A Critical Business “Must Do” – Share It At Your Peril
There was a disaster on the mountain K2 a few years back, where a large number of climbers were killed. A survivor outlined his perception of what caused the tragedy. It was a simple truth that lives every day in our business lives, and beyond. It’s not for sharing. You absolutely HAVE to do it alone. Here it is.
Several groups of climbers, of various nationalities, had ended up at the same point at the same time on the climb to the summit of K2, one of the highest peaks in the world. Huddled together that night, they agreed to continue the last stage to the top as one group. They split up and shared the responsibilities amongst the teams. That sealed their fate. The next day, a series of simple mountaineering sacrosanct rules were broken, and many climbers plunged to their deaths.
What went wrong? Simply this:
When you share responsibility, you relax.
There was a scenario at work some years ago. We were planning to merge two businesses, where we believed 1+1=3… that the combination of these two teams would create a more powerful, leading edge capability in their business. My colleague wanted to oversee the process of communicating and managing the changes to one of the businesses, and I’d do the other, and then they would begin the process of merging with both of us supervising. NO FRICKEN WAY! One person HAS to be ultimately accountable and responsible, keeping the view across every aspect of the project, living and breathing it, ensuring that no stone is left unturned.
By sharing responsibility, inevitably, critical steps would be missed, inaccurate assumptions made, key conversations not held, and mistakes would inevitably unfold.
That’s what happened on K2 that day. Each team assumed the other groups were ticking the boxes on vital steps. They all relaxed. And when you relax, it’s a ticking clock to disaster.
So here’s the message.
Take full responsibility whenever you are able to. Make it clear that the buck stops with you. Ensure your colleagues know exactly what is expected of them, and what they can expect from you. But YOU take the initiative to lead, to sweat every aspect, to be persistently relentless in ensuring no relaxation- no slip ups, no oversight.
And if you are NOT responsible, clarify up front who is, and ensure you’re aligned on exactly what is expected of your role in the project.
When you are in a key leadership role, the ‘buck’ always stops with you, right. That means you don’t blame others when things go wrongs. You take it, learn the valuable lesson, grow from it, and move on. But that does not mean every project is 100% your operational responsibility to get done. That’s impossible. This is where we work with colleagues and share the workload. That’s fine.
But ensure absolute clarity as to expectations, and who is responsible. And if it is you, then step up and deliver.
Make sure there is no room for ‘sharing’ that buck on a specific project – it either stops with you, or it stops with your colleague. Clarity. And then no relaxation until it is nailed…until you’ve reached the peak, and got home safely.
It’s a lesson those climbers learnt that sad day on K2, many paying the ultimate price in the process. Learn from it. Never share responsibility (oh, but always share the credit).