21 Tips for Leading and Managing

  1. Delegate projects, not tasks.
  2. Let go. Check in. Ask questions. If you don’t get the right answers, ask more questions. Offer help. If you do this gently, it’s not micromanagement.
  3. Administrative work is part of every job; you can’t delegate it all. It’s better to work alongside your team to get it done than to hand it off.
  4. People grow by taking ownership of increasingly big things. Your most important job as a leader is to facilitate that.
  5. Expect and encourage people to claim things. Let them choose what to claim.
  6. Have high standards, but hold them lightly.
  7. People watch what you do more than they listen to what you say.
  8. The big picture is probably obvious to you, but the story of your team bears constant telling. Why are we here? What are we doing together? Where are we going? Why does it matter?
  9. Be vulnerable. Let folks see what you’re struggling with. Don’t put up a false front of hyper-competence; nobody believes it anyway.
  10. Get excited about things. Bring people crazy ideas every once in a while so they’ll feel comfortable bringing theirs to you.
    Photo by Eugene Kim
  11. Cultivate ambient awareness – up, down and sideways.
  12. Budgets are stories about values. Make sure everyone knows how to read them.
  13. Deliver information updates as efficiently as possible, usually in writing; defend face time for questions, discussion and generative work.
  14. Eat lunch with your team as often as you can.
  15. Have opinions, but be willing to change them.
  16. With every hire, you should raise the average quality of your team.
  17. Your gut is probably right. Have the courage to listen.
  18. Do not act when triggered.
  19. Keep track of your commitments and follow through flawlessly or renegotiate proactively.
  20. Avoid self-inflicted fire drills. The world gives us enough real ones.
  21. It is OK to create some discomfort to drive change. Construct and regulate it carefully.

(Thanks to Steve Andersen for his always-insightful feedback.)