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Do Your Own Job

Do Your Own Job

It’s important to understand that the object of the exercise, at any level, and in any organization, is to get the best results you can with the resources you’ve been given (money, assets, people, time). And, at each new leadership level that you’re promoted to, the term best results is defined differently.

In broad terms, there are two major career transitions:

  • Virtually everyone starts as an Individual Contributor, where you’re responsible only for the results you produce yourself
    • Of course, you’re expected to work with others to get those results, but that’s relatively straightforward in the context of delivering your own individual outputs
    • And whether you’re an architect, software developer, electrician, or engineer, at this level, it’s simply about how well you perform individually
  • Your first major transition is to a “Leader of Others” role, where you directly control the results of a team
    • It then becomes about how well the team performs, and what results it delivers
    • If you’re really smart, after you become a leader of others, you can function almost exactly as you did before, without paying any serious attention to the leadership elements of the role
    • And you can largely get away with it
    • You can compensate for people’s weaknesses, you can still be the hero who delivers in the tough situations
    • You can wallpaper over the cracks in team capability and performance with your own capability and effort 
    • You can also do this without completely breaking the accountability model, although there are always impacts on your people if you do their work for them, or micromanage them to within an inch of their lives, as some do
  • Your second major transition is to a “Leader of Leaders” role
    • Now it’s getting tricky. You have to influence and coach the leaders below you to get the results from their teams, without directly doing the work and making the decisions… and you can’t do their jobs for them
    • Every time you move to a higher level this effect is exacerbated
    • Achieving results through influence, rather than direct control, is extraordinarily difficult, and can be extremely frustrating at times
    • And, paradoxically, the higher up you go, the more power you wield, and the more accountability you hold… but the less direct control you have!

The more layers you have below you, the better you have to be at doing your own job. But the temptation is to dip down into your people’s work, and to make sure the job is done the way you want it to be done.

If you give into this urge, you effectively intervene and over-function for the people below you… and it might seem as though it’s a good idea in the short-term, but there are significant long-term consequences: 

  1. Every minute you spend doing a job that you’re paying someone below you to do, is a minute you’re not doing your own job 
  2. Every time you make a decision on someone else’s behalf, you’re diluting the accountability model–you can’t hold them to account for delivery when you intuitively know they haven’t had control of the decisions that affect their results
  3. You rob the people below you of the chance to grow: if they can’t make mistakes, they can’t learn, so they’ll be just as dependent tomorrow as they were yesterday
  4. You’ll never get to see what people are capable of if you don’t stretch: you won’t know if they are able to perform or not, because you never hold them to account for not doing their job: you just do it for them!

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