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Achieving Critical Mass May 19, 2008

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
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In my most recent posting, I began by discussing the basic criteria for a successful nuclear explosion: getting the right material in the right place at the right time.  In a blinding flash of obviousness (obviosity?) I realized that this is true of so many things in life, particularly in the role we all seek to play as leaders.

It is a sad fact that those of us living towards the top of the org chart do very little real work.  Instead, we direct, manage, and inspire those below us who actually do productive things on a regular basis.  Our job is making sure the right people do the right things the right way and understand why. 

As leaders, it is not enough to simply spout some grand scheme and stand back and watch it unfold.  It is our job to make sure the right people come together at the right time with the right resources.  Our people often cannot bring all that together; they lack the authority or wherewithall to make it all happen.  Instead, they look to us to bridge those gaps, break down the barriers, and orchestrate the myriad of elements beyond their control that ensure their success.

It is easy to miss this critical aspect of our job.  Poor leaders often blame their teams for failing to bring it all together when they actually carry the responsibility for making their team successful.  In some cases, teams cannot see all the pieces of the puzzle, let alone figure out how to put them all together. We need to do that, and our teams need to trust that we are doing this for them.

This need not involve dramatic micromanagement or a heavy-handed approach.  Often, simply asking the right question at the right time is all it takes.  Questions that begin with “Did you consider…” or “Did you talk to…” or “Have you thought about…” may be enough to start a train of thought that leads to a better solution to a problem.

Truth be told, it’s fun and rewarding to see all those parts come together to create something great.  It may not be as cool as building your own nuclear weapon, but it is a real pleasure when a plan works just like you hoped it would.

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