Getting It Done

How To Lead When You’re Not In Charge

By Roger Fisher & Alan Sharp
Getting It Done book cover by Roger Fisher and Alan Sharp. The title is in big bold yellow text. The background looks like a pinstripe suit, with a thumbs-up coming out of the O in Done.
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Getting It Done is all about helping you develop leadership skills for the workplace, even if you are not a leader by job title. It might feel like no one would ever listen to you without the right promotion, but that is not the case.

Your actions can cause someone to ignore your requests and never help you, or they can motivate someone to work hard towards a shared goal. There are tons of ideas in this book for how to work better with your colleagues.

Main Points

It turns out that collaboration is difficult. Robots on an assembly line are designed to work together with precision. People are not.

You can change things even if you’re not officially in charge by using lateral leadership. You can improve the collaboration of your team simply by being a good member of that team. Getting It Done is all about interpersonal communication skills, respect, and planning.

You need to respect their opinions, ideas, contributions, and even mistakes. We are all humans with feelings, and you will get the best relationships and therefore outputs from colleagues when you treat them as a whole, real person.

This is really hard to do. It takes practice, perseverance, and constant review and improvement. Evaluate different interactions you have with your peers and how they respond. Do they close off and stop listening? Assume you did something wrong and figure out how to improve. Do they get excited to contribute? You did a good thing and should keep doing that.

Fisher & Sharp list 5 elements relevant to getting things done:

  1. Purpose
  2. Thinking
  3. Learning
  4. Engagement
  5. Feedback

So let’s go through each of these.


Unless what you do today is related to where you want to end up, you will never get there.

This is a basic element to work in general. How can you be successful if you don’t know what you’re trying to do? Additionally, not having a reason for doing something will cause you to lose your motivation to do it, FAST.

Define your own purpose at your workplace. What do you want or need to accomplish to fulfill your responsibilities?

Then define the purpose of your team or department together. What are you collectively trying to get done? Codifying this will help you work together toward a common goal.


Thinking is how you stay on track toward your purpose. Use thinking to turn your ideas into concrete plans, develop discipline in your work, and focus on your tasks.

When problems arise, start with yourself. How can you improve your own actions to solve the problem?

When you are working with your team on a problem, separate the people from the issue. Make it very clear that there is no blame for the problem, and it is not a threat to anyone. Make it safe within your organization to talk about problems openly without fear of blame, just a focus on solutions.


Don’t think of action as a single stage of activity at the end of which there is a final product.

Action and thinking are codependent activities. Action is redirected by thinking, and thinking is guided by information gathered during action. Neither is effective for very long without the other.

You should constantly be in a state of learning, letting your lessons guide your activities in your workplace.


There is an enormous difference between telling others what to do and inviting them to participate.

Fisher & Sharp have a lot of advice about delegation. When delegating to someone, whether you are their boss or not, that person will respond much better to invitations than to orders. Ask them a question. Offer a suggestion. Model a behavior. These are ways to guide people to a desired action.

Work should be delegated to the lowest level competent to do it. This maximizes each person’s contribution by giving them the most important task that they can handle effectively.

Explain the desired result of the task, and leave the method up to the person doing it. They may come up with a completely new, innovative approach that will complete the task much faster than they way you expect them to.


Separate appreciation from advice from evaluation.

There is also a lot of advice in Getting It Done on giving feedback to peers. This is a very important part of lateral leadership. DO NOT tell others what to do, which implies they have lower status.

Whatever you say to someone, they will interpret it from their perspective, not yours. You may think that your feedback is friendly and constructive, while they take it as a rude personal slight. They won’t like the message, and will reject the contents.

Create a supportive environment, rather than a competitive one. Wins for anyone on the team should be a win for everyone on the team.


So remember the five elements of Getting It Done:

  1. Purpose– It’s hard to get something done if you don’t know what it is
  2. Thinking– Develop discipline and focus, and turn ideas into plans
  3. Learning– Test your ideas in the real world
  4. Engagement– Stimulate your commitment by delegating tasks appropriately
  5. Feedback– Observe your results, take and receive advice, and create a supportive rather than competitive environment

Take these principles into your workplace, and see if they help you to get things done.

Want to read more? Find Getting It Done here: Bookshop

The quotes above were gathered using Readwise. It’s a truly amazing app to help you remember what you read. If you want to try it out, use my link and we both get a free month 🙂

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