“The fewer rules a coach has, the fewer rules there are for players to break.” – John Madden
As leaders, we are bombarded by ideas and information about how we’re supposed to manage people. If you search the internet for “manage people” you get about 7.75 billion hits. There are books, articles, podcasts, training courses and dozens of other things. It can be absolutely overwhelming.
There are so many things we’re supposed to do for those we lead, and so many things we’re supposed to get them to do. When I make a list of the things I could be doing for those I directly supervise, and then I make a list of the things they could be doing, I end up with a small novel of stuff which usually ends up in the trash. It isn’t that everything on the list isn’t a good idea. It’s that there’s no way we can do all of it.
Over the years, there has been a lot of discussion in this space about the fact that one of the keys to success for us as leaders is to focus on what really matters and exclude the rest of the noise as much as possible. That’s still true for us, and it’s also true for those we lead.
One of our biggest jobs as leaders is to help those we lead understand what’s most important, and then help them clear enough space that they have time to focus on those things. Do you do that? When you’re having conversations with your people, are you really helping them see what matters? Or do you just ask them how it’s going and then move on to the next thing?
Think about your two or three most important people. Write their names down, and under each name write down their most important duties/tasks/responsibilities/roles. If you come up with ten, that’s probably too many. Could you narrow it down to three or four? Or one or two?
That maybe sounds pretty difficult. Our best people get handed a lot of stuff because they’re our best people and we know they can do it. But if you can’t identify what’s most important, how will they be able to? You have to provide them with some guidance or even your best people will start to sink.
One last thing: It’s not enough to help them identify what’s most important. You also have to help them create the time to focus on those things. What’s getting in the way? What are they spending energy on that’s keeping them from getting to what matters?
Your best people need to do the stuff that matters most. If that’s not happening, it’s your job to fix it. Time to get started.