Monday, October 20, 2008

ATR: "Take the Hill!"

A bit earlier today, I was feeling somewhat like ARMA's version of "Joe the Plumber". Seems that ARMA President John Frost mentioned my name in connection with the title of this post during his keynote. John snagged that little soundbite and I guess I'll have to start using it as my trademark...

So here's the back story... John and I had dinner a few weeks ago just outside Chicago. We were talking about lots of things and I mentioned to John that I felt that I really had begin to understand what sorts of qualities leadership really embodied. The case in point was understanding how a soldier can leap out of a foxhole, run into machine gun fire, and attempt to take an enemy position all on command of his superior. Now we know that the business world is not completely analogous to warfare, but there are some parallels. What I said to John was that when you absolutely believe that you are doing not only the right thing, but something that is important; when you trust that superior absolutely; when you know that he (or she) is going to be right there alongside you; you will take the hill. And in the business world, you might ask your boss how many casualties are to be incurred and when the hill is to be delivered. The key elements, however, are absolute trust and and knowing that your boss isn't going to leave you exposed. When you have that kind of support, anything is possible.

Coupled with leadership is boldness, confidence, and a sense that what you're doing is meaningful and the right thing to do. What is also clear is that you need a well-defined goal that you don't have to describe in excruciating detail. "Take the hill" means that you have a shared sense of goal and that everyone understands how that is to happen, without a detailed order describing who has to do what. Everyone already knows what they need to do. The mission is clear. Underlying that is an intense system of defining roles and scope of activities and getting everyone to understand what needs to happen when you move out.

When you are trying to get good records management moving forward in your organization, you need to ensure that everyone knows what they need to do. You have to set a clear vision of the goal. You have to make sure that everyone trusts that what you're doing is the right thing. Only then can you take the hill.