Leadership lessons of Steve Jobs pt 10 & 11

Tolerate only 'A' players & engage face to face.

10. Tolerate only ‘A’ players.

This lesson is simple really, Jobs was just interested in working with the best and wanted to avoid what he called the ‘bozo explosion’, working with the type of manager who was, yes polite, but stuck around in their comfort zone delivering mediocrity. He wanted to work with the best and made no apology for being honest, it was his job to tell people if something sucked and he did. Yes, Jobs is infamously petulant and tough with people, however for many he was an inspiration.

Patrick Lencioni talks about the five behaviours of a cohesive team, the second behaviour being ‘conflict’. What he means is that it is criticial for individuals to have their say, challenge each other, conflict and debate when they don’t agree on something or have an issue. Otherwise there exists an artificial harmony (I look as though I have bought in, but actually I have disengaged) and there is no commitment or buy in to decisions that are made. It is not about everyone has to agree either, it is however about everyone must feel they have been heard.

Jobs infused a passion to create ground breaking products and a belief that as a team they could achieve what they wanted and what seemed like the impossible. The truth is Jobs had a close knit team who stuck around longer than most in most other companies, the reason being that with Jobs they delivered great things and great work – because they were expected to.

11. Leadership is about engaging face to face.

PowerPoint and slide shows were banned in Steve Jobs world, he believed that it restricted people to think for themselves, it stopped people thinking on their feet and hashing out problems in a creative, thought provoking way. Another of his mantras was ‘if people know what they are talking about, they don’t need PowerPoint’. Buildings were all open plan, designed for people to mingle, connect and have discussion, which of course sparked great innovation and ideas for the future. People were not restricted to offices or hidden behind false walls they were out building relationships and communicating with each other to do more of the same, deliver perfection and sometimes the impossible.

A popular area of focus for many of my coaching clients is ‘having more impact’ and a lot of this is about getting out from behind the desk and communicating face to face.  Technology is not necessarily to blame either, it’s people’s fears and mindset that is the real barrier, doubting whether they will add value or if the other person is even interested in what they have to say. Yet the more we get into the habit of disclosing, communicating and asking for feedback to learn, understand and become aware, the more it builds trust.

This topic reminds me of Dr Steve Peters’ (yes him – recently recruited by the FA as England team psychologist) model ‘The Square of Communication’ and what needs to be in place in order to communicate effectively:
Right Time                                     Right Place
Right Person
Right Agenda                                Right Way*
(*Be assertive vs. aggressive and adult:adult)

At the centre of the model is the ‘right person’. All too often we are having a moan about someone, or something that someone has done, to everyone else apart from the person at the centre of the issue – wasted time, wasted energy and negative impact. It is about getting out there, engaging face to face, embracing those challenging conversations in an adult way in order to create, resolve and proactively progress.

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