Not All Value is Created Equal
I love to get things done. Perhaps a small task around the house. Or a large project with the client. I make lists. I cross things off. And repeat.
Early in my career, I thought that was what my job was. I was there to cross things off a really big list. I implemented policies. I created processes. If people didn't like the guardrails, I'd ignore them and they'd ignore me. I didn't think it was necessarily bad, but looking back on those early years, I realize now that those tasks weren't really effective. Nor was it what I should have been doing.
But that is where I thought my value lay. In creating stuff. The more I created, the more I was helping. I thought, at least. And the more things I implemented, the more others saw me creating value.
It took me many (many) years to shift that mindset. Even today, I get requests for stuff at times. Or I'll feel the need to create stuff to show my value - like an email summary or template. But when I ask my clients what value I create for them, I've been amazed that it typically comes from how I listen. Or facilitate conversations with others. Or make sense of a situation to pull things together in helping others solve a problem.
There is an evolution process that happens as a person who leads other people. You start your career as a creator of stuff. A slayer of tasks. And you may be fantastic at that. Yet, when you start to manage others, those same actions don't equal the same success. As you evolve as a person who leads other people, consider how you:
Deliver on value vs. tasks. When you look at your time time you spend on work, how often to you think about the value you've created for the organization. Value isn't always shown through tasks. In fact, it might mean you're focusing on less tasks versus more. How are you evaluating your activities to ensure those are delivering on value?
Prioritize ruthlessly. If you can focus on creating value versus tasks, then you also create the need to prioritize your work. Not all tasks are created equal, as some deliver higher value than others. Prioritizing also allows you to break down big problems into manageable chunks.
Try to understand others. Or just give a shit about people. If we care about others, then the value you create is for the benefit of other humans and/or beings. The work you focus on isn't creating work for works sake - especially when it may impact others who are creating value. How are you focused on an experience and adding value to others through that experience?
Learn through feedback. I remember creating "pilots" when implementing a new process or policy. These pilots were intended (at least in my mind) to gather feedback and then to adjust based on the feedback. But really, the pilot just meant the policy was coming and people better get ready for it. When we learn through feedback, people are in the change with you - rather than you forcing the change. An invitation to co-create allows opportunity for more experimentation and opportunities for failure - which helps the learning process.
Be open to criticism. Evolving as a leader comes through taking risks, failing, and learning from that failure. As well, value is created by being open to failure. For your organization as well as the team you lead.
As Marshall Goldsmith stated perfectly "What got you here, won't get you there." Wherever your evolution journey takes you - wherever "there" is for you - how will you decide which value to pursue?