Don’t pull….get lifted!


Here’s one you’ve either heard or said yourself – “I’ve got to pull myself out of the weeds, I’m involved in the detail and I can’t get moving“.

Familiar?  Here’s why people struggle in this area – the concept that they need to pull themselves up.  It won’t happen because of the natural principles of how work organises.  The way to get out of the weeds (an expression which, by the way, is fundamentally insulting to the work of your people) is to allow yourself to be lifted by creating solid layers of work.

My previous post described the natural way that work will layer, and that this can be used to ensure value-add at each level which sees today’s results delivered and  tomorrow’s plans executed.  There is another principle that comes from the natural way work layers – roles will ‘fall’ through the organisation toward the front line until a solid layer is encountered.  It’s as natural as gravity – if no one is there to answer the phone except the CEO, then the CEO is going to have to answer it.  They have ‘fallen through’.

So to get out of ‘the detail’, you need to create solid layers.  You do this by making sure a) the contribution expected of each role reporting to you is clear, b) that they reflect the type of work expected of their level, and c) that the roles relate in a way that there are no cracks.   All of this is what you are paid to put in place, because you are accountable for not only your own unique contribution, but for the work of your people.  If you don’t organise the latter, you will never get around to the former.

Once you’ve got your roles and how they relate in place to create solid layers, you’re not done yet.  You then need to execute some leadership basics to make it go.  Clarity of purpose, tasks, feedback, coaching, building the team, appraisal, selecting and removing people are all acts of leadership that make your structure work, and you need to know them.  And you can’t outsource them.

The good news is, leadership skills can be learned and you don’t need to be JFK.  Or a psychologist.

But don’t bother learning about leadership until you get those solid layers beneath you.  Until you do that, you won’t just be in the weeds, you will also be pushing you-know-what uphill.

(For those who are members, I will be presenting how organisational design creates trust and accountability at the next Australian Human Resources Institute forum on Wednesday 1st of May in Adelaide)

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