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Building the Machine vs. Building the Thing

“The output of a manager is the output of the organizational units under his or her supervision or influence.” –  Andrew Grove

Where have you experienced the brightest bulb challenge? Perhaps you’ve transitioned in your role from an independent contributor into a leader or manager. You’ve gone from making something to making a team. That shift, at its core, abstracts us from the doing and the completing of the work. Here, folks in that position don’t have the dopamine rush from seeing the completed task, and the metrics of success in the role of leader or manager are quite different. How do you measure your contributions at this stage? What lets you know you’re doing good work? 

Success as a leader is measured not by our individual contribution, but by the collective output of the group. 

At this stage, a different appreciation and satisfaction in seeing the team flourish is part of the shift in tracking success, notes my colleague Ray Foote in this Wisdom for Work podcast conversation with Andy Crissinger, Reboot’s Director of Coaching. This shift, he notes, comes with a real care to see how people are moving on in their careers and how the team integrates. “I’ve often heard it described as: the machine is really working. The metaphor is that of a high-quality engine,” Ray adds.

This shift into leadership is not without its inner challenges for the individual. As a leader, one has to inquire within and ask themselves: Where am I getting stuck here? What might I need to let go of? How do I measure my own success? What internal shifts might I need to make as a team lead? 

If this role shift, and the inner struggle that comes along with it, sounds familiar, consider these questions for reflection:

  • How do I measure my own success? What internal shifts might I need to make as a team lead? 
  • How do I think about what constitutes “time well spent” in my job? 
  • If I continue to have individual contributor responsibilities, how do I support myself in context-switching throughout a day/week?
  • How might I be holding on to the individual contributor mindset in ways that are unnecessary and/or unhelpful to my team?

In this conversation, Ray and Andy unpack these questions and cite examples from our own practice to uncover ways in which leaders can make this shift in a way that is co-creative with who they are as a leader and from a place of inner confidence. 


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