"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity." - General George S. Patton
Over the last 15 years I have moved between the consulting world and the product delivery world. In those changing roles, I have written software, designed user interfaces, streamlined workflow processes, managed accounts and departments. One thing I have been successful at is ‘delivery’; be it delivery in consulting, in-house development, or departmental management. In addition, as a result of my changing roles, I have worked with bleeding edge technophiles, aspiring entrepreneurs, arrogant marketers, and of course the average Janes and Joes. Through it all, I have learned one very important thing - successful delivery is all about people. My accomplishments were not mine alone; but a collective effort by my mentors, my colleagues and ultimately those people on my team. Those average Janes and Joes weren’t so average after all. One thing I have always believed is, “Processes do not DO business, money does not DO business, it is PEOPLE who do business.” You can have the greatest product, plenty of money, and the best processes, software, workflows, machinery, etc. but if you do not have great people, you are bound to mediocrity. Can you sell and make a profit? Of course! But, as Jim Collins discusses in Good to Great, if you are interested in building a legacy, you have to do so with great people.
During the course of my career I have worked with new managers and successful entrepreneurs that believe they know the RIGHT way of doing things. After all, they were successful enough to be promoted to management or to start a company so they obviously know how to successfully manage and empower their people– RIGHT? WRONG – because too often they employ the “I know best” approach to managing as opposed to looking to those around them for ideas and solutions. This approach is often stifling to the team expected to ‘deliver’, because they must rely solely on the values and opinions of one person. Their inability to translate past success into their current position places everyone at a disadvantage. As Michael D. Watkins talks about in The First 90 Days: just because you have been successful in one role, does not mean you will be successful in a different role.
Why, then, are the people around you important? Because ultimately they are the ones that are going to do the actual work and their collective skill set and personal/professional experiences are greater than those of a single individual. As managers and owners, we have to empower our team to take ownership in the organization, we have to encourage them to solve problems, to be creative and to think outside the box. As General Patton said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” Nothing kills creativity more than an arrogant manager telling his team HOW to accomplish something.
In the end, this blog is more about ‘delivering with people’ than just about delivery. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about how to: hire the right people, be a leader, paint a vision, build credibility, motivate your team, etc. So, stay tuned and make sure you share your experiences, tell me when you think I am wrong and help me encourage others in recognizing the value of people in delivery.