Leadership Etiquette: How To Strike By Letting Others Go First

After You

West Coast” by OneRepublic 🎵

I was looking at the rules of bowling today because I’m terrible. While I do not promise to get better, I wanted to know to what degree I am terrible. I need to set expectations on how far away everyone else may want their lanes with class.

I also needed to figure out how to write about bowling and pop stars in the same week. The requirements for this blog got complicated. Did you know that Justin Beiber came in second of 9 celebrities nominated in the Bowling Proprietors Association of America’s Bowling Hall of Fame for his public support of the sport? I did not. Anyway now you know.

I found one rule particularly interesting. It is proper etiquette to wait for the bowler on your right if both of you approach the foul line. The engineers reading this who do not bowl are immediately going to think…”Why not left? Does it affect the floor? Is it a vision thing? Do you lose points? Is it liability?”

Apparently: It’s so your friendly neighborhood bowler doesn’t feel rushed.

That resonated.

Some leagues also care about your left and other rules. That is stressful to calculate when all you want to do is not hit other people. Those resonated too. Managers spend a lot of time trying to make sure everyone strikes instead of strikes out.

But all leaders learn to not feel rushed.

I don’t enjoy being told to stay in my lane; however, these days the wiser me has decided sometimes it is best to stay and also learn to strike in another’s. How can I empower another team? Another person? Perhaps those wiser will enjoy a good 10 frames in mine. It’s okay to bowl knowing you will lose against a terrifyingly competitive professional bowler as someone who consistently hits a 0 in the sport. Perhaps they will make you better but I think that depends on what your goals are. Mine, indeed, are to make everyone behind the foul line laugh. We, perhaps, do not have the same north star or mission at all.

When I think about “How do I work with another team who is moving at a different speed?” Perhaps they have their own goals and we have alignment at least on the mission and north stars but not the timing. We both just want to have a good game. When does this rule apply? When should you let them go first.

My favorite part about this rule when I began looking into it is that it’s not that simple. In fact there are debates around how many lanes should you include as you demonstrate respect for your fellows.

2 Lanes for Partial Courtesy

Source Reddit

“The most common is one lane in league. Although I’ve seen places do 2 lanes, places that do courtesy to your right. I personally give full courtesy for one lane. And for two lanes partial courtesy…which means I won’t start my approach at the same time as someone two lane down, but I will step out and set up.” from Eddie_P.

I love this. It’s very similar to the mindset of, “You go first, and I’ll still get my team to do some work just in case it doesn’t go as planned, but to cover both our bases.” which is a nice neutral place to be if you can both afford it and expectations are set with everyone. It is tricky and you can still have a bad score. It is also, not the most common scenario.

One Lane, Full Courtesy

As an engineer or a manager, you almost certainly will hit a point where you find your team or you as an individual contributor have a proposal or idea for which another team or individual is further along, for which they aren’t or have not started, or for which neither of you knows your own score.

Having an idea or a proposal is not enough – the commitment to execute it over time is critical from those in their reporting chain and also their team. Or maybe, both teams are able to bowl in their own lanes, respectfully, and they just happen to be on my right. 🙂 If so they are lucky – I get great enjoyment these days letting others go first while I step out and set up. It’s part of my style.

At this point if you are an engineer, you can tell your manager “I was starting this project and in my research, I discovered these other engineers were also investigating it.” or “These other teams are all investigating this.” This is helpful. Together, teams can figure out ways in which you can work without duplicating and open up doors for sharing knowledge. You can decide to share research and come back with diverse conclusions – your shared investigations will generate more fruit for everyone.

Depending on the lanes, if another team has put in a considerable amount of effort, IE is “ready to bowl,” one diplomatic move you can make is simply say “I support you, here is our research. Please let us know when your efforts are done or if you find you need help.” This allows you to move on to other things and scale the collective investments of the organization. This is an approach I see from those who are more senior in their careers – they’ve learned how to let go in the right direction and when it is appropriate, because to move faster, it is better to let the other team go so they can strike and not feel…rushed.

I hate rushing other leaders who are responsible for the lives of other people. I expect the same in return. I’d rather them decide when they’d like to have a game with me. I’d rather be transparent, public with lessons learned of all sizes, and vocal about successes until that choice is the logical one. I will be decisive, but not rushed and almost always deeply informed.

I’ve certainly signed up for ideas for which I found out someone else had already owned in another division and instead championed them. I get enjoyment to find others platforms and provide them with resources for gaps they were missing. In return, I didn’t find a loss, and with a great manager I also never found that seen as failure for all involved – rather, the opposite. This etiquette was an accelerant for all of us. It also meant there was more vision into the mission, not less as we would include each other and our decisions into reports. I think often individual contributors have a fear – “If I made this goal and then there is a change in direction because I found out more information will leadership notice that I did the right thing? That I tried not to compete? Will it hurt my career? How does ownership play into this?”

I’ve only found when I do “wait for the bowler on my right” instead I become known as a person who gave them the space to be successful and that has generated more return over time.

That that is how you make a strike in another’s lane. That they trust you and you respect each other – and that when you have to try again, because the game is over and you both got better, they will, inevitably, want to bowl with you.

Image by Benjamin Faust on Unsplash.