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

Monday, September 26, 2011

If It's Stupid But It Works . . .

Somewhere in my early military development there was a mentor who I can no longer name who liked to say, "If it's stupid but it works, it's not stupid."

That statement captured perfectly for me the reality that in combat operations, the thing that matters most is effectiveness. The final judgement of a tactic or maneuver would be whether or not we won.

There's a strong leadership application here. We lead people, and people are infinitely variable. Although they seem to fit into types, in reality no two are alike. What that means is no two will respond the same way, no two are motivated by exactly the same things, so the perfect leadership of each person will be unique.

That means the rules are really just guidelines. Everything the MBAs tell you about how to work with people is true for most of them, but not all. And there's no quick guide for picking out which is which.

Here's the take-away for leaders: There are no style points for what we do. There isn't a scoreboard either. What matters is that your leadership effectively gets your team to perform. So if you feel like you need to fly in the face of conventional wisdom, try it.

If it seems like it will work, give longer breaks. Let employees chat more. Let them work in the lounge instead of at their desks. Let them tinker with that idea they had on company time. By current standards, those things and a lot of others are stupid. But no-one knows your people like you do. And stupid starts looking pretty smart when it gets the job done.

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