Jack just earned a promotion. A rather well deserved promotion it is. I hand him a promotion letter. He turns around and thanks me deeply for it. The Thank-You is not a causal, thank-you-so-much kind of a thank-you. It is an intense, deep thank you.
I am in a serious problem. A problem I which I refer to as the in-the-frame problem.
After a year of hard work, effort and his very own good luck, Jack has just won a gold medal. Suddenly, for no particular reason I am in the frame of the victory photograph as someone who is responsible for the win. Suddenly I am on the spot as someone who is awarding him his medal.
It sucks being held responsible for Jack's effort, hard work and luck that ultimately got him the promotion.
Most young and budding managers that I worked with in my early life as a developer, loved being in-the-frame when the victory photograph was being taken.
During my career, I have seen managers who will go out of their way to push themselves into-the-frame. Managers who will go so far as politically remind team members how hard they recommended their promotion and how hard they worked to 'convince' the folks high up in the pecking order before the promotion was granted.
I have also seen a few who will go so far as reminding you that their recommendation had weight and impact on the promotion decision that was much more than your own effort, hard working, timing and luck.
You got the monkeys out of their path, you kept them away from long winded meetings, you mentored them and you got them to flock together. Most young managers tend to think of themselves as the captain of the team and when the team is being awarded the gold medal it is but natural for the captain to be in-the-frame of the victory photograph.
This is a lesson that most managers around the world find it hard to reconcile with. It took me years of working with multiple teams to understand this and I; dear reader am going to let you on this dark leadership secret that you may not find very amusing. It might make you feel hugely insecure at first. Understand it well, and it help you go a long way.
This same secret might actually help you build lasting teams that are not just effective but really good as sustaining themselves in your absence.
Ready? Here you go: Your job, primarily revolves around hiring and placing the right person for the right job.
If you have hired a seriously kickass team chances are that they will kick ass. Don't get me wrong. All your pep-talk, one-on-one discussions, getting the shit out of their way and all your mentorship does make a difference but what I am here to tell you dear reader, is that maybe, just maybe all that is not enough to make a difference between whether a team succeeds or fails in the long run.
Besides, if you are doing your job properly, chances are that your team is not even finding out about the colossal f@#k-ups that your organization and team is avoiding because of your work.
Your reminding the team what a great father figure you have been and trying to butt into the frame when the victory snap is being taken, will definitely not make you a successful manager. It will just show your insecurity as a manager and demonstrate weak leadership on your part.
Next time you are giving out a promotion letter and you get a sincere deep thank you, give an equally sincere reply and let Jack know that you had nothing to do with his promotion. It was his own hard work, effort, timing and luck that did the trick.
Next time the victory picture of your team is being taken, try standing on the last line instead of the first. May I suggest that you try moving out of the frame completely. In fact, try being the guy who is taking the picture and take the best freaking picture you can take.
I wish you good luck.