Servant Leadership is an Art—Practice It!

”The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”

Max De Pree, Herman Miller Inc.

I remember the moment I ‘crossed over’ to management. It wasn’t when I accepted the position, or the first department head meeting. It was the first team meeting I called. We all sat down, all eyes turned to me in expectation. The team craved leadership, as the position had been vacant for over a year. From that moment I made it my mission to be the best leader I could be. I became a student of leadership, coaching, mentoring and employee engagement. Servant Leadership resonated with me immediately, describing the kind of manager or boss I would want, and aspire to be. This style correlates directly with my core beliefs and values.

Servant leaders have a serve-first mindset focused on empowering those who work for them. They show humility instead of brandishing authority, and look to enhance the development of their staff.

The servant leader seeks to align an employee’s sense of purpose with the organization mission—empowering staff to perform at a high level. Employees feel engaged and purpose-driven. The benefits are lower turnover and improved productivity.

As the name implies, servant leadership starts with an unselfish mindset. It is less about you, more about the team. With the proper motivation a servant leader will behave in a humble, serving manner, and really that is where the rubber hits the road. We can say what we want, but ultimately we are judged on our behavior. For the servant leader, behavior isn’t just what gets done, but how it gets done.

Best Practices

First and foremost, successful servant leadership starts with the desire to serve our staff. This approach begins with the onboarding phase for each employee.

After initial introductions, the servant leader should ask for the new hire’s observations, impressions and opinions. This sends the message that the employee’s thoughts are valued.

The servant leader keeps the focus on talent development in several ways. Leveraging employees’ strengths can lead to better performance and higher satisfaction as staff work on tasks they are passionate about.

Another way is to selectively give power so employees can lead certain projects and take ownership, thus building confidence and capabilities.

Letting go can be hard, but is a crucial requirement for effective servant leadership. Leaders are no longer individual performers, they are enablers.

Question Close, Listen Closer

Close listening and searching questions are two core practices of servant leadership.

Servant leaders build relationships with staff by listening closely and asking lots of questions—on anything from the employee’s background to their view on the organization culture and direction. If an employee is struggling, leaders should ask about what could be the cause. Even questions about smaller aspects of operations sends the message that their opinion does matter.

Listening to understand is crucial to get the employees point of view. Servant leaders wait patiently until the person is finished and briefly summarize the thoughts for clarification. This used to be considered common courtesy, but with the rise of technology it has become harder to listen with understanding, and may take concerted effort on the part of the leader.

Encouragement, Humility, Trust

Encouragement is the hallmark expression of a servant leader, and can be a powerful tool. Encouragement and humility should mark every interaction. When employees make mistakes, the leader isn’t scolding them as if they were children.

Instead, the servant leader engages in respectful conversation which demonstrates trust in the employee to make the needed adjustments.

Trust is both a defining characteristic and a defining outcome of servant leadership. Remember, servant leaders are both servant and leader. Though they serve, the dimension of leadership must be present—character and competence. Competence means the leader has a track record of achieving results, with skills that are relevant. Character means results and accomplishments are achieved with integrity and ethics.

Trust is a prerequisite for servant leaders, because the leader must trust that the employees are worth serving, and they, and the organization, will benefit from their service. In turn, servant leadership generates trust in the employees, who may be inspired by their manager’s competence and character and convinced by their manager’s serve-first practice that he or she has their best interests at heart. Trust is one of the means to achieve servant leadership, and it is also an end that is achieved by servant leadership.

Building and Managing Great Teams

No one ever said being a leader is easy. You’re faced with one challenge after another, and overcoming issues within your team is often overwhelming. But here’s the thing: Yes, leading can be challenging—but it shouldn’t be a struggle. We’ve developed four steps you can follow that lay out a proven, practical process for developing a healthy team.

A note of caution: For the process to work, it requires more than lip service. It takes teamwork, trust, dedication, and a commitment to communicating in a way that creates a safe place for team members to share concerns, ideas, and solutions.

Step 1: State Clear Team Goals and Expectations

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up someplace else.”

Yogi Berra

Before you can do anything else, you and your team have to get on the same page about what exceptional teamwork looks like. Unless you get crystal clear, you’re likely to waste time and energy changing behaviors that will have little to no effect on your team’s overall effectiveness. There are seven elements that make a high-performing team, and teams that demonstrate them consistently generally achieve better results more easily.

A high-performance team:

  • Builds a healthy climate.
  • Is cohesive.
  • Has contributing team members pull together toward a common goal.
  • Practices shared leadership in which members take accountability for the team’s effectiveness, participate in decision making, and provide feedback to one another.
  • Has strong group work skills.
  • Is change-compatible.
  • Thinks innovatively.

Step 2: Engage Your Team

Improving the team’s effectiveness shouldn’t rest solely on the leader’s shoulders. Rather, it’s a responsibility that should be shared by the entire team—and that starts with engaging them in the process. To get started, bring the team together and do the following:

Introduce the 7 Elements (see Step 1 above). Start by sharing why you believe it’s so important for the team to have a clear picture of what high-performance teamwork looks like.

Identify strengths and opportunities. This is a great opportunity to spark a meaningful dialogue around the team’s effectiveness as a whole. Start identifying the team’s strengths by asking questions:

  • Which Element resonates the most with you?
  • What are we doing well?

Next, identify opportunities for improvement by focusing the group’s attention on things the team can work on to make it even better than it already is. You can start by asking the following:

  • Which of the 7 Elements represent opportunities for improvement?
  • Which Element should be our initial priority?

Develop an action plan. This is an essential part of the dialogue process; after all, unless your team commits to taking action, your conversation won’t lead anywhere. Now that you’ve identified your top-priority Element for improvement, start crafting your plan by asking:

  • What do we need to do differently in order to improve in this Element?
  • How will we hold each other accountable?

Step 3: Keep Everyone Accountable for Ongoing Team Development

If Steps 1 and 2 are all about getting everyone on the same page and starting a dialogue, Step 3 is about keeping the conversation going. Why? Because meeting once and never following up won’t get you anywhere in the long run. Instead, it’s up to you to make your conversation an ongoing one to increase your team’s chances of making lasting changes. To do so, dedicate 20 minutes every month to reviewing the commitments to action, asking questions like:

  • Which commitments have we lived up to? (Ask for specific examples.)
  • What/who will we recognize and celebrate?
  • What are we not yet doing well? What might be getting in our way?
  • Has anything else come out of this discussion that we should commit to?

Step 4: Celebrate, Reassess, and Repeat

n order to make this process a habit, you have to build it into your team’s culture. After all, the goal is fo your team to embrace this process as part of the everyday job. At this point, you’ve done the important work of identifying issues and coming up with a plan to improve them, and you’ve developed a plan for keeping the conversation open. So, give yourself a round of applause—and then start again! Recognize and celebrate your accomplishment once you’ve targeted and strengthened a specific Element, then move on to the next one by repeating the process.

When you make this process a priority and stick to following through, team members will follow suit. I think you’ll be surprised by what you can achieve together.

5 Questions to Ask When Starting a New Job

The first few months are critical to your long term success. Build positive momentum early on and it can propel you through your tenure. Make some early missteps and you could face an uphill battle for the rest of your time in the job.

The biggest challenge leaders face is staying focused on the right things. It’s the proverbial fire hose, settling in and figuring out how to have an impact. it’s easy to take on too much or waste precious time. It helps to ask these 5 questions to guide your first few months on the job.

How will I create value?

This is the single most important question. Why were you put in this role? What do key stakeholders expect you to accomplish? In what timeframe? How will your progress be assessed? Keep in mind the real answer may not be what you were told when you were recruited. There will be multiple stakeholders to satisfy, not just your boss, and they may have divergent views of what “success” means.

How am I expected to behave?

Unless you have been hired to change the culture of your new organization, you should strive to understand and conform to its most important norms of behavior. Think of culture as the organization’s immune system. It exists, in large measure, to prevent “wrong thinking” and “wrong behaving” from infecting the social organism. So you violate key norms of behavior at your peril; becoming viewed as “not belonging here” can lead to isolation and, ultimately, to derailment. As you seek to understand key norms, keep in mind that they may differ across the organization. It may also depend on the level at which you are operating: success after promotion may depend, in no small measure, on you “showing up” in different ways.

Whose support is critical? 

Your success is likely to depend on people over whom you have no direct authority; so, you need to build alliances. The starting point for doing this is to understand the political landscape of your new organization and learn to navigate it. Who has power and influence? Whose support is crucial and why? Armed with insight into the who, you can focus on how you will secure their backing. Usually this involves more than just building relationships. You need to understand what others are trying to accomplish and how you can help them. Reciprocity is the firmest foundation on which to build allies.

How will I get some early wins?

Leaders in transition energize people by getting early wins — quick, tangible improvements in the organization that create a sense of momentum. Done well, they build your credibility, accelerate your learning, and win you the right to make deeper changes in the organization. So, you need to identify the most promising ways to make a quick, positive impact and then organize to do so as efficiently and effectively as possible.

What skills do I need to develop to excel in this role?

As Marshall Goldsmith, the renowned executive coach put it, “What got you here, won’t get you there.” The skills and abilities that got you to this point in your career may not be the ones (or all of the ones) you need to be successful in your new job, and it’s all too easy to fall into the comfort-zone trap. Put another way, to become fully effective in your new role, you will probably have to do some personal development. This doesn’t mean you can’t get off to a good start immediately, but the sooner you understand what new capabilities you need to develop to excel in the role, the better. Failure to grasp this essential point diminishes the potential for future career advancement.

Ask yourself these five questions as you start a new role and keep asking them on a regular basis. Set aside 30 minutes at the end of each week to reflect on whether the answers are still clear or have changed in any way. Doing so will enable you to stay on the right track through your transition and beyond.

Remote Onboarding

 It’s quite possible to onboard new leaders effectively into a remote-working environment. The biggest barrier is probably mindset. We are all being tested to adapt to new ways of working, and it’s no different with virtual onboarding. Here are some principles to guide you.

1. Be crystal clear about short-term objectives.

Like every leader in transition, your new hire needs to quickly figure out how to create value, and that’s even more important during a crisis.

2. Provide a structured learning process.

To accelerate learning in a virtual context, you need to provide information in a more structured manner. Doing so requires paying much more attention to what you include in the upfront “document dump”: organizational charts, financial reports, strategy and project documentation, and the current crisis response plan. Beyond that, you need to help your new hires get a broader and deeper view of the organization and their role in it.

3. Build a (more) robust stakeholder engagement plan.

Your next priority is to help your new hires identify, understand, and build relationships with key stakeholders. When onboarding is virtual, it’s essential to be even more detailed and structured here, too. Start by building a consensus internally about who the new leader’s key stakeholders are and, critically, the order in which the new leader should meet them; these things are often not apparent to new hires themselves.

4. Assign a virtual-onboarding buddy.

Quite a few companies built buddy systems into their pre-crisis onboarding processes. And for new managers coming into remote-working organizations, a buddy is essential. Good buddies play four key roles: (1) They help orient new hires to the business and its context (2) They facilitate connections to people whose support is necessary or helpful (3) They assist with navigation of processes and systems, and (4) They accelerate acculturation by providing insight into “how things get done here.” Of course, you must take care to choose buddies who have the time, ability, and inclination to help, and you need to brief them on how they can be of most assistance. Typically, they should not be in the new leader’s chain of command; they should be peers or others with the “big picture” understanding necessary to be of real help.

5. Facilitate virtual team-building.

Helpful in face-to-face situations, a new-leader assimilation process is essential when onboarding happens remotely. This is a structured process for creating alignment and connection between a leader and their inherited team. A facilitator asks the leader and team members questions to uncover what they would most like to share with and learn about one another. The facilitator summarizes the resulting insights and uses them to guide a conversation between the leader and the team. The good news is that this process can be done effectively through video conferencing.

After COVID: Remote Motivation

Government cannot shut down; citizens need services even more during a crisis. When the pandemic took hold, city staff scrambled to move their teams remote: ensuring staff had tech tools, defined processes, and turned Zoom into a verb (“lets Zoom and talk that over.”)

As the nation begins to open and offices adjust to the “next normal,” will the lessons we learned be for naught? How can cities adapt and use the newfound tools and processes to become more efficient in providing critical services? These are important questions as staff moves from tactical to strategic and long-term work.

Evidence shows people can be more productive working from home. Public agencies lag behind the private sector in reaping the benefits, largely due to a lack of current technology and training. But that takes money, and the motivation to invest in digital, cloud, and remote work capabilities is stifled by a lack of trust that the benefits will be realized.

4DX – Discipline 1

Focus on the Wildly Important

Execution starts with focus.

Why is focus such a struggle? It’s not for lack of trying. The majority of leaders acknowledge they need greater focus. Still, they continue to find themselves with too many competing priorities, pulling their teams in too many different directions.

Focusing in our context means narrowing the number of goals you are attempting to accomplish beyond the day-to-day demands of your whirlwind.

Practicing Discipline 1 means narrowing your focus to a few highly important goals so you can manageably achieve them in the midst of the whirlwind of the day job.

Simply put, Discipline 1 is about applying more energy against fewer goals because the law of diminishing returns is as real as the law of gravity.

We are hardwired to do one thing at a time with excellence. The myth of multi-tasking is destroying excellence; it is diluting our energy and resources to goals that are never realized.

MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller says, “Trying to concentrate on two tasks causes an overload of the brain’s processing capacity. … Particularly when people try to perform similar tasks at the same time, such as writing and e-mail and talking on the phone, they compete to use the same part of the brain. Trying to carry too much, the brain simply slows down.”

In 2017 Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport hosted 969 take-offs and landings over 24 hours. All of them were important, but for the air traffic controller, only one airplane is wildly important at any moment—the one that’s landing or taking off right now.

The controller is aware of the other planes on the radar. but at that moment all her talent and expertise is focused on one flight. Total excellence is required to get that flight on the ground or in the air safely, or nothing else really matters. She lands those planes one at a time.

As many as 50 flights were taking off or landing in an hour at Mumbai.

WIGs are like that. They are goals you must achieve with total excellence beyond the circling priorities of your day to day. It means hard choices that separate what is wildly important from all the merely important goals on your radar. Then, you must approach that WIG with focus and diligence until it is delivered as promised, with excellence.

Those other important goals are still on your radar, but they don’t require your finest diligence right now. Some of those goals might never be WIGs—and some never should have taken off in the first place!

THE LEADER’S CHALLENGE

Why so much pressure to expand goals? In the words of the old cartoon, Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

One reason we take on too much is that, as a leader, we are ambitious and creative. Ambitious and creative people always want to do more, not less. We are hardwired to violate the first discipline of execution.

Another reason you might have too many goals is to cover your bets. If you try and do everything, something might work.

The greatest challenge to narrowing your goals is saying no to good ideas. Its counterintuitive to say no to a good idea, but nothing destroys focus more than always saying yes.

It’s even harder because these good ideas aren’t presented all at once, they filter in over time. Alone, each idea seems to make sense and you would be dumb to say no. Remember this, however:

You must focus on one or two WIGs at once. It’s counterintuitive, but it must happen. As Stephen R. Covey says, “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, unapologetically—to say no to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.”

The second trap is trying to turn everything in the whirlwind into a WIG. Within the whirlwind are all the existing measurements for running the organization today. It’s perfectly appropriate for your team to spend 80% of their time and energy sustaining or incrementally improving the whirlwind. Keeping the ship afloat should be job one, but if they are spending 100 percent of their energy trying to significantly improve all of those measurements at once, you’ve lost focus.

Applying the same effort toward all these measurements is like trying to make holes in a piece of paper by applying even pressure with all your fingers. Focusing on one WIG is like punching one finger through the paper—all your strength goes into making that one hole.

Focused energy is needed to accomplish that WIG!

Unless you can accomplish your goal with a stroke of the pen, success is going to require your team to change their behavior; and they simply cannot change that many behaviors at once, no matter how badly you need them to. Trying to significantly improve every measure in the whirlwind will consume all your time and leave you with very little to show for it.

Bottom line: If you want high-focus, high-performance team members, they must have something wildly important to focus on.

IDENTIFYING YOUR WILDLY IMPORTANT GOALS

Start by asking the question:

“If every other area of our operation remained at its current level of performance, what is the one area where change would have the greatest impact?”

This question changes how you think and clearly identifies the focus that would make all the difference.

Remember, 80 percent of your team’s energy will still be directed at sustaining the whirlwind, so ignore the temptation to worry that by making one or two goals most important, your team will ignore everything else. Once you stop worrying about everything else going backward, you can move forward on your WIG.

A wildly important goal (WIG) is one that can make all the difference. it’s your strategic tipping point, and you will commit to apply a disproportionate amount of energy to it—the 20 percent not used by the whirlwind. How do you choose that WIG?

Sometimes the choice is obvious, other times not so much. Urgent priorities in your whirlwind are competing to be most important and usually have good arguments along with them. Remember the question we began the post with: “If every other area of operation stays the same, what one area can we change to have the greatest impact?” This question changes how you think and lets you clearly identify the focus that would make all the difference.

Your WIG will come from inside or outside the whirlwind. Within the whirlwind, it could be a key operational element that isn’t being delivered. Poor project completion time, poor customer service are examples. Or it could be an area your team is doing well but could be leveraged for significant impact. Increasing customer satisfaction from 85 to 95 percent.

Outside the whirlwind, the choice could be about changing or disrupting an established process. Remember, this type of WIG will need an even greater change in behavior, since it will be new to your team.

Whether your WIG comes from inside or outside the whirlwind, your aim is not only to achieve it, but then make the new level of performance a natural part of your team’s operation. Once a WIG is achieved, it goes back to the whirlwind. Every time this happens, the whirlwind changes. It’s less chaotic, chronic problems are solved, and new performance levels are sustained; in essence it’s a much higher performing whirlwind, leaving more time for the next WIG!

FOCUSING THE ORGANIZATION

REFERENCES

“John Naish, “Is Multitasking Bad for Your Brain?” Mail Online, Aug. 11, 2009. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1205669/Is-multi-tasking-bad-brain-Experts-reveal-hidden-perils-juggling-jobs.html.”

4DX – Introduction

From the book “The 4 Disciplines of Execution.”

THE REAL CHALLENGE

Any initiative falls into one of two categories: stroke-of-the-pen OR behavior change.

Stroke-of-the-pen strategies are executed by an order or authorizing them. If you have the money and authority, you can make them happen. Buying a new firewall, giving someone a raise, realigning responsibilities. These may require planning, consensus, and money, you know it will happen.

Behavioral-change strategies are different; you can’t just order them to happen, because executing requires getting people—often a lot of people—to do something different.

Many stroke-of-the-pen strategies evolve and require behavioral change. If it requires people to do something different, you are driving a behavioral-change strategy and it’s going to be hard.

A leader may assume people are the problem since they are ones not doing what needs to be done. Wrong.

When most people behave a certain way most of the time, people are not the problem. The problem is inherent in the system. As a leader, you own responsibility for the system.

To achieve a goal you have never achieved before, you must start doing things you have never done before.

Jim Stuart – FranklinCovey Execution Consultant

THE WHIRLWIND

The real enemy of execution is your day job, the whirlwind of everyday activity and the massive amount of energy it requires to keep things going. The whirlwind robs from you the focus required to move your team forward.

The whirlwind and strategic goals are both necessary, but they are clearly different and compete for time, resources, energy, and attention.

The whirlwind is urgent and acts on you every minute of every day. The goals you’ve set for moving forward are important, but urgency beats important every time. Once you are aware of the struggle you will see it playing out everywhere, in any team trying to execute anything new.

Important goals that require you to do new and different things often conflict with the “whirlwind” of the day job, made up of urgencies that consume your time and energy.

Executing in spite of the whirlwind means overcoming its powerful distraction and the inertia of “the way it’s always been done.” The whirlwind is not bad, it keeps things operating. If you ignore the urgent it can kill you today. If you ignore the important, it can kill you tomorrow. The challenge is executing your most important goals in the midst of the urgent!

Bottom line: if you are going to create significant results you will eventually have to execute a behavioral-change strategy, and in doing so you will be battling the whirlwind. Here’s how to do that.

1. Focus on the Wildly Important

The more you try to do, the less you actually accomplish. FOCUS is a natural principal. The sun’s scattered rays support everyday life, but focus them with a magnifying glass and you can start a fire! Once collective energy is focused on a challenge, there is little they cannot do.

FOCUS is the first discipline.

Discipline 1: Focus on the wildly important. This means going against your basic wiring as a leader and focus on less so your team can achieve more. Select one (or two, but really one) extremely important goal. It’s the wildly important goal (WIG), making it clear to the team this is the goal that matters most. Failure to achieve it makes every other accomplishment seem secondary, or even inconsequential.

Narrowing the focus of your team to one or two wildly important goals provides clarity to the team; they can easily distinguish what is the top priority and what is the whirlwind. They move from a loosely defined and difficult-to-communicate collection of objectives to a small, focused set of achievable targets. Discipline 1 is the discipline of focus.

2. Act on the Lead Measures

This is the discipline of leverage. All actions are not created equal, some have more impact than others toward a goal. Obviously it is those that you want to identify and act on to reach your goal.

Progress and success are based on two kinds of measures: lag and lead.

Lag measures track measures of the goal, and they are the ones most people usually follow. Customer satisfaction, return, profit are all lag measures, meaning when you get them, the performance that drove them is already in the past. It’s history, you can’t fix them.

Lead measures are different in that they measure the most high-impact things your team must do to reach the goal. In essence, they measure the new behaviors that will drive success on the lag measures.

The lead measure can be predicted to move the goal, and can be influenced by the team.

A good lead measure has to basic characteristics: It’s predictive of achieving the goal and it can be influenced by the team members. For example, a lag measure of losing weight is pounds lost. Two lead measures might be a lower caloric intake and a specific number of hours of exercise per week. These lead measures are predictive because by performing them, you can predict what the scale (lag measure) will tell you next week. They are influenceable because both of these hew behaviors are within your control.

Acting on the lead measures is one of the little-known secrets of execution. Lag measures are ultimately the most important things you want to accomplish, but most leaders are so focused on them that shifting to lead measures feels counterintuitive. But once you identify lead measures, they become the key leverage points for achieving your goal.

3. Keep a Compelling Scoreboard

Watch any group playing basketball and see how the game changes when they start keeping score. But don’t miss this point: People play differently when they are keeping score. It’s not about you keeping score for them.

Discipline 3 is the discipline of engagement. High performance is tied to emotional engagement, and the highest level of engagement comes from knowing the score—if they are winning or losing. It’s that simple.

To drive the highest levels of engagement, the scoreboard should be designed solely for (and often by) the players. It must be simple, so simple that members of the team can determine instantly if they are winning or losing. If the scoreboard isn’t clear, the game will be abandoned in the whirlwind of other activities.

Team members can determine instantly if they are winning or losing.

4. Create a Cadence of Accountability

Discipline 4 is where execution really happens. The first three set up the game, but until you apply 4 your team isn’t in the game. It is based on the principle of accountability: that unless we consistently hold each other accountable, the goal disintegrates in the whirlwind.

The cadence of accountability is a rhythm of regular and frequent meetings of any team that owns a WIG. These meetings happen at least weekly and ideally last no more than twenty to thirty minutes. In that time, team members hold each other accountable for producing results, despite the whirlwind.

The magic is the cadence. Team members must be able to hold each other accountable regularly and rhythmically. Each week, one by one, team members answer a simple question: “What are the one or two most important things I can do in the next week (outside the whirlwind) that will have the biggest impact on the scoreboard?” Then members report on whether they met the previous week’s commitments, how well they are moving the lead and lag measures on the scoreboard, and their commitments for the coming week, all in only a few minutes.

The secret here is that team members create their own commitments. It’s common to find teams where the members expect, even want, simply to be told what to do. However, because they make their own commitments, their ownership of them increases. Team members will always be more committed to their own ideas than they will to orders from above. Even more important, making commitments to their team members, rather than solely to the boss, shifts the emphasis from professional to personal. The commitments go beyond their job performance and become promises to the team.

Because the team sets weekly objectives, the plan adapts as fast as business changes. Energy is directed to the WIG without getting blocked by the whirlwind of change around them.

When your team begins to see the lag measure of a big goal moving as a direct result of their efforts, they will know they are winning. Nothing drives morale and engagement more than winning.

People want to win. They want to make a contribution that matters. However, an organization has to have the discipline—the conscious, consistent regimen needed to execute key goals with excellence. Nothing is more motivating than belonging to a team of people who know the goal and are determined to get there.

The 4 Disciplines are based on principles, Principles are timeless and self-evident, and they apply everywhere. They are natural laws, like gravity. Whether you understand them or even agree with them doesn’t matter—they still apply.

The challenge for leaders has been finding a way to implement them, especially when the whirlwind is raging.

What is 5G?

5G is the 5th Generation of cellular wireless technology.

The first generation of mobile networks, introduced in 1979, used analog radio technology and only allowed voice calls. The second generation switched to digital radio and provided data transport for text and emails. Each successive generation has brought greater transmission speed, making Internet access and video streaming possible.

The latest generation will bring the greatest advance to date in network speed, enabling near-realtime data availability. As with past upgrades, however, this next generation will require new phones, devices and communication infrastructure.

Network speeds from 1-6G
5G represents the biggest boosts in speed since the introduction of wireless networking in 1979.

How is 5G Different?

Two words explain the difference between our current wireless networks and 5G: speed and latency. 5G—if you believe the hype—is expected to be up to a hundred times faster. (A two-hour movie could be downloaded in less than four seconds.) That speed will reduce, and possibly eliminate, the delay—the latency—between instructing a computer to perform a command and its execution. 

In the U.S., 5G will use a band of the radio spectrum that has never before been used for cellular data networks: high-frequency radio waves the length of millimeters rather than centimeters. This wide open “road” will accommodate more data and reduce delays in data transfer (latency) even in peak use hours. 4G towers were designed to support approximately 6,500 devices per square mile, whereas 5G can support upwards of 1 million devices in the same area.

How can 5G Benefit Your City/County/State?

The potential upside to greater capacity and network speed is huge. Surges in cellular network use during emergency events are less likely to slow or prevent vital communications between citizens and first responders. 5G will be the underlying infrastructure to help usher in fully autonomous vehicles, intelligent public safety cameras and connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices used throughout city infrastructure. Jurisdictions with 5G networks are likely to attract tech-savvy residents and businesses that leverage those connections for new digital business models and reach new customers.

Hit the Ground Running

It is exciting to take on a new role, whether that is an internal promotion or a new position with a different organization. It can be nerve-wracking at the same time, however, when you have big shoes to fill.

It’s up to you to ensure your success, and here are some key strategies to do just that.

Do your homework.

Get up to speed before you start, as much as is practicable. If there are areas of the new position that are not your area of expertise, you need to get smart about them. Take time to ramp up for the new role.

Be yourself.

Taking over for a big personality is hard, but don’t try to copy someone else’s style of leadership. Be authentic, it will earn you respect and pre-empt judgement and comparison to your predecessor.

Understand and manage stakeholder relationships.

A key element of your success will be your ability to establish and effectively manage stakeholder relationships, both internal and external. This requires knowing not only who these people are, but also what they care most about, what they each expect from you, and what concerns they have. Some may be skeptical of your ability to live up to your predecessor’s performance. You’ll want to meet with each stakeholder and ask relevant questions like:

  • In your view, what should my top three priorities be over the next six to 12 months, and what would success look like to you?
  • What other internal and external relationships are most important to support these priorities?
  • What concerns do you have, and how can I address them?

Another option is to engage an executive coach to ask these questions on your behalf as part of an “assimilation coaching” program, which may get you more candid answers. However, this is in no way a substitute for you meeting with these stakeholders to start to build these essential relationships.

Assess the team.

Given your top priorities, you’ll want to assess if you have the right team to accomplish them. This includes hiring to fill any gaps on your team, as well as directly addressing performance issues that can prevent you from getting the leverage you need or impede your progress.

An initial meeting could include this introductory email:

Team,

Thank you for being available to meet with me!  During our scheduled 1:1 introductory meeting, it would be very helpful to have some information regarding your work.  Please complete the questionnaire below and return to me prior to our scheduled meeting.

  1. What are your job roles and responsibilities? 
  1. What projects and deliverables are you currently working on?
  1. Do you have any areas of expertise that you would like to discuss?
  1. What are your training and career goals?  
  1. What do you like about your position and working in IT for the organization? Don’t like or could improve?
  1. Do you have any questions for me?

Don’t get caught in the weeds. Failing to address performance issues with the team or shy away from difficult conversations will distract from strategic priorities.

Check your mindset.

Manage ‘imposter syndrome.’ Address limiting beliefs.

Seek ongoing feedback and support.

Create feedback loops with key stakeholders. Not everyone will like what you do. Give your team explicit permission to give upward feedback, then listen.

The Skills Leaders Need at Every Level

The relative importance of the seven skills does change to some degree as people move up. So, in the graph above the top seven competences are listed in order of importance, as it happens, for the supervisory group. With middle managers, problem solving moves ahead of everything else. Then for senior management, communicating powerfully and prolifically moves to the number two spot. Only for top executives does a new competency enter the mix, as the ability to develop a strategic perspective (which had been moving steadily up the lower ranks) moves into the number five position.