If you are a senior person in an organization, you have, at most, three jobs.
- Make decisions
- Make the people around you better
- Do stuff
Seth argues that this is our most important job, and I agree with him.
In an information economy, decision-making happens constantly: the decision about what to do with the next hour of our time; about whether we’ll serve this customer or that one; about whether our product needs this new feature or that one.
The act choosing of whether we’re doing A or B, whether we’re going here or there, creates forward momentum.
And yet, most people, regardless of their role, avoid making decisions. Making decisions means being willing to take a position, to put ourselves on the line, to have a point of view. Terrifying indeed. Because of this fear, decision-makers are few and far between.
This means that no matter our organizational structure, anyone who regularly chooses to make decisions is a positive outlier with outsized influence on our direction of travel.
Making decisions quickly, and often with less information than we feel like we need, defines a culture that doesn’t have time to waste, because the work is both important and urgent.
And, like all things, the more often we – individually or collectively – make decisions, the better we’ll get at it.
Make the people around you better
Whether defining culture, cheering people on, removing roadblocks, coaching, or empowering others, the highest-leverage job we have is to find great people, bring them into our organization, and do everything we can to help them succeed.
The ability to attract the best people is a superpower. Talent attracts talent, and great attitude is the ultimate multiplier.
If we’re lucky enough to have great people, our main daily obsession, beyond making decisions, is to create an environment in which they can do their best work.
This starts with tons of communication: describing, over and over again, our ‘why;’ articulating where we are heading; making it as easy as possible for people to connect the dots between what they are doing and the big picture.
It requires individualized coaching and mentorship: skillfully deploying situational leadership so that our team has the right balance between supportive and directive oversight, so that their skills and autonomy develop over time.
And, ultimately, it is about standing side-by-side with people as they chart their path and, in so doing, move your whole organization forward.
This comes last on the list, and it may even fall off the list over time.
This might be counter-intuitive. How could “doing things” not be important, especially for your most senior people?
It’s true that most senior people became senior people because of their exceptional ability to do stuff: analyzing, building, visioning, strategizing, organizing, selling, and executing are the foundational skills that got us where we are today.
And yet, deploying these skills is often a low-leverage activity.
At worst, a leader who only ‘does stuff’ might be hiding from her two more important jobs of deciding things and making others better.
And, hiding aside, the act of “doing” too much runs the risk of creating dependency on this leader to do these important tasks.
Our success as leaders in organization, then, requires three things of us:
- Making decisions, as well and we can and as quickly as we can
- Helping others thrive, and diving into this work every day
- Leaving a small space for the jobs that we are uniquely suited to do….and then consistently, actively, giving those jobs to others over time.