My Un-Resume: I Failed My Team

My un-resume is my list of screw-ups.  They are things I am not proud of.

Periodically I share my un-resume with the world.  Most people who speak and consult on leadership are sure to present their successes to their clients.  I’m doing something different.

Yes, I’ve had success through the years and received awards and recognition as a result.  But rarely did my successes teach me as much as my failures.  Rest assured, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to learn!

My Un-Resume

A New Team And A Bad Start

I hate to say it, but I did not do a good job when I took over the last team I led in my corporate life.  I ignored many of the lessons I learned from taking over other teams. As a result of my poor leadership, the team struggled to launch.

I had a bad attitude that affected my team.  As a result of a corporate restructuring, I had just let go 9 of the 12 people who reported directly to me.  I had no voice in who got a pink slip, but I got “the opportunity” to deliver the news.  On the day of the layoffs, I also received news of my new team.

3 Ways My Circumstances Affected My Attitude

 1.  I Avoided Connecting

I was walking with a limp after the lay-offs.  As a result, I did not put forth my normal effort to get to know each of my direct reports.  Unconsciously, I set up a wall that would allow me to lay people off in the future without the same emotional baggage.

2.  I Checked The Boxes

I lacked passion when I met with my new team.  I did a lot of the things I’d done in the past to build strong, united Low Maintenance Teams.  But, I was just going through the motions and the team could sense that.

3.  I Under-Communicated

My communications became very dry and task oriented.  Again, my poor attitude prevented me from being as involved as I had in previous teams.  I was less open and available to the people I was responsible for leading.

The results were a slow start.  I had a team of talented and honorable people who did not get my best.  I see now I was being a manager instead of a leader.  But worse, I was acting that way out of self-pity.  That is a confession I hate making.

The good news is I emerged over time and began leading again.  I began to connect with and care about the people I was leading.  The individuals started to feel part of a something bigger than themselves and a Low Maintenance Team emerged.

The Bottom Line:

As a leader I cannot allow myself to have a bad attitude.  I believe attitudes are a choice.  Unfortunately I was choosing to wallow in self-pity.  I was thinking of myself instead of leading the people I was to serve.

Each new team is an opportunity to begin again.  I didn’t like the way my old team ended, but I was now another team’s leader.  I did not have the right to focus on myself.  When I became a leader, I gave up that right and gained the obligation to put my team’s needs ahead of my desires or emotions.

As leaders, we will all face circumstances out of our control.  They may even leave a scar.  I allowed circumstances to control how I led.  It is another entry on my un-resume.  But, I am making the choice to not let it happen again.

Question:

What circumstances did you allow to control your attitude for too long?

10 Responses to “My Un-Resume: I Failed My Team”

  1. Jeffrey Shapiro May 30, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    Dave,

    I saw it time and time again in Iraq. As new people showed up, you could tell the people that wanted to be there, and those that didn’t. I found myself being the guy that other leader’s soldiers would come to with leadership failures, because their leader had put up that invisible barrier to communication. Maybe I just have “approachable” written on my forehead, but as a leader that is a good thing. It’s your non-verbal communication that becomes the most important part of meeting your unit for the first time.

    • Dave Anderson May 30, 2012 at 6:51 am #

      Non-verbals is a great insight Jeff! We all need to be aware of those.

  2. Garrett Miller May 30, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    Having come from a similar environment I can appreciate your unresume it looks strangely familiar.
    Another struggle I encountered is while the waters churned below me in the pragmatic, robotic shifting of personnel, the waters also churned above me. Leaders, philosophies, culture, politics, and personalities all changed. In a sea of change the instinct is to grab something and hold steady until the storm passes. Five years later the organization I left is still in the storm and still churning. I could make excuses for my un-resume but what leaders (what I should have done) is swim towards their goals and serve their people who are looking to them for direction and comfort. Great lessons are learned in failure. I thank God for them.

    • Dave Anderson May 30, 2012 at 6:52 am #

      Bingo!

  3. Eric February 28, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    Dave, I can relate to a lot of your un-resume. I can also relate a whole lot with Garrett. At some point, when there is turbulence in leadership above that is hurting the organization, you need to make the decision of whether you are working to help the employees, the company or the senior leadership. That is a very tough decision when those options are run counter to each other and unfortunately, from what I have found, lead to mis-steps, contradictions and uncertainty which all affect your leadership ability.

    • Dave Anderson March 1, 2014 at 7:38 am #

      True. The filter that I often use is if I have a difference in opinion with the senior leadership over strategy etc or if it is a moral/ethical issue.

      If it is the former, I have a duty to follow their lead. If it is the latter, then I have a duty not to.

      • Lucien March 3, 2014 at 11:15 am #

        Dear Dave,
        I really appreciated reading your article and the posts too.Very instructive for somebody young like me (24).
        Regarding your last post, I was thinking that often strategy issues have very an impact on social & moral issues. So, I imagine that this should be a big challenge when both issues are raised?

        In this case maybe the best thing to do would be to decide which limits/borders you decide set in your mind while allowing strategy to overcome the moral needs of your team? “What can be tolerated or not?”
        But still this position makes me uncomfortable as we are here to serve company, normally?

        What would be your point of view ?

        • Dave Anderson March 4, 2014 at 5:19 am #

          Lucien- Could you share an example? I need a clarification on your question so I respond appropriately.

  4. Lucien March 4, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    Hi Dave, One example would be:
    When the company needs to increase its salesforce efficiency , as a manager you may have to
    -> ask salesforce to make their reports in the evening,
    -> or to commit them to visit X number of prospects each day although being in the salesforce contextual environment (long distance between clients, long waiting times, ….) makes it almost impossible for them to achieve this daily target unless they work 10-11 hours a day.

    This example that some people told me about happens sometimes and is really perceived as difficult to bear.
    In this case you may try to explain that the company needs to increase its operating income, either by increasing sales efficiency, or by cuting jobs.
    But this may look a bit unethical.

    • Dave Anderson March 5, 2014 at 5:28 am #

      Lucien,
      In the scenario you present, I do not see a moral or ethical issue. The people are being asked to do something difficult or that takes extra time to do. (and without an increase in pay).

      That may hurt motivation and morale but it is not a moral issue. I was a sales manager and dealt with sales people and these issues. The company is asking for more out of it’s people. Without an increase in income there will be cuts. These people are being given a chance to change the fate of their jobs and their company. No one is being asked to lie, cheat or steal from anyone.

      This is a hard situation for those sales people, but I don’t believe we have a moral or ethical issue.

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