42 Rules No one Told You.

Beethoven in 1818 by August Klöber
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I’ve been wanting to find a way to share with you books worth reading. Finally, I’ve settled on doing an interview. I’ve asked Pam Fox Rollin, a coach and leadership expert, & the new author of 42 Rules for Your New Leadership Role: The Manual They Didn’t Hand You When You Made VP, Director, or Manage…to start us off.

If there was one thing (from your book) you’d want to have every person do to exponentially fuel innovation inside their firms, what would that be (and why):

See leaders everywhere. Be like the kid who sees dead people everywhere, only you see leaders. The junior guy who’s so quiet at meetings… and writes a brilliant twitter stream you don’t even know about? Leader. The skeptic who shoots holes in your ideas… and knows her stuff? Leader. The new hire 8 time zones away who you struggle to understand on conference calls? Leader.

If you don’t do this, if you’re the only person in your group moving things forward, your group’s trajectory will be limited to your ideas, and your tiny prefrontal cortex will tire very soon. You’re also unlikely to be promoted again, because you’re so indispensable to your leader-free team.

Collaboration — that art of co-creating or co-laboring to creating something bigger — isn’t the focus of your book, but many of the things you talked of would lead to good collaboration. What would you want us to take away?

First, clarify — yes, collaboratively! — to what extent you’re actually a team. Are you a real team with shared results, interdependent processes, and mutual learning? Or, are you a group reporting to the same person? Or, something in between. OK this is basic, yet on most teams I get different answers from different people about whether they are a team and what makes them a team. When and why you collaborate flows from this perspective.

Through this conversation, co-workers typically discover more opportunities to collaborate. Then, you all have to decide if the “headaches” of collaboration — having to coordinate tasks and timing, having to listen to someone else’s POV, having your views open to question — are worth the benefits. I’ve seen new leaders be especially skillful at guiding these conversations because they have a built-in hall pass to ask fundamental questions. Now if we can get existing leaders to give themselves permission to ask fundamental questions and be willing to deal with the crap that comes up, they could be good at this, too.

Finally, new leaders are often hell-bent for quick wins. At their most unskillful/stressed/clueless, they choose targets that sound impressive then ride their team to deliver on this one metric, often out of proportion to its value. The result? A grumpy team and neglected core business. Instead, start with wins that build the capability of your team to coordinate, converse, and deliver.

A lot of people at big companies spend time seeking permission (Do I fit in, am I allowed to say something now, etc). What tool or idea do you have to share that helps you be kick-ass (see definition: http://blog.nilofermerchant.com/kick-ass-ness)

Anyone who hasn’t seen that video of the 3-year-old conductor, go see it now on your “kick-ass” page. He makes Beethoven completely his own and doesn’t give a damn about permission to lead — all while honoring the score.

Either extreme is wasteful… sitting around waiting for permission or pushing everyone to enact your own plan without respecting what the music sounds like when you all play together.

If you catch yourself erring toward the first extreme… keeping clear of the podium even though you have insights and skills… find a courage-keeper in your organization, someone close enough to kick your shins when you could be stepping up and who will also have your back. (Remember that dance video? Every leader-to-be needs a first and second follower. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW8amMCVAJQ) [Nilofer’s note: Derek Sivers does a great talk around this on TED.com]

If you err toward the other extreme… damn everyone else’s insights, do it my way… well, you better be right. Unfortunately for you, this is easy in your first management role, but hard to sustain. Smart, hardworking people are often right when their team is tiny, and the stakes are small. They implode a couple promotions later, when they can’t possibly have the breadth of insight to make wise decisions on their own, and they’ve trained their teams not to bother thinking. Turn this pattern around as early as you catch it.

Learning is so central in innovation and in life — what are you learning about right now

Right now I’m learning how to market a book.
I’m also at another twist in the spiral of learning to rest. Just rest.

Pam’s been one of my 3 coaches in my career, and I greatly admire her gifts of insight, empathy and always able to offer a practical tool or two.

42 Rules launches TODAY (Friday, May 6th) on Amazon. (So if you are moved, help a first-time author out by buying a copy & perhaps one for a friend. It makes a big difference to have good first week sales.) Buy it here: http://amzn.to/eccOR9.

And do let me know what you think of this format or if you have suggestions for questions you want me to ask the next author?

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