Get Out of the Way, Boss

May 25, 2010


There’s an old saying around management or leadership that says, “Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way.” Makes a good bumper sticker, doesn’t it?

I think it’s wrong.

I believe the better phrase should be, “Lead by getting out of the way.” Goes against the traditional management approach, but works so much more effectively.
Somewhere along the way the idea of “managing” changed to mean “get more involved.” Somewhere along the way becoming the manager of something meant needing every detail, controlling every message and this crazy notion of losing trust in those that report to you.

Yes, trust.

As a manager you must first do a few things:

1. Make sure the right person is in the right job
2. Let that person DO THEIR JOB

If you have the right person in the right job then you must trust that person to do it. It’s their skill, it’s their passion. They’re good at it. Don’t step all over their ability to perform.

Got the right person? Great. Then you have one other job. Your most important job. You must move obstacles out of the way of those that report to you so that they can be successful.

That’s right. You work FOR them on BEHALF of the team. You want your team to be successful? Make your revenue goal? Meet the client deadline? Innovate? Raise the most money? Sell the most cookies? Pull off that gala or conference?

Solve problems for your team. Don’t become one for them. Provide the opportunity and environment for them to work autonomously but come to you with questions or ideas. Your experience and perspective will be inordinately valuable in troubleshooting roadblocks, don’t worry. But sometimes it’s things like getting Legal off the dime, or a phone call that needs to be made, a relationship that needs an introduction, a priority to shift. And sometimes it’s telling someone “No, we can’t accommodate that request” – even if it’s your client.

And, please, I beg you, enough with the meetings. Meetings can serve a purpose, but meetings with no defined purpose and outcome do nothing but frustrate attendees, waste time and, really? Show the manager’s insecurity or ineptness. Be careful, your “need to be in charge” is showing.

Don’t think moms are immune to this. You have no idea the work that goes into a school carnival or fundraising gala. This is big business, honey. Wall Street ain’t got nothin’ on a mom sportin’ a “Chairwoman” power trip. She will cut you – and she’ll do it in a committee meeting from hell. We’ve all met that person, yes? Hopefully we haven’t been that person.

But no matter the setting, these ideas still translate. Doesn’t matter if it’s a consulting firm or a school fundraiser. You want to lead? Clear the path and GET OUT OF THE WAY.

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6 Responses to “Get Out of the Way, Boss”

  1. Knighton Says:

    Sounds like you’ve been reading Seth Godin. Check out Drive by Dan Pink. It’ll blow your mind.

    • Pammer Says:

      Actually, I haven’t, but on your recommendation I will. 🙂

      Just had this discussion the other day and it’s occurred to me that my old consulting life and lessons apply across many, many lines.

  2. elz Says:

    My immediate boss is the awesome, but can you come and lecture to upper management? Oh holy crap do they need a wake-up call.

  3. Elizabeth Says:

    Gosh! This reminds me of a previous work experience I had that you might know just a little about. I learned somthing from that job and remind myself of that lesson every day…”trust my people”! Whenever I have a moment of feeling like I need to be overly involved I remember back to that past experience.

  4. Pammer Says:

    A very good lesson learned. See? That experience was worth at least THAT. And your people are happier for it.