Advice and/or book recomendations for getting R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
September 9, 2014 7:22 PM   Subscribe

A close relative ("D") has just been thrust into a new position with a lot of authority/ responsibility over a small group of people. This is the first leadership position D. has ever had. What makes tricky: (a) The others D. has been asked to lead are solidly predisposed to *not* be very happy with being subordinate to someone so junior and inexperienced; (b) While the team is small, the people on the team (rightly) believe a *lot* is riding on the selection, and are incredibly invested in the outcome. Looking for some advice... more inside...

A little added complication is that for this particular endeavor, if the team (or some alpha members) decide to shut D. out and try to lead around D. themselves, there will likely be failure for everyone. (Basically, there is an information flow problem for this particularly project... without getting bogged down in details, imagine that it is a situation where the team is essentially blind and the team leader is the only one who can see and convey data... maybe imagine as an analogy an air traffic controller managing a dozen airplanes...obviously this is not that!)

So D. has asked me: "What hacks and tricks, philosophies, principles, ideas can I learn to try to earn trust and respect of these seriously more experienced / senior people when I show up for work next week? Are there any great books I can read in the next few weeks to help me figure out how to be a leader (and get this right.)"

I had nothing but a lot of platitudes about respect, listening, leading by example. I think D. needs more-- like practical, concrete ideas and clever insights-- so mefi: What are the best books to read for a crash course in Leadership... what is your best (and hopefully least obvious) advice for a greenhorn who is extremely motivated to make this work?
posted by gravitypanda to Human Relations (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
D should worry more about mastering the project skills involved and less about hacks or tips.

The best way D is going to earn respect is if he is capable and "together." Either he learns the job and doesn't get flustered or act high strung.... Or ...

If people undermine D despite his competence, then that is on them.

Other hacks about how to maintain control have everything to do with how structure project workflow. I don't have a basic book for that, but maybe someone else will...

I question why D was given a near impossible role. It might be worth knowing as he navigates the water ahead.
posted by jbenben at 7:40 PM on September 9, 2014

Based on my own experience .... D should first sit down individually with each team member and get as much information about how they view their own role and contribution.

Then, whenever an opportunity arises where D could give credit to a team member for some suggestion/contribution, D. should do so in public. If D thinks that a particular initiative is 80% D's own contribution and only 20% someone else's (say A), D should still give the credit to A publicly.

If some communication problems between say B and C cause problems for the project, D should take the blame publicly with the team for not having prevented this and ask for suggestions going forward.


As a leader, assume responsibility when things go wrong, and look for people to credit when things go right.
posted by aroberge at 7:51 PM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]

Is D. a man or a woman? (I ask because it matters. I'd give the same basic advice to both, but women in leadership positions face extra gender-related challenges and need specific strategies for handling them.)
posted by Susan PG at 8:53 PM on September 9, 2014

Best answer: It's worth reading The First 90 Days. A lot of the advice is pretty generic (and aimed a bit more at "senior" leadership roles) but it does give you a structured approach to the areas you need to think about - the people, understanding the background you're working against, making plans, etc.
posted by crocomancer at 4:09 AM on September 10, 2014

Best answer: I've been meaning to read this book: Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It.
posted by amtho at 4:11 AM on September 10, 2014

Don't go in making any changes right away - like required work hours, or processes, or whatever. Instead, have a one-on-one with each member of the team and ask what is working, what is not working or could be improved. Ask if they have any suggestions. Ask them what is their favorite part of working on this team/at this company/in this city and their least favorite. Ask them what their goals are and what you can do to help them reach those goals.
posted by CathyG at 12:06 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If D is female and US-based: the book "Nice Girls Don't Get The Corner Office." I thought feminist, Buddhist me wouldn't like it; I was so wrong.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 2:40 PM on September 10, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you for the good suggestions everyone. The books recommended so far all look great! (And yep, D. is female and the team is 50/50.)
posted by gravitypanda at 4:41 PM on September 10, 2014

Hey gravitypanda, here are some books I often recomment for new bosses. They're mostly aimed at helping people develop constructive positive relationships with their colleagues and bosses. All the titles and marketing (IMO) are kind of gross but the substance is solid.

Sorry I can't link but I'm on my phone. In order of how good they are (but they're all good):

The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle, by Kathleen Kelly Reardon

It's All Politics: Winning in a World Where Hard Work and Talent Aren't Enough, by Kathleen Kelly Reardon

Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics, by Rick Brandon

The 12 Bad Habits That Hold Good People Back: Overcoming the Behaviour Patterns That Keep You From Getting Ahead, by James Waldroop

What Your Boss Doesn't Tell You Until It's Too Late: How to Correct Behaviour That's Holding You Back, by Robert Bramson

Political Savvy: Systematic Approaches to Leadership Behind the Scenes, by Joel DeLuca

I am kind of laughing reading these titles, which all seem absurd to me: they were clearly developed by marketing departments. But trust me, the books are good, especially for women. The target audience is folks who are high performers and earnest and hard-working and who need a little help -- either because they're somewhat interpersonally obtuse, a little naive, or just new in a leadership role. I like them all because they're practical and smart and focused on self-betterment. They don't teach sneaky Machiavellian tactics: they are more about empathy and communications.
posted by Susan PG at 1:25 PM on September 14, 2014

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