There’s one thing I tell myself to do lately: listen more.
I’m appealing to those of us who veer towards not listening or maybe those of us who talk too much.
As a leader or manager, we can often wrongly think our job is primarily to tell people what to do. That’s a very simplistic way of thinking on its own, but let’s just talk about what it means WHEN you do have to tell people what to do.
If you don’t listen, you won’t know if there is retention / understanding / comprehension. You taught or gave orders, they acknowledged, and you watched in slow motion as it got done wrong because YOU weren’t listening originally. YOU weren’t aware they just didn’t understand.
By listening we can learn and discover. Listening allows us to find problems and then hear about the situation to understand the issue at greater depth.
Often we don’t listen with intent or even listen at all. Listening creates or leads to awareness, empathy, and intelligence.
Listen. Think. Listen some more, and THEN ask questions. I often feel like I have to fill the dead space in a conversation, but perhaps leaving that gap open is creating for the other person to share an idea they would not normally or for the other person to think (it also gives room for YOU to think).
Sometimes listening is just creating the space for someone to communicate feelings, frustration. Often there is subtext behind that, and it’s great to find understanding when we can. We don’t necessarily have to solve every issue we listen to – sometimes people just want to be heard.
You could go on a deep dive with this concept and say that it’s not simply about listening but about being open. Be open to ideas, be open to people. Listen more.
I tried to think of what would be the opposite of ‘Move fast and break things’. Zuckerberg’s often quoted ideal is interpreted (or misinterpreted) a thousand different ways. I like the simplest interpretation – challenge things, try a lot of stuff and fail fast (so you get to the ‘right’ solution faster).
“Move Slow and Follow Rules” probably isn’t a good thing to automatically put in play – seems like almost a default setting we often see on most productions.
Move slow and you get less done. Sure there are times you need to move slow. You need to probably move slow if you are learning. You might also need to move slow(er) if accuracy or quality is not at spec. If neither of those are at play, you should consider moving faster (generally speaking, people could embrace a little more urgency on most shows).
Carefully follow your established rules and you will likely get the same results. Sometimes, you want the exact same results (assuming things are going well and high quality), but most times we want better results and linked improvement. You get that from small iterations, adaptations to the rules. You want exponential results? You better be ok with breaking some things.
‘Move slow and follow the rules’ is a good thing to tell the novice, someone inexperienced, or someone struggling with quality. Otherwise, I’m always going to recommend we take a good look at things, move faster and adapt.
Advice to Managers – Stop monkeying with the machine
Here’s what I tell most new managers – let’s call it proactive guidance.
If a crew is running well and morale is good, then stay out of their way.
If you want to do something (if you feel like you aren’t contributing enough), then figure out how to make your crew’s life easier. Start by listening and watching.
Get them better tools / resources OR clear roadblocks for them. Often young leaders think they always need to be involved – they tend to micromanage to either assert their position or to feel useful. This is a mistake.
Sometimes crews might actually need training, but more often it is just a nudge that’s needed. Unless the wheels are falling off the cart, training may not be the move. Just keep them pointed in the right direction.
The skipper lets the crew do their job and stays out of their way so they can do it well. She watches the crew to see where they need help and continues scan the horizon making sure they are headed the right way.