leadership lane-assist

In the previous My Leadership Lane-Assist post, I offered the following observations: Job descriptions are fluid. Talent and mission fit are constant.

In that post, I was arguing that you should avoid a rigid “slot-filler” approach to position vacancies in your organization. Instead, you should prefer superior talent and mission fit over simple job fit. This same thinking — Adapt your structures to your people, not the other way around — can be transformative when you apply it to yourself and your existing staff members. And that leads to another of my trusted Leadership Lane-Assist prompts:


Look for what energizes you, not just what your capability allows you to do.


Several years ago, my esteemed friend, executive and governance coach, Bob Hodge, introduced to me the following simple, yet revolutionary conceptual framework for thinking about job fit and sustained excellence. Draw a chart with three columns labeled Green, Yellow, and Red.


green yellow red chart


Consider the assigned responsibilities and major activities associated with the job position.

In the RED column, write any aspects of the job you cannot perform well.

Write in the YELLOW column aspects of the job that you can perform well and that many observers might believe constitute key capabilities, even core strengths — yet you know are not truly energizing, but instead energy-depleting for you.

Finally, in the GREEN column, list aspects of the job at which you both excel and in which you are highly energized.

If you’re like me, this will be a significantly illuminating exercise — for you and for any of your staff members to whom you offer the opportunity to apply it. I recommend you undertake this exercise with regard to yourself and other key members of your team periodically, especially when you are looking to fill a major vacancy.

The key takeaway is pretty obvious: Make every effort to ensure that the preponderance of job responsibilities for you and as many of your team members as possible are in the GREEN column.

Don’t get me wrong. Like every analysis tool, this one can be abused. Of course, everyone — including yourself — needs to be a team player. That inevitably requires every one of us regularly to perform some duties that are less energizing and gratifying for the sake of the mission and the team. As my colleague David Medders puts it: sometimes you just have to take one for the team. True. Selfishness comes in many disguises.

But the Leadership Lane-Assist prompt remains valid:

Failure to apply this principle and subject yourself and other members of your team to the above GREEN-YELLOW-RED exercise increases the likelihood of burnout.

What is “burnout”? Here is one good, simple working definition: “a sense of persistent physical, emotional, and spiritual fatigue accompanied by vocational disorientation.” Do you observe those symptoms in yourself or key colleagues?

roles and responsibilitiesPerhaps now would be a good time to perform the GREEN-YELLOW-RED job duties inventory exercise. Perhaps it is time to consider an altogether different job. On the other hand, perhaps the present job can be re-configured to optimize long term sustainability, renewal, and fruitfulness. What adjustments could be made to role-configuration and to job priorities? What redistribution of specific job duties might be possible among your team members in order to move as many duties to each person’s GREEN column as possible?

Mark this well: Neither you nor your colleagues will be effective in the long term if you persist in a job configuration that requires working more in the YELLOW column than in the GREEN column. When you notice your performance and motivation flagging, or that of your colleagues, I highly recommend a re-visit of the GREEN-YELLOW-RED diagram. It could be one of the most personally freeing and organizationally accelerating practices you could ever adopt.

To the extent you can, you as a leader need periodically to review your own role and the roles of your key team members with this Leadership Lane-Assist prompt in clear focus:


Look for what energizes you, not just what your capability allows you to do.


More Leadership Lane-Assist prompts to come …

If you’ve missed any posts from my Leadership Lane-Assist series, you can find them in our 4ThoughtLeaders blog pages.  Or, if you’re just tuning in, you may want to start from the beginning of the series with my Leadership Lane-Assist introductory post.

Fresh gleanings to fuel your leadership awareness, reflection, and conversations …


  Shakespeare’s enduring genius

In this first of a two-part blog series, Philip Yancey observes that, far from cowering under the prospect of trigger-warnings, William Shakespeare mined the depths of English vocabulary and invented phrases that live to this day in order to illuminate the human condition. The truth about humanity is desperately needed in an age when people seem more determined than ever to prove that “men loved darkness rather than light.”

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