Together Everyone Achieves More

I love the leadership freak for frequent little little pump-ups. Today’s was good:

Leaders who can’t ask people to do hard things can’t get hard things done. Meaningful contributions require deep commitment and effort. Weak leaders assume others can’t or won’t step up. They rule out before they ask.

Ruling out:

  1. That’s too hard for them. Making it easy prevents people from stepping up. Give people the opportunity to do hard things. I’m not suggesting you intentionally make things hard for others.
  2. They already contribute so much. Translation, they can’t make meaningful contribution in new areas.
  3. They wouldn’t be interested.
  4. They’re too valuable where they are. If anyone says that to you, update your resume’.

I work in a human capital business. In human capital businesses we can’t scale by adding servers and clever code. We scale by adding clever people. And the companies that scale best don’t poach experts, they train them.

To me the key to successfully training people is to put them in the driver’s seat and tell them to lean heavily on the team. The change in leadership might not even mean a change in the functional roles.

Let’s say there’s an accountant, a lawyer and a janitor working on a project. The lawyer reviews the legal documents and normally also reports up to the VP. Today we put the janitor in charge of reporting up. The lawyer still does the docs, the accountant does the figures and the janitor scrubs the toilets. But after cleanup he receives the others’ work, reviews it and takes the heat if the VP doesn’t like the work.

Maybe the janitor didn’t know much about the work before, but I bet you he’ll learn faster than he ever thought he could. If everyone buys into this process, you can create an extraordinary culture.

The idea is that we’re trying to cultivate an alignment of identity with the task, which (to me) is the fundamental quality of leadership. It can’t be taught, it must be experienced.

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