Dean Barry Posner, co-creator of the seminal Business Leadership book The Leadership Challenge was our Professor for the Leadership module, which was administered throughout the program as bookends at the beginning and end and then different assignments that were layered on top of the core curriculum over the 17 months the program progressed.
The "You've Been Called Away" Letter
One of the assignments was to write up a letter to the other leaders in your organization as if we were going to be out for some long but indeterminate amount of time. (A-la "I've been called away, I won't be back for 7-8 months, while I'm out, remember to...") One of Dean Posner's points was that you're not going to tell people, "Remember to fix bug 1112233.' It's more like a eulogy; instead you're going to want to tell people large overarching values to go by. So that they could channel you ("What would Andrew do?") while you're gone.
The "Expectations of a Manager" List
This assignment fit well with another thing I had done for a long time, which is produce a set of expectations for any new direct report of mine. I had two 30-bullet handouts, one titled, "My expectations of an admin" and the other titled, "My expectations of a manager." They each had simple rules such as, "Come to me early to renegotiate deadlines the moment you realize they won't be met" and "Present all your issues to me in the form of solutions that you've been pondering for the problems you're facing--don't just come to me with a gripe list."
This list was adopted from my first director at Adobe, Tracey Stewart. She was one of the exceptional people that influenced my career early on. One of her greatest lessons for me was when she reminded me that she preferred having people in positions they were positively challenged by than doing work they were great at but bored by. That resonates still today for me.
My re-crafted form of Tracey's "Expectations" list still lives on today. Adobe HR took a copy and created their own generic version that is given to all new managers to use for themselves and their directs.
I put Stewart's concept together with Posner's, and added one additional fundamental perspective. A question I challenge all manager's should be able to answer when the CEO asks them in the elevator ride up from the lobby to the 17th floor:
What's Your Management Philosophy?
Any manager should have a handful of descriptions that explain how they make decisions about their job and their conduct. "I believe in an inverted pyramid, where we all stand on each other's shoulders." "If I'm doing my job right, at least two people should be cursing my name because I'm unflinchingly demanding our peers meet our deadlines." Those sorts of things.
Combining all these elements results in what I call a "Management Credo". Like Posner, it's far-thinking and focused on my beliefs around leadership philosophies; like Stewart, it's a bullet-like list of my expectations both of ourselves and others; and like the management philosophy question, it's a group of elevator-conversation points that speak to who I am as a manager and a leader. Feel free to liberally steal, or comment on how this matches or mis-matches your own thoughts on leadership.
ANDREW COVEN'S MANAGEMENT PHILOSOPHY
Quality first.Quality is top priority: Quality of life and quality of product. Quality trumps schedule; schedule trumps features.
To teach is to lead.Leadership is expected at every level. Share, coach, teach, train, and mentor.
Be the teacher everyone loved but gave really hard tests.Strive for effective, accountable outcomes for yourself, our colleagues, and our partners. Keep the bar high.
We are ethnographers, forensic scientists, and detectives.Observe our customers and provide solutions that are elegant, thorough, and reusable.
Leave it better than you found it.Document complexities; re-factor spaghetti; clarify obscurities; clean up after yourself. It is good for our code and the Earth.
Show up as the doctor, not the patient.Come ready to debate solutions. Constructive discord identifies execution landmines.
Together we reach higher.Management is the bottom of an inverted triangle. We create the foundation that allows others to soar.
You are our greatest asset.My greatest challenge is, and always will be, how to show you how valued you are.
Your ears should be ringing.I always tell others what incredible people you are, and how lucky I am to work with you.
Have fun.Smile a lot, and laugh even more.