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Leadership Jobs to be Done
Do you actually know what you need to do?
I have somehow gotten into the act of running strategy and leadership seminars. It started when I led some rather gnarly re-architecting of a product from single line to multi-line. We’re talking about the kind of thing that would fundamentally change all product surfaces and spanned the scopes of many leaders. In the process of that effort, I started facilitating more and more leadership discussions about strategy, team dynamics, and organizational improvement because it was the kind of project that exposed all the rough edges, differing opinions, ulterior motives, and stylistic complications. Through these iterations, I’ve noticed an interesting trend — that leaders often don’t take the time to think about what leadership is supposed to mean. They’re so busy with running their teams, leading initiatives, trying to wrangle resourcing, etc. that it becomes incredibly easy to forget to take the time to think about what their job actually is.
But it’s essential to take the time.
Leadership, at any level, is a high leverage activity. Leverage itself is neutral, it’s the direction of the application that determines if it’s positive or negative. If you are apply leverage in a positive direction, you get outsized positive results. If you apply leverage in a negative direction, you get outsized negative results. For this reason, leaders should take the time to define their jobs and check if they really are accomplishing the objectives they set for themselves.
If you don’t know how to do that, here’s a blueprint for you to walk through.
Defining the job of a leader
Let’s start with something personal: how do you personally define the job of a leader?
I’ll go first.
The job of a leader is to: (1) set the bar; (2) find the right problems to solve; (3) enable the team to solve those problems.
Now take some time to think through what it means for yourself personally. This has to be something you truly believe and that you would articulate publicly to your team so they could hold you accountable to it. Think about all the great bosses you had, the great leaders you’ve worked with that inspired you to be better. Think of the terrible ones that you vowed you would never be like. There is no single answer — what you define is how you will measure yourself.
Define your jobs to be done
Note that in my definition, I prescribe jobs to be done for the leader. Jobs to be done is a design framework that helps you articulate what major outcomes a user is attempting to accomplish so that you can design a solution for them. I use them because they dictate the kinds of actions I need to perform in order to know I’m fulfilling my definition of done.
Every role, environment, and person is different. You’ll face unique challenges at this moment in time that may not apply to other moments in time. Think through the major challenges you’re facing right now on your team. With your definition of a job of a leader in mind, write out what you think the major jobs to be done are for the next 12 months. List examples of where you think you’ve done this well. More importantly, list examples of this where you failed. Be honest with yourself.
Are you spending your time wisely?
Now you have a personal definition, jobs to be done, and examples of success and failure. Compare this map to your actual time investments. Are you making time for the things that you should be doing? Or are you spending your time on low leverage activities, which you can’t even map to a job to be done? Take honest stock of your situation.
Chances are you’re not at 100%. Start looking at what you can change. Do you really need to do that recurring meeting or can you deputize and grow one of your team members to step up and handle it? Do you really need to focus on the details of this project or should you be trying to build relationships across the company to help enable the team to get it done faster? Should you really be blocking and tackling for everyone because you’re just better at it or should you start training others to fish for themselves even if it’s slower? There are pros and cons for any choice that you make. Lean towards what gives you the greatest leverage, without compromising quality.
Everything has a trade-off, but if you take the time to run this assessment, you can at least be deliberate about how you make them. You likely won’t change overnight, but with deliberation, over time, you’ll improve your leadership and get closer and closer to your own definition of what a great leader is.
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