“If I’m brutally honest the problem in my organization is we all work a level down. I’m doing too much of my VPs’ work, therefore my VPs are doing too much of their managers’ work, and so on down.” Such was the reflection from an astute CIO during a recent leadership workshop. He went on to confide the results of this dynamic. “We woefully underperform our potential, both struggling to provide desired innovation, while also lacking the delivery speed demanded by our business partners.”
If this situation resonates you are not alone, indeed there was a ripple of agreement across the workshop attendees. They went on to examine not only the numerous root causes, but more positively the impact if this dynamic could be flipped. Imagine the power if we could all work just 25% up, instead of a level down! For example if I have six direct reports and challenge them all to work 25% up, they could collectively do my job, and then some! Hence liberating me to also work up, focusing on driving business outcomes and innovation in collaboration with my business peers.
There was optimism that flipping the ‘working down’ to a ‘working up’ pattern can be harnessed for an exponential impact. Particularly if we surround ourselves with great people. For they will relish the extra responsibility, thrive on the empowerment and be fulfilled by the opportunity to deliver great results. All while enhancing their ability to be promoted, a further factor that can fuel the behavior. If you are a skeptic and all this sounds too good to be true, consider if it can only be partially realized. What if you can flip the dynamic in your organization, unleashing the power of the people so everyone works just 5% up? And isn’t that essence of leadership and your role as a leader?