“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Often times when people move into management roles or power of authority they forget what it is like to be in the trenches themselves. One of the most important things a manager can do is to empathize with their employees and take the time to understand what it is like to do their jobs. This helps on many levels: managers can relate to employees easier, managers can earn respect, and managers will not make requests that they themselves wouldn’t want to do. The “golden rule” applies to many things in life, and leadership is no exception.
As a leader you should never ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. This means, if someone is working on crappy work for 6 months, you don’t continue to assign them that kind of work–assign them something they can get excited about. That is probably part of the reason Google implements their infamous 20% project time (every employee gets 20% of their time to work on projects of their own choosing). It gives employees something to get excited about. Everyone wants to work on projects that will interest them and to contribute to things they can get excited about it. Make sure your you understand the motivations for each individual on your team. Take the time to get to know their interests. Ask them about what they like about their jobs and what they don’t like. Make sure they have the right learning opportunities.
Another key thing to always remember is to never ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. Whether that is a project or even a work style. For example, I once had a manager ask me to come in on a weekend to complete a project. That manager didn’t come in, and on Monday we all heard about his great golf trip. He lost tremendous respect from all of us, since we had all sacrificed our personal lives for work and he wasn’t willing to do the same. I have spent many nights in the office for system migrations, software upgrades and product releases with my team. Pretty much every time they pulled the late night shifts, I would sit with them, keep them company, and pick up any refreshments they wanted–I seldom added any technical value or guidance. However, I knew that it meant a lot that I was willing to come in and stay with the team. Caesar fought in battle with his troops and he was one of the greatest military leaders–he even went so far as to force his troops back into battle if they chickened out at any point. So when you send your troops into battle, go along side them–it will illustrate your dedication and belief in what they are trying to accomplish.
Always remember that you are no better than your directs. You are simply a member of the team with a different role. And just like a waiter in a restaurant or the valet that parks your car–everyone deserves to be treated with respect. So before every request, decision or conversation take the time to think how you would feel in that person’s shoes.