Lead them in the Middle
Your First Team Meeting is critical to getting things underway with either a new team or project.
How you start will set the tone for how the project will kick-off and where your team will look to focus their energies.
In the beginning, like the song, “Everything Is Awesome” in the beginning, simple because it’s all new, emotions are at a newfound level of excitement, goals have been set.
You’ve set the groundwork, the plan, the direction, the path to go down, but apart from that – but you haven’t started yet.
Nothing has been done, so everyone is happy with the dream.
Fast Forward to the end of the project, the team has come together, they’ve gone through the final pushes of people coming in early, working late, sweating more then they usually do, doing whatever they can to get this project/product out the door and make it a success.
The team has done in so again, emotions are all happy because the release has gone out the door.
If you haven’t realized it – this is where you many of the great team quotes originate from – how the team came together to become a success, how they fought through adversity and change to deliver, how they never gave up.
There is enough literature on how to start and finish any project to keep you reading well into the afterlife.
But what about the middle?
What’s happening in the middle?
What’s going on when all that code churn is happening?
When the team is having to up their growth quotient by learning on the fly and still delivering?
When frustrations over not hitting performance targets are starting to set in?
When the team is feeling worn out and knowing that they have much more work to put in?
This is where Leadership matters, this is where Good Leadership matters – Leading in the Middle.
- Leading when things aren’t perfect.
- Leading when everyone is complaining.
- Motivating those around you to keep going.
- Keeping your head when things don’t go right.
- Knowing when your team needs a break or they will be broken.
- Understanding what minor things manner in the grand scheme of the whole project.
- Giving your team leeway to try new ideas and let them fail.
- Insulate that failure and not blaming it on them.
If you can do all those things, then you are already on the right path to Leading your Team in the Middle.
The most successful teams are those that were able lead well in the middle when things became murky or the team started to struggle because that’s what every team goes through.
The middle is never perfect, it’s never clear, it’s never straight forward, how you lead in the middle does not define how you will finish, but rather who wants to start with you again on the next project.
Will they come back for more?
In the calm moment of reflection that happens after the delivery of any project, will they go back there with you?
When lead correctly, in the middle, the team is ready to jump onto the next challenge, they are sold before the project is even announced, it’s not a question of If the project will start but When.
If you start off with the right objectives, lead well in the middle, the end will take care of itself. If you start off strong, mess up in the middle, the end will eventually take care of itself, but not as well as it could have and you probably won’t get another opportunity to start again.