My previous leadership experience had been as an officer in the Communication Reserve in Saskatchewan. It’s how I worked my way through University. My first command was a troop of radio vehicles. The first chance my Sergeant had to get me alone he handed me a clipboard and a pen. He told me to take notes for the first six months and otherwise not to talk too much. Actually what he told me to do was “Keep my mouth shut.” After a suitable pause, he added “. . . with all due respect, Sir.”*
It was good advice. I learned how things worked before running around yelling at people. I learned that people want a clear goals and sensible guidelines, the tools and training they needed, and then they just want to get on with it. I learned to give positive feedback, not just corrective feedback. I learned to listen and watch before I leapt. I learned that the biggest part of any leader’s job is to hire and fire the right people.
Then I got lucky in the corporate world. On my first software team lead position I was able to choose the people to work on my team, and because it was a high-profile project in trouble I got what I needed. There was one team member that was I didn’t get to pick, and who didn’t work out. It was the first time I’d had to fire somebody. I didn’t want to, but when I did it was because it was the right thing to do. I knew it was the right thing to do, because I listened instead of yelling. The rest of the team understood this and picked up the slack.
*I was the best man at his wedding a few years later.