Recently, an executive we work with was describing that he was struggling to get out of the weeds of the day-to-day. He knew that he needed to be more strategic in his thinking and actions, but instead found himself pulled into doing the work that his team was assigned to do.
To succeed in his job, he needed to support others to do the work that needed to be done while he created the vision, strategy, and relationships to get them there.
As our client talked more about the struggle, we asked what kept him from letting go of the work. He told us that he “had tried but that the members of the team just weren’t doing their work very well so [he] was jumping in to help out.”
Our client is a great leader in many, many ways and yet he was truly struggling with stepping back to support his team and ensure they did their work effectively. To help him make the shift, we offered a way to think about his role.
The conductor’s job is to make sure that all of the instruments are playing together in a way that sounds good and that accurately represents the musical score.
We asked our client if he had ever been to the symphony and seen the conductor leave his / her podium and start playing a viola or a French horn. He laughed and said, “of course not.”
We suggested that every time he left his own work to do the work of his staff, he was doing just that – he was behaving like a conductor who left the podium to play one of the instruments.
He paused for a moment and said, “Maybe, but I want my staff to respect me. I want them to know that I’m not above doing the work that they do.”
Do conductors know how to play every instrument in the orchestra? No, they don’t, and yet they’re highly respected by the members of the orchestra because they know how to help each player bring their best to the performance.
We reminded him that in his role as a leader, his job is to help everyone contribute their best so that the business can succeed.
Our client smiled and said that it was going to be hard to not jump in and do the work for his team, yet he understood that when he did so, he was hampering the success of the organization.
Before leaving, we created a small card that read, “I’m the Conductor” to help him stay focused on bringing out the best of each member of his team.
This week watch for times when you are jumping in and playing an instrument instead of focusing on your role as the conductor.
Your team needs your leadership!
– Linda, Stephanie, Heather, and Sally