Run your business. Don't work it.

The series premier of Yellowstone on the Paramount Network engaged viewers in a beautifully executed rollercoaster ride of action and emotion, placing it solidly in the top tier of quality television drama.

But leave it to the org dev folks at Wayforward to find the most interesting plot point of the pilot to be the struggle of protagonist and patriarch of the vast Yellowstone-Dutton ranch, John Dutton, to groom his adult children to succeed him.

During a fateful drive, John (played by Kevin Costner) has a brief but tense exchange with his oldest son Lee (played by David Annable). Of John Dutton’s four children, Lee is the most involved in the day-to-day operation of the ranch and John’s obvious favorite. When John expresses frustration at Lee’s approach to becoming the eventual leader of the enterprise, Lee protests, “I’m out here runnin’ things every day.”

To which John replies, “That’s not runnin’ it. That’s workin’ it.”

John Dutton’s incredibly successful--albeit fictional--ranch is the largest in the United States. One would assume that this was not accomplished without a deep understanding and dedication to a strong leadership philosophy.

Fiction can often provide apt insights into our real-world challenges. From this simple exchange in Yellowstone, we can see mirrored the situations Wayforward frequently finds ourselves in when coaching leaders.


There’s working in the business. And there’s working on the business.

When a leader gets dragged into the daily machinations of an organization, they’re neglecting their real function. And they’re unintentionally damaging their own business.

That isn’t to say that a symbolic willingness to roll up your sleeves and help out with a front-line task doesn’t hold significant value. In fact, doing so displays an extremely important understanding of and respect for the day-to-day work of your people. But if you are involving yourself in routine tasks, management activities, or decisions that are not strategic because you must, just to keep things running, this is where the value stops.

Engaging in tasks better suited to the people who comprise your organization does little besides undermining and disempowering your employees. Every process that you become involved in slows down. And it eats away at your time and ability to focus on where you actually add the most value for the long-term success of your business. Put simply, it makes everyone in your company--including yourself--less effective.


Understanding and respecting the day-to-day work that delivers value to your customers is integral to leadership. But part of that respect is the key responsibility to stay out of it. Let your staff do what they do best. Learn to see your job as protecting them from problems--not becoming one for them.

Stop workin’ it. Start runnin’ it.


And if you need help getting out of the day-to-day? Schedule a consult with Wayforward and let's talk. 


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