Monday, February 19, 2007

Jack Bauer's Management Secrets #1: I need it!

This is part one of a series of posts unlocking the valuable management secrets and strategies of 24's best agent: Jack Bauer. What is it that makes Jack successful? Sure, he's a great shot, he's been trained in all sorts of combat, sometimes he's lucky, clearly he's very driven.

But what really makes Jack a winner are his managament skills. Jack successfully motivates and manages, he handles superiors and subordinates, he gains people's trust, he has high integrity, he's a team player and ultimately he helps his team win time and again.

These posts look into Jack's management secrets. In part one I look out how Jack creates a sense of urgency while at the same time binding his team together towards a common goal. And he does all of that with a simple phrase: 'I need it!'.

I need it!

Jack doesn't say "I want this done" or "You must do this", he tells his team members (especially, Chloe) "I need it!". Why's that so important?

Firstly, by saying "I need it!" Jack makes his request personal. It's not a simple matter of something having to be done, it's that Jack (in his position of authority) needs the task completed for his own success. That's an important technique because it binds the manager's success along with the subordinate's success. If the person Jack is asking successfully completes the task they can see clearly that they've been successful personally, made the manager successful and by extension made the entire team more successful.

It also gives the employee a sense of empowerment and reason for their work. Since they know the manager needs the task completed, instead of merely wanting it done, the employee feels that the task is worth accomplishing.

Contrast that with a classic pointy-haired manager who spits out orders without being personally involved. An employee just sees the manager as a conduit for orders that probably came from above them. There's no sense that the manager is in any way involved in the decision making process, or even cares about the outcome.

Of course, it's not enough for Jack to say that he needs it, he needs to provide justification and clarity. He does this in two ways: he briefly explains why, and he sets a clear time frame. Because he's built trust with the team (a subject of a separate post) he can briefly explain his reasons without fuss, and tell the employee when the task must be completed.

Here's Jack speaking to Chloe in Season 5:

Chloe, listen to me, I have a thumb drive that's going to help us find the sentox. I need you to data mine the files.

He makes a clear request 'data mine the files', he gives a clear reason 'going to help us find the sentox' and states that he needs it. In this case he doesn't state when, because it's clear from the context that 'when' is 'asap'.

So, how can you apply Jack's "I need it!" technique in the work place? You just need to remember the three step C T U plan whenever setting a task:

C is for Context: explain the context of the request so it's clear why you are asking for a particular task to be completed.
T is for Timeframe: make sure that the expected deadline or timeframe is clearly stated.
U is for Urgency: communicate your sense of urgency by specifying that this is something you need.


Barry Kelly said...

Jack Bauer is a facist! :)

Sean said...

Hey you're exactly right. JB is a top flight manager for the 21st century.

The Jack Sack said...

That's fantastic! What a goofy yet accurate post.

Laurie said...

Jack gets things done period!

Laurie said...

jack gets things done he doesn't waste time waiting on other people