I Am Not the Rockstar
In my previous post, I described Team Leads as bass guitar players.
Anyone who is familiar with music knows that rhythm and melody go hand-in-hand. With many genres from funk to hard rock, bass guitars place themselves right in between those two, boosting the overall experience.
This also means that, by its nature, that low-pitch bass sound is often buried between drums and guitars: it provides the music with body and groove, but many people struggle with recognising its sound. Bass guitarists are often overlooked, while singers and lead guitarists take all the love and the cheers.
Can you see the parallel? I do.
You have all worked hard to compose the next big song.
The drummer starts hitting the sticks as they set the tempo. Guitarists pull out high-pitched riffs from their instruments creating the melody, while the singer jumps and dances at the front of the stage.
You are the bass player standing on one side or even with your back to the audience, strumming strings, trying to create that bond between each section.
Sometimes you go with the drums to provide the band with more groove.
At other times you play something more similar to the guitar riffs to reinforce them.
And there are even times where you may even be mimicking whatever the singer does with their voice.
Leads help their team shine
There is a lot of work required in order to lead a successful team.
If you are or have lead a successful team, you know it!
I don’t believe people who think that there can be a great team with a poor lead.
In those cases, someone has probably emerged as an unofficial lead, making up for the lead’s flaws.
Or maybe someone else led the team previously, and their impact was long-term, because good leads set their teams up for success even when they are absent, and the ripple effect of a good lead can last for years.
As leads, we need to juggle a high number of tasks, including but not limited to:
- Identifying the strengths of team members and putting those to the service of the “greater good”.
- Identifying the weaknesses of team members and using those as opportunities for improvement whenever possible.
- Making sure that each team member knows exactly what their next steps are and they are not stuck.
- Engaging in conversations with stakeholders to figure out what features and products we should build next and where those fit into the longer-term vision of the organization.
- Translating the product plan into a more detailed and actionable technical plan.
- Constantly iterating and improving internal processes by regularly surveying the team and actively seeking for feedback.
- Being empathetic and attentive to how team members are doing.
- Doing whatever can be done for team members to achieve their career aspirations and goals.
Looking at the above list, you may have noticed one thing:
Nothing is about you.
It is all about the others!
So, how do we get recognised?
This can be tough because our output is hard to measure.
We rarely produce deliverables, whereas we thrive on intangibles.
Just like those glue-players (in basketball/sports, glue-players are referred to as those individuals that hold the team together) that can do a little bit of everything on the field, including fixing locker-room issues to let their star players – those who put 30 a night on the scoreboard – feel adored.
In the meanwhile, specialists must not be frustrated and unhappy with their role.
Then one day that player gets traded – who cares? His stat lines weren’t that great after all – and the same team starts losing and no one knows why.
Similarly, if whomever we are reporting to are following different lines, there are strong chances they won’t see the full value of what we bring to the table.
If they think it is enough telling people that they need to do XYZ before [date], then all the hard work we put into making the team really successful will be recognised by… The team itself only, best-case scenario.
Fact is, as leads we make lots of choices daily, but the results often won’t show until weeks or months later. And even then, the work done by ICs will still be the meat, because it is the only real deliverable.
This is why we need to continually work on building a better leadership culture around us. It is not a one-and-done reboot; it’s rather a constant effort, because becoming a great leader is not a destination.
It is a journey.
An example of music with and without bass: