Tag Archives: building the team

One Most Important Thing

“What’s the one most important thing you do?” I asked. “In a year’s time, looking back, what one thing have you done that has had the most impact on your company?”

Kristen was thinking. She had some stuff up on her walls, some recognition plaques, a framed letter from a customer. “I don’t know,” she started. “My highest contribution? I guess it’s just making sure my people are always busy and not wasting time. That’s what managers do.”

“No, on your team of 19, you have two supervisors, that’s what they do, keep people busy. What is the most important thing you do?”

“I guess I never really thought about it. No one ever asked me, or told me. In fact, when I got promoted last year, the only difference is that I go to management meetings once a week. I spend the rest of my time dealing with problems and issues. Who is arguing with whom? Who wants time off? Why someone is constantly running behind? Why things don’t come out right? Motivating my team? I stay pretty busy doing all that.”

“What would you have to do differently, so that you did none of those things?” I challenged.

“Well, there’s no way. The people I have on my team just wouldn’t be able to get along and stay productive without me in there.”

“So, what would you have to do differently?”

I’m Too Busy

“You are right,” Kristen relented. “I really am too busy. My priorities are focused on short term fires. I feel like all I do, all day long, gets consumed with management issues and keeping people motivated. I don’t have time to work on basic stuff like writing role descriptions. When I look at doing that, it is so far down my urgency scale, I almost think writing a role description is silly.”

“What would be the payoff?” I asked.

“The payoff? I can’t even think about the payoff. I could write a role description and then I would have a role description, but I would be further behind dealing with all the crap,” she explained.

“Kristen, you are not unlike most managers,” I nodded. “If you could truly focus on getting the right people, most of the crap you deal with would largely go away. Stop working on crap and start working on systems. Your life will only improve when you start working on systems. And the most important system is the people system.”