Visiting students from China, Japan, France, German, from Kenyon College, USC and UC Santa Barbara, oh and Berkeley jammed their way with me through a six-week course in leadership. It was akin to running a half-mile race; you can’t sprint, but you have to keep up a consistently fast pace. Eight hours of class and weekly papers were a lot, but it was the readings that were really killing them. In part out of mercy, but even more to help them actually learn the material, I told them that they could take the second mid-term as a group.
When I asked them how the midterm went, one person said, “It was fine, but our group blew it.” I asked, “I asked: How? Did your group divide up the readings?” “No,” they said, “we talked about it, but we never finalized it and when we got together for our study session, there were some readings that no one had covered.” “Ouch,” I offered, “And here’s the leadership lesson: If everyone’s responsible, no one’s responsible.”
By contrast, we had a fantastic reunion of our law school friends on Lake Michigan with our hosts John and Jeanne Gallo. The level of their kind hospitality has been exceeded year after year by their meticulous planning and organization. We’d been feeling unworthy and kept badgering Jeanne with emails heading up to the event, “How can we help?” This year, she upped her game yet again. For each of our three days together, a written list assigned all 25 attendees specific tasks for every meal. The guilt was gone. The work was done. Jeanne was relieved. Here’s the leadership lesson: “When specific people are assigned specific tasks, the work gets done.”
Simple management corollaries: “If there isn’t a deadline, the work is never late.” And, “If the task isn’t clear at the outset, and if it isn’t done right at the end, it’s the manager’s fault at least as much as the worker’s.”
Hope you enjoyed the 4th and are back at it,
Leading with your best self.