Know The Work That You Lead

Workers respect leaders who know what they're doing. (Excerpt from Unite The Tribes: Leadership Skills for Technology Managers)

Cartoonists and comedians have made a good living fueled by nothing more than clueless bosses. I suppose it should be a bit troubling that they're so prevalent as to be a common bond. Nonetheless, it's hard to find a large or medium sized company without a fair collection of them. I left out small businesses because stupidity of that magnitude is usually fatal when you're just starting out.

Simply put, if you don't have a clue about the work your group is doing, please do us all a favor and go to work for the competition. Granted, in a field that is technical by definition it's not realistic to expect managers to be experts at the bits and bytes level. Ignorance, however, is completely inexcusable since most of it is due to laziness or disdain for those lowly creatures who do the work. I've met a lot of managers over the years who think the ability to summarize someone else's report is sufficient value to justify their position. In the real world, all it does is get in the way of those who are actually accomplishing something.

To improve your knowledge, just memorize a simple and easy to remember phrase - "I don't know." Be completely fearless in its use and you'll reap bountiful rewards. People love to share their expertise. Once you've lowered the walls and have indicated that you have no grasp of the situation and would be grateful for enlightenment, they'll trip over each other to bring you up to speed. You'll get an education, and they'll feel good that you value what they have to say. Everyone wins.

Your people will love you for being honest. You'll also gain a lot of respect from people when they see you studying to better understand their jobs and taking the time to see what they do. It increases your credibility as a leader who's not afraid to get her hands dirty. In the business world, respect is a valuable currency.

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