No MBA mumbo-jumbo, just stuff that's worked through 30 years of team-building in business and the military.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Third Job of a Leader: Get the Work Done

There are really only four basic tasks a leader does; the third one is getting the work done.

I wrote previously about setting the course and preparing the team, both critical functions. But both of those jobs only have value in the context of this one. The reason your team exists, and the reason your leadership is needed, is to get something done.

Before you dismiss this as a no-brainer, let me remind you of the Falais Pocket. A few months after the landings in Normandy on D-Day, the Allies had a huge part of the German Army virtually encircled in a huge pocket near the city of Falais. They had the opportunity to take several divisions out of the war, but in the end most of those units escaped through a gap left open because Field Marshall Montgomery didn't want to risk his troops in battle.

Montgomery forgot that the reason he had an army was to fight the Germans. It's just as easy for us to forget the reason we have a team is to get something done. I sometimes do that, when I get frustrated at some salesman for taking an order that will be hard for us to fill.

Often for leaders the fun is in the planning, in the training, in the meetings where you get to sit at the head of the table and talk about stuff. We like the org charts and the studies and the reports that tell us how well we're doing -- all those things that tell us about our little empires. But the point of it all is to get something done. 

The right ratio will vary by organization, but in my business my team and I should spend at least 90% of our time making paint. That's the point; that's the reason the company pays us. Setting the course, preparing the team, that's just so that we can do the work.

Bottom line: If your team doesn't get its work done, it and you are no good to the organization. Sometimes that means you roll up your sleeves and get in there with them. Sometimes it means you play gofer to make sure they have what they need. Sometimes it means you hold them accountable. But whatever it takes, get the work done.

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