We were tasked with how to solve this accounting issue. The problem of the problem is that it was a problem and not terribly exciting, but we did it because we knew if we did it well, doing it well would lead to good things.
After a couple years of grinding through similar tasks, eventually I got on an exciting international project. This was far more than I’ve ever experienced or attempted before. I was in over my head. But with pressure came excitement, thrill, and a massive challenge. I wasn’t simply dealing with U.S. laws, concepts, ideals, and views. Languages, opinions, and differing views of frying an egg abounded. They saw something in us that made them realize we were worth it on one of the bigger deals.
I recently read Good to Great by Jim Collins. It’s a few years old but still an encouragement to think about the right things to do, why we ought to do them, and how we derive energy from what we do. In it, Jim discusses a number of concepts within his framework but there was one specific one that I’ve been gnawing on for a while. It’s what to do with your best people.
The good to great companies made a habit of putting their best people on their best opportunities, not their biggest problems. The comparison companies had a penchant for doing just the opposite, failing to grasp the fact that managing your problems can only make you good, where is building your opportunities is the only way to become great.
It’s so tempting to throw the best people at our biggest problems. Problems are what keep us up at night, what distract us, make us coil, and, using Pareto’s Law, likely take up 80% of our mind and only create 20% of value.
That’s a terrible thing. The difficult and counter-intuitive piece is to put the best people on what can generate us the most value. It’s rarely problems but usually what’s fun. That means sacrificing what I want to do and give that opportunity away.
But that does a number of things. It grows that person into a leader, humbles yourself, rewards amazing service and team effort, and sets the company up for the best outcome of that opportunity (sometimes I have to take a backseat to the fun).
How amazing is that? The company succeeds, you succeed, and your employees succeed. It may not always be something international, but it’ll likely be something that requires their very best which, in turn, gives you the very best. The absolute best.