By: Jim Mathis, IPCS, CSP, MDiv
J&L Mathis Group, Inc.
“There is no success without a successor.” -John Maxwell
If you are in a leadership position, your job involves being a coach, cheerleader, emergency responder, trainer, mentor, and visionary, to name just a few. But, have you ever heard that your job is to be replaced… on purpose?
I heard John Maxwell say several years ago, “Every leader’s job is to work himself/herself OUT of a job.” You are to create an organization or platform that doesn’t include yourself at some point in the future. If you are not creating people to take your place, your leadership only exists for you… and will die with you. If you have to check your messages by email, text, or written notes to make sure the people under you are making you look good, then check your leadership motives and methods instead.
I meet workers who don’t have “permission” to put people over policies and wind up angering customers, clients, and prospects. The CEO cares more about the bottom line than the policies being enforced (if he or she wants to remain the CEO).
Here is an example: I had a sore bruise, so I asked the flight attendant on a cross country journey if I could sit on one of the pillows NOT being used in First Class… four feet away. I missed the cut for First Class by one person, so I was in Economy Comfort …neither economical nor comfortable.
Now bear in mind, I am a Platinum Level “Million Miler” with this airline already this year. The attendant said, “I really shouldn’t… You know we aren’t supposed to allow anyone to have these that are not seated in First Class.”
A First Class passenger offered me his pillow. And, people wonder why the customer service and profits are so low with many airlines. Southwest goes out of their way to please customers and make them feel appreciated. Their board of directors know that empowered employees are more likely to please customers than state punitive policies.
If they have to bend the rules occasionally to do it, they know it will benefit them in the long run. Is rule bending on occasion prohibited or encouraged by your management staff? Leaders know if their employees have a vision for growing the organization, they will be more likely to take the authority to do it with the common good in mind and not break the bank.
Earning Your Degree
Your job as a leader is to grow yourself and stop being the “lid on the pressure cooker” of your organization. One day the cooker is going to blow! If you constantly shut down creativity and nurse an attitude of “permission,” then you will be taken out when it explodes around you… and it will explode one day. Can you say “Collateral Damage?”
Our future daughter-in-law just earned her degree in nursing. She studied hard for years to learn how to do a very difficult job. But what about the nursing degree you have tried to “earn” every day for the past several years? If you nurse someone or something, you care for it, work on it, and help it to grow.
Nursing a bad attitude, a grudge or a sick patient all have the term in common. The result of nursing something bad, though, is harmful. If you nurse a poisonous snake back to health, it will bite you one day. The same is true for nursing bad attitudes and policies.
When you empower your staff to take authority (and not just responsibility), you will be free to grow yourself and morph into a new position as leader.
You can’t move up if you are tied down to the same tasks that others are neglecting or doing poorly.
“But Jim, I can’t give these people authority! They are a bunch of incompetents!” A CEO said that to me in a conference a few years ago. “Who hired these people?” I asked him. “Well… I did!” he exclaimed.
Then that’s not my problem. He hired people he knew couldn’t handle authority and was aware they weren’t capable without micro-management. So now he is paying the price for that string of hiring decisions. You, too… If you exercised more leadership in hiring and staffing, you would have to do less management now.
You Have One Job…
Your primary task should be to get replaced one day. Your goal is to mentor, coach, and empower others to take on the organization and allow you to move up the ladder to new heights of achievement. You can’t achieve more if you are stuck dragging incapable people with you. More importantly, you will never achieve any new status or skills if you are doing the same job every week and there is no growth within miles of you.
Madame de Pompadour, in the court of Louis XV of France, knew the royalty was overspending and overindulging themselves. She predicted future failure when she said, “Après nous le déluge.” Translation: “After us, a flood.” Their extravagance led the way for Louis’ son to lose his throne and end up beheaded along with Marie Antoinette in the French Revolution. Today the phrase means, “’I don’t care what happens after I’m gone.”
However, Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” His success as one of the most famous physicists in the world was due to what others accomplished. He knew that he could only move up if others had
taken on tasks before him. He shared credit with Aristotle, Kepler, Leibniz, and many others enabling him to climb to greater heights. Newton is regarded as probably the greatest scientist in history, but gave credit to others.
My wife drove us to a local restaurant and I got to see the wonderful scenery I had missed by watching the road as I drove before. I was thrilled with the sights as we road along over a bridge we had crossed dozens of times. You will see more, too, when you let someone else handle the details you have been dealing with all these years. The vision will benefit everyone you come in contact with.
Model the Train
There is a story about a church pastor in a small town. He walked down to the depot every day to watch the train leave town. Each day, he would smile as the train left and walk back to his office grinning. He repeated this activity so much that some church elders took him aside and asked him why he made this a practice on a daily basis. The pastor answered, “I just like to watch something move in this town without me having to push it!” Aren’t you tired of pushing everyone else?
Tim O’Reilly popularized the terms “open source” and “Web 2.0.” He says, “Empowerment of individuals is a key part of what makes open source work, since in the end, innovations tend to come from small groups, not from large, structured efforts.” Power comes from the small groups you free to move forward in your absence.
Sales managers can’t improve end of month closings doing all the tasks of lackluster account executives. You need to work yourself into a new position by allowing someone else to take on yours gradually. Have a plan. Find several people who are creative and you see a spark of intuition in their attitudes. Reward the out-of-the-box thinkers. Stop punishing rule bending and reward great service and customer stories. Free people up to grow the organization without you having to push it every day.
The more you change your strategy, the more the organization will grow and your results will change… in your favor.
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Jim Mathis, IPCS, CSP, MDiv. is The Reinvention PRO™, an International Platform Certified Speaker, Certified Speaking Professional and best-selling author of Reinvention Made Easy: Change Your Strategy, Change Your Results. To subscribe to his free professional development newsletter, please send an email to: email@example.com with the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject. An electronic copy will be sent out to you every month. For more information on how Jim and his programs can benefit your organization or group, please call 888-688-0220, or visit his web site: www.jimmathis.com. © 2016 J&L Mathis Group, Inc.
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