not a sensitive person, but verbally aggressive behaviour should never be accepted – whoever can’t adjust to a professional environment has to go. I don’t care how good that person is. In fact, someone’s technical abilities is the only thing that makes us think twice. It makes the whole team feel uncomfortable and disrupts the overall performance. A project is never delivered by one single person, but by a whole team.
People feel wrongfully entitled sometimes and take things for granted. I am still trying to adjust to everyone’s needs as long as the job gets done. I consider it a fair trade and not people pleasing. As far as schedule is concerned, I don’t need seatwarmers. I’ve also learned to always express the rationale behind a decision, so that the team understands why something is not possible and what we need to achieve.
A true leader also does not tolerate underperformers, because the whole team suffers and he needs to own both his actions and inactions. If someone is constantly underperforming, the others have to compensate and that’s not fair. However, I’ve learned to address this early, so that improvements can be made.
It’s all part of a learning curve. What mistakes did you make and what have you learned?