Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Little Tie That Couldn't

The tie couldn't...
but the book could've!

Brushing up on management skills a few years ago prior to a new assignment, I studied writings from the usual roundup of leadership moguls.  So impressed with Jack Welch's book, Winning, I'd even purchased a bright yellow tie; my silly attempt at emulating the magnetism and authority bursting out from his handsome cover photograph, all in preparation for my being "in charge" of a large new property.

The tie helped to wake everyone up in the morning, but not much else.  The books?  For my particular needs at the time, just plain wrong.

Much better would have been a little jewel hidden among the back shelves, Getting Things Done When You Are Not In Charge, by Geoffrey Bellman, a breath of fresh air outside of traditional leadership memoirs.  Bellman, a veteran Fortune 500 executive, humbly claims to never have been in charge of anything.  His writing gently dismantles the authoritarian mindset inside of most workplaces, where influence is rarely, if ever, defined by the official chain-of-command. Bellman's lessons are wholly applicable to private estate management, whether you find yourself working as a Housekeeper or a family office Chief of Staff:

Most of us will never be in charge... we must succeed within the roles and rules of other people's organizational game as long as we choose to play on their field... your power and success will come from understanding how the game is played...
Support the creation of result-oriented, cross-functional multilevel work teams.  This is easier to do when you know that you will be included in the team, working on a priority project.  What is more difficult is to exclude yourself, to step aside in favor of someone from another department whose contribution is more important than yours.

And you must go beyond simply supporting others' efforts.  Act to bring the right people together to solve the problem, even when you will not be part of it... help it to succeed by removing bureaucratic barriers to the team's work.... Don't be one of those who block a team's progress for the sake of smaller considerations.

Sounds a bit like Harry Truman's infamous advice,  It's amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit.  Truman knew that neither he was, nor anyone ever completely is, "in charge," yet that needn't prevent getting things done. 

This breeze of a read helps to place an inclusive, successful approach to being in charge, front and center.  Maybe even more effectively than wearing a bright, yellow tie.