February 8, 2007
Right, That’s MY Job
I made a dumb comment at our recent Board meeting that got me thinking. We came into the meeting with, in addition to lots of the regular updating and reporting, one specific strategic topic we wanted guidance on from the Board about something that’s been nagging the management team for a while without an obvious solution.
We had a great conversation about the topic with the Board and got very clear guidance as to their perspective on what we should do. I agreed with most of it, albeit with a couple modifications, but more than anything else, I was happy for the note of clarity on an issue with which we’d been struggling as a management team.
So my comment in the meeting was "that’s pretty clear direction, we’ll go do that" (or something along those lines). Whereupon one of my Board members politely reminded me that actually it’s not the Board’s job to make things happen, only to give advice and counsel, and that I shouldn’t take their words as gospel and assume they’ll work. Right. Good point.
The Board is my boss (I am on the Board, but so are five other people), and while there are some items where the Board does have the final say, the overwhelming majority of my actions and the actions within the company are really up to us. We can seek guidance when we feel we need it, but that guidance doesn’t come with a guarantee that it will work operationally — nor does it give me the ability to absolve myself if things don’t work out in the end.
This is a point worth thinking about no matter what role you play in your organization. Most people, most of the time, have a lot of latitude in how they go about their job. Sometimes, the boss tells you what to do. But most of the time, you’re on your own, and while you can and should get advice from above when necessary, the most successful people in business are the ones that take the guidance and factor it into their own decision-making and initiative as opposed to blindly following.