Leadership Solutions from Read Solutions Group: Is Hard Work Enough?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Is Hard Work Enough?

You've met them - the colleagues and friends who are dedicated to their job. They spend 12 hours a day, nights and weekends meeting with customers, solving problems, researching alternatives, writing reports, making presentations, delivering results; yet others get the opportunities and promotions. They are as smart (or possibly smarter) than their bosses. They can see the problems and solutions. They know what should be done. And look at the work they continue to deliver. Maybe if they just work a bit harder?

In their book, Execution, Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan talk about the "doer" - "the person who is a little less conceptual but is absolutely determined to succeed will usually find the right people and get them together to achieve objectives". The doer doesn't hang his or her hat on the right answer, the right solution, the correct and detailed report. The doers are the ones "who energize people, are decisive on tough issues, get things done through others, and follow through as second nature."

Energizing Others

Energy starts with a vision and direction; yet the leaders who create, rather than drain energy from their colleagues and teams, are the ones who turn that picture of success into short-term accomplishments, increased capabilities and increased confidence. Think of the coaches who stand on the sidelines yelling at their teams, where the players operate from fear of failure. Now think of the coaches who keep the focus on the next play, point on the good moves, identify what should be done differently next time, and push the players to prepare well physically and mentally for each game. It's not just the rhetoric, it's not the vision of a winning game, it's the focus on each step toward the winning game.

Being Decisive

Being decisive and being right are too often confused in the minds of those colleagues working all hours. Being right can lead to over-analysis. It can lead to an answer that is optimal but too radical. It can lead to rigidity when flexibility is required.

By contrast, "decisiveness is the ability to make difficult decisions swiftly and well, and act on them", according to Bossidy and Charan. It is the combination of the ability to confront a tough situation, make a sound decision,and lead others forward, that can separate the good thinker from the doer.

Achieving Through and With Others

Yet as pointed out above, the good decision, well-articulated, is insufficient for true success. It is only through developing and using influence skills that the doer accomplishes the necessary outcomes. The successful doer builds a social network that enables her to stay on top of shifting organizational priorities and maintain valuable relationships. He knows how much support to ask for, and when. She knows where she can count on support and where she has something of value that will help to gain support. He knows that communication up, down and sideways on the objectives, key steps, milestones, challenges, and achievements is key for keeping an initiative on track and people supportive of the outcomes. She has learned that organizations are made of interdependent people, and only by developing in herself, and in others, new and better ways to work together will success be achieved.

When you see your colleagues with their head down, working all hours, striving for the best, and wondering why they seem to be passed over time and time again, ask them to consider the following:

  • What portion of your time is spent getting to the right answer compared to making sure you understand whether you are working on the current priorities? Compare that picture with others. What might be the benefits of shifting your time allocation?
  • What portion of your time is spent on task vs relationship? How does that compare to the people being promoted?
  • What is your energy like on a daily basis? Are you creating or draining the energy of the people around you?
  • Are you making decisions on issues at the right level for your job, neither too detailed, nor too high-level?
  • What systems do you have in place to keep informed about shifting organizational (and personal) priorities?
  • Do you adjust your approach to meet the needs of the people around you?
  • How can you learn more about the needs and wants of the people who work above, along side, and for you? What can you do with that information that supports both their success and your own?
  • How do you handle conflict in ways that advance your cause?
  • What ways do you have of getting clear and effective feedback and of continually developing yourself?

Strong skills, talents, and hard work are prerequisites to success, yet they are insufficient in most organizations. Working up, down and sideways; knowing your own and other's motivators; enhancing energy; being decisive at the right level; and knowing how to influence others, frequently outweigh working hard to find the correct answer. Most often, a range of solutions will work - the win then goes to the one who can bring about the results, while building capability and energy for the next challenge in the people around them.

If you'd like to learn more about how to develop behaviors in your organization that deliver results while building capability and energy, please contact me through my website.

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