Do the Right Things.

So many people focus on the tiny details of their jobs. They are rewarded to sweat the details. In some fields the details are critical, such as medical care, clinical research, nuclear energy; in many fields, however, this focus on details impedes authentic growth.


As a result, people are doing their jobs, but a lack of leadership vision and managerial muscle craft a wheel of production where talent is wasted on needless processes and protocols, rather than invested in creating value for the organization.


In essence, professionals are rewarded for doing what they are told, even if what they are told is nonessential, wasteful, or just busy work. What a waste of human capital from a company perspective. Even worse, when people sit idle doing purposeless tasks they do not live up to their human potential. What a shame for every individual where this process bloat occurs.


You could claim, therefore, that poor management is an inhibitor of humanity, a curse of control the mediocre and inept enact on others.


Such cultures self-elect who stays and who goes, so the social reinforcements reward diminished work and punish those who are intrinsically entrepreneurial.


Those who are both talented and driven leave as soon as they feel stifled by minutia. You are left with well-intentioned people who value having a job over making their mark in the field or the world. As a result, you greatly decrease your company’s ability to discover new high-margin growth, retain top talent, or craft the kind of culture that embraces new opportunity.


In Good to Great Jim Collins spoke of an important exercise for leaders. The essence of his prescription was that every effective leader needed not a To-Do list, but rather a Do-Not-Do list. While this behavioral tool helps leaders navigate their next moves, a Do-Not-Do list would benefit the managerial ranks and the professionals that work under them more.


Imagine if every director and manager spent several quiet days reflecting on what efforts were wasteful, useless, unnecessary, and which processes were redundant, over-engineered, or not worth doing anymore. Then, each one had the authority to create a Do-Not-Do list for themselves and their team. Productivity levels would rise to unprecedented heights. Collaboration would compound. Departments would be trying to out optimize one another, but also willing to share tips and insights.


What kind of workplace do you want to create? If it is one where positive change and growth are encouraged and embodied, don’t encumber the culture with menial tasks that are rigidly managed.


Only empowered people can transform into peak performers, people who do the right things and question the practices that aren’t quite right. These same people—emerging leaders, many of whom are creating and executing their personal Do-Not-Do lists—will not tolerate work-for-work’s sake. They seek significance and meaning. Don’t manage the potential out of them.


Do things, but make sure you and team focus on doing the right things, things that matter.



Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN and the author of Going Electric. Visit to learn more.