Why Leaders Never Say 'That's Not My Job'
A big part of leadership is recognizing that the boundaries of what is 'yours' is much broader than what is written in your job description.
We're going to fly out to do my first marathon in Arizona this Saturday. Wish me luck! My wife will pace me, so she'll be running a little slower than usual.
And shortly after, we'll be traveling for a few weeks in Portugal. Hopefully, I'll get the next few weeks of articles pre-written, and I won't have too many posting delays, but we'll see. I'm on another time zone and on vacation, so it's entirely I'll post my articles a bit off my normal schedule. We'll see!
If you're interested in coaching, just be aware that I've blocked off a good amount of my vacation time, so you'll want to plan ahead a little for when you'd like to chat.
Amazon's Ownership LP says:
Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.”
When they (and I) say leader, we don't mean manager.
What is a leader? Some people are inspired by the goals of their organization. For whatever personal motivation they have, they want to achieve the long-term goals of the organization, not just their own personal goals.
A leader thinks beyond their job description, and whatever it is that they're personally measured on. A child says, "But you didn't tell me to pick up my jacket off the floor", and a non-leader says, "But that's not in my job description."
I've been shocked at how many people on social media seem to aggressively defend the idea that doing only the things outlined in their job description is some type of noble virtue. They blame the company for not being more specific in job descriptions, and insist that they'd surely burn out if they were expected to look up from their normal daily work to consider what other work should be done.
As you'll see below, I'm certainly not talking about how many hours you work. "But I really need to get home and hang out with my kids," is a valid response for leaders. What we're looking for is not more work, but we're seeking people to look past the specifics of what they were hired to do, and try to accomplish things for their company and organization.
The value in 'Sure, that's my job'
A business is founded to get a specific thing done. Sell their widget. Get advertisers to spend money on their platform. Integrate with their APIs.
They hire more and more employees to help them. But those employees aren't simply employees. They're employees with specific job titles. They're web designers and industrial engineers and product managers.
Let's say that you've decided to change your price from 9.99 to 10.99, and you need to update your marketing copy. Do you know who ends up getting involved?
A Project manager to get it scheduled.
A Designer to update the graphics used in advertising.
A Marketing manager who edits the copy they use in text advertising, and updates their internal advertising locations.
The Social media manager(s) who need to update their campaigns on social platforms.
And that's just a tiny example. It was changing a single number, and realistically you'd involve 4 people.
Now, if people were like computers, it wouldn't matter. The project manager would spend 30 seconds on it, the designer would spend 2 minutes on it, and so on.
However, people aren't like computers. Context switching takes time. The project manager can't immediately schedule it because they're busy with something else. The designer needs to do their work before the marketing manager. Once the designer finishes, the marketing manager is likely busy, so it gets dropped into their queue for when they're next available.
What's the result?
You actually invest hours of people effort into the change, and it takes 1.5 weeks of calendar time. There's a higher chance that someone misses something because unless the project manager is on the ball, there's no central ownership.
What is the alternative?
The price change happens. A Marketing manager looks at the change, and decides this is a tiny change.
The Marketing manager pops open their image editor and updates the price. Easy, they've done small edits before.
They fire off the updated image to the design team so that they're aware.
They edit the internal advertisements to reflect the new price.
They drop the new image into the centralized social media image storage location.
They pop open the social media campaigns, make the image changes, text changes, and let the social media managers know that they've updated things.
What's the result?
The Marketing manager spent 1 hour working on this. In calendar time, it literally happens the same day. As the same manager is making all the changes, it's less likely that they've missed something. The Project manager, designer, and Social media managers don't get interrupted, and continue with their normal projects.
Is there downside? Why doesn't everything operate this way?
The Project manager, designer, or Social media manager might be annoyed at the Marketing manager for stepping on their toes. It takes trust and empathy to step into someone else's area without causing issues.
The Marketing manager might not know everything going on in these spaces, and might do the work poorly. For example, the Social media managers have introduced changes to the tools they use, and the Marketing manager isn't aware. This means that cross team work requires extra communication.
The Marketing manager needs to make certain that they're not burning themselves out. This is about having a broad scope of impact, not about working longer hours. You can work reasonable hours, and ignore the boundaries of your job position.
I'm going to return to my original point now. What's the value?
Faster movement. Get stuff done faster and cheaper.
Fewer things fall between the cracks.
More educated decision-making. When you know more about all the tasks related to what you're doing, you're more likely to do the right thing.
All businesses want to have as many leaders as possible. Leaders do things independently, while followers wait to be told. Leaders scale, while followers are a drain on management resources.
So let's talk about what 'sure, that's my job' means.