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Who vs. How: Which Leadership Camp Are You in?

Jan. 18, 2024
I love process, but lately I've been thinking more about the importance of choosing the right person for the job.

Any of you who have been following my leadership journey know that I love people. I believe individuals have unique abilities and talents that should be celebrated. And, I believe the best organizations are people-centric.

So, when my friend Mark Pancratz, a financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual, gave me a book called “Who Not How” I was intrigued. Mark, a former college basketball coach, knew I would love the concept of hiring the correct people for the right positions on the team.

Yet, as much as I love people, I also know that sometimes companies grow too fast and forget about the how … the processes and systems. I was not to be easily convinced that the Whos are more important than the Hows.

Dr. Benjamin Hardy, the author of “Who Not How,” expands on author/leadership coach Dan Sullivan’s idea that an individual can be more impactful if they focus on their strengths and employ others who have strengths in the tasks that they do not excel at. The team collectively and energetically pursues the organization’s vision.

Hook line and sinker … Dr. Hardy had me convinced. I have seen this play out so many times in small- to medium-size businesses. The founder, creator or leader tries to do everything and be everything. However, they just end up exhausted and don’t have the time and energy to focus on what they are truly good at … their passion, their why.

Now, I can already hear you thinking, “Ashleigh, we do not have the money in the budget to hire people to do the tasks we are not good at.” I get it. I said the same thing once in my previous life as the president of a smaller manufacturing company. But, what if I had hired some things out and focused my time and energy on developing the team and implementing technology and processes to make us more efficient. Would we have been able to do more, faster?

Here is what I learned:

Define Your Unique Abilities

Once you have done an internal self-evaluation and identified your unique abilities, then you can begin the journey from Hows to Whos.

You must first want to change your behavior. And, in order to do that, you must cast a vision for a brighter future. You must identify which activities bring you excitement and energy.

But, you must also identify the activities that suck the energy out of you. Those are the activities that you give to a Who, who simply loves doing them, finding fulfillment and joy.

Give Up Control

As high achievers, most of us believe that we are the best person for the job. News flash … we are not.

There are a lot of other people with unique abilities making them better suited for handling certain Hows. Let them handle the Hows but do not give them the roadmap on how to complete the work. Allow them the autonomy to make decisions, with you providing only an idea of what success looks like.

When each Who has the psychological safety to learn, develop and grow on their path to accomplishing a goal, the outcomes will be more than you could have envisioned (or accomplished by yourself). The results will be rare and remarkable!

Collaboration and Partnerships

Instead of asking “How will I accomplish this goal?” ask “Who can help me accomplish this goal?"

There are many times in my life when I knew, without a doubt, that I did not have all the answers. Did it slow me down? Sure.

My mission became to find individuals or businesses who knew more than I did in their area of expertise. I would learn all that I could from them. And, in most cases, I hired them to help me fill in whatever gap I needed to fill in order to accomplish the goal.

Be humble enough to ask for help and admit you don’t have all the answers. Others want desperately to use their unique talents to have an impact on the world at large.

I encourage you to ask yourself, “What am I currently doing (or putting off doing) that the right Who would love the opportunity to do?” Now, go find your Who!

Ashleigh Walters was president of Onex Inc. through 2022 and is the author of  Leading with Grit and Grace.

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