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Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

Steps to Scaling Your Leadership for Results


What are you holding on to that you need to let go of? That’s a question I ask a lot when I’m working with leaders who need to get different results. These days just about every leader needs to get different results on a continuous basis. When was the last time you even heard the phrase that “someone is resting on their laurels?” It’s an anachronism. In today’s world, the idea that a leader would rest on their laurels and still expect to be the leader is just silly. There is a constant expectation for new and better results.

To do this, leaders have to learn how to scale. You can’t scale if you’re holding on to things you need to let go of. To get the new results that are expected, you have to pick up on the things that only you can do as the leader. To create the bandwidth to do those things, you have to let go of a lot of the things you’ve been holding on to.

Here’s a simple, three step way to figure out what you need to pick up and what you need to let go of. It’s based on a Coachable Moment called “The 20/80 Analysis” from my book, “The Next Level.”

  • First, get really clear on the results that are expected. A good way to do that is to look out a year from now and ask yourself this question, “If my team and I have a totally kick-butt year, what will it look like?” Jot down the words or short phrases that describe the results in terms of such things as accomplishments, size, growth, financial metrics, customer satisfaction, the way you’re working together, etc.
  • Second, make a list of the 20% of the things you should be spending 80% of your time and attention on to achieve those results. Achieving different results requires different actions. What’s on the short list of things that you need to start spending most of your time and attention on starting now to have a reasonable shot at getting those results a year from now? Those are the things you need to pick up.
  • Third, make a list of the 20% of the things that you have been spending 80% of your time and attention on. As you make this list, put a check mark beside the things that you are an expert in. Those are the things you need to let go of. It’s practically certain that they no longer require your level of expertise. When you’re done with your list, figure out who you’re going to give the check marks to. By letting go of some of your expert items, you create the opportunity for others to grow. It’s also the only way you can scale your leadership to pick up the things that will lead to new results.

Here’s a quick example of how this works in real life. I recently had a manager in one of my workshops who went through this process and realized he needed to let go of preparing the daily news brief for the most senior execs in his organization. He had been doing that every day for several years and realized that it no longer required his expertise. By letting go of the brief and asking members of his team to pick it up, he freed up five hours a week of his time and created opportunities for them to improve their analytical and writing skills while getting more visibility in the organization.

The only way he or any other leader can scale up for new results is if their team scales up with them. You can do that by being clear about the results that are expected and then making choices about what you need to pick up and let go of to get them.

What opportunities do you have to take a fresh look at this or get started?

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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