Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge


The first business book I ever bought for myself was Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge, by Geoffrey M. Bellman.  At the time, almost twenty years ago, I was still in a staff job and hadn’t yet become a manager.  Bellman’s messages hit home with me, particularly his starting sentence: “You are not in charge.”

None of us is in charge of every aspect of our lives.  But we can all take charge of far more of our life than we do.

This post outlines Bellman’s model for success when you are in a support role (as we all are in some aspect of our life).  The questions to consider in each section are mine. 

1. Understand the job of helping others succeed. 

Recognize that you are not the person in charge, but appreciate the value and expertise you bring to your organization.  And remember that you are in charge of your life – you are responsible for making decisions that are congruent with your values. 

Consider:  What choices and decisions do you make to align your role with the business and the business with your values?

2. Lead when you are not in a position of authority

Just because you are not in charge does not mean you should not lead.  Your leadership grows out of your belief in yourself, in the people you work with, and in the value your profession brings to the business.  According to Bellman, you lead through vision, intuition, and appropriate risk-taking.  These traits are not limited to line managers – everyone in the business possesses them to some extent. 

Consider:  How do you use your vision, intuition and risk-taking to influence the business?

3. Understand and influence change

There are many models of change dynamics.  Bellman’s is a triangle of (1) who the players are, (2) what the players want, and (3) what the current state is – basically, how the players can get from what is to what they want.  Then Bellman puts YOU in the middle – how can YOU help the players get from where they are to what they want. 

This is a basic model of customer service – which is the function of any staff role.  And most line roles also have customers.

Consider:  What do the people who are your customers want? What is the gap between what they want and the current state? How can you help them get what they want?

# # #

This brief summary doesn’t do justice to Bellman’s book.  It only addresses the first of six parts of his book.

Combine Bellman’s three-part model for success in a staff role (any role where you are not in charge) with the concept of discretionary time I wrote about several weeks ago, and you have a roadmap for taking charge of your life.

Are you interested in learning more about leadership in a staff position?  If so, please let me know in the comments below. 

I’d also appreciate any comments answering one or more of the questions posed in this post.

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1 Comment

Filed under Employee Engagement, Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Workplace

One response to “Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge

  1. Pingback: What Do You Do When Your Work Colleagues Act in Bad Faith? | Sara Rickover, Behind the Corporate Veil

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