Words & Sports

The Magic Johnson Plan: Let People Do Their Jobs

And Why You Should Too


Magic Johnson was recently hired to be the next President of Basketball Operations of the Los Angeles Lakers. Now, anytime we get to hear from the legends of the 80’s and 90’s is a win in my book, but more than that, I like what Magic Johnson said in his first press conference as a front office member of the LA Lakers.

To summarize, he said he is going to find people who know how to do their jobs and he is going to trust them to do it. His statement got me thinking. Here is this NBA legend, this successful businessman and passionate leader, and he is saying he is going to bring people in, arm them with his vision and ultimate goals, but how they go about their jobs, that is up to them.

Smart man.

In any project, in any activity, there is the how and there is the why. As a business leader, I’ve given many hows. We all have. It just doesn’t seem to help, much. What I’ve realized is that if the people I’ve brought on really understand their work, they can figure the how out for themselves. If they have questions, they’ll ask, but they won’t have many. The people who need you to tell them every little thing are the people in the wrong line of work to begin with. They won’t last, even if you do give them the how.

Magic Johnson plans to start from the other direction. As Simon Sinek says, “Start with Why.” Tell them why the business exists. Tell them why they have a job. Tell them what you want them to accomplish.

Part of this is about motivation and meaning. People have a need to understand why their work is important. But part of it is just telling people where you need them to get to—let them figure out how to get there.

The reality is, you hired these people to take care of how for you. How isn’t your job, and they don’t need you for that. But they do need you for why. Why has to come from you.

So why not give them it all? Tell them what to do, how to do it, and why to do it? Why back off and trust, the way Magic Johnson says he plans to?

Because they may have a better how than you do. You have to get out of their way.

Basically, we’re talking about not being a micromanager, and that’s hard. The temptation is always to try to control everything, and lots of people say they will back off and then they jump back in. It will be interesting to watch Magic Johnson in his new role with the Los Angeles Lakers to see how he handles it.




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Image of  Johnson was taken by the Kip-koech under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license