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Rethinking the Most Important Role

I am a fan of Adam Grant's books and podcasts. His last book "Rethinking" was all about how we should go about rethinking concepts so we can grow. In his podcasts, he asks guests what is something they have recently rethought. It is a great exercise - because we should evolve in our thinking. In fact, when reading new books, I try to use the points of the book to see if it makes me rethink something I believe.

A recent example: I was reading a great new book "Power to the Middle". The premise of the book is that middle managers have been much maligned and are a key to a successful organization. One reason I call it great is because I could have wrote it - most of the things in the book are things I've been teaching and saying for years. Even though I agreed with almost everything in the book, one key assertion forced me to rethink a position.

The book says a few times that the middle manager has the critical role in communications and strategy execution. It stated that the middle manager was the most important element of the business process in today's world. I firmly believe that. I should say "believed" that - I've rethought that concept.

My belief now is that there is no "most important" role in the healthy organizational structure. The importance comes from the 3 different hierarchies and how they work together. Every organization needs the executive level to develop strategy and deploy resources, the middle manager to communicate strategy and ensure execution, and the individual contributor level to execute. If any one of those is lacking, the organization will struggle and probably fail.

Instead of creating a competition (my role is "most" important), we need to acknowledge that all roles are critical. We need to focus on how they interact and serve each other instead of which deserves the highest pay and most credit. This seems like a simple and common sense approach, but I bet most of us see these levels as unequal. Depending on where we are, we think we do the work and the others are minor players or even impediments.

Where can we go if we see all three levels as equals?

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