Whether you are a business owner, a manager or a VP aiming for the C-suite, there is one thing you need to realize. At some point you need to convert. Push yourself to contract or hire great talent and develop your management staff. Be thoughtful in how you select, structure and manage your team and it will propel you.
I have been part of teams and have selected members of teams. Let me provide some perspectives.
Are you willing to accept strong personalities in your midst? You need both drivers and maintainers on your staff. People you can send to put out fires and people to keep the place humming while you are gone. These are different temperaments, a mix you need to balance.
Obviously, trust is important. I tell people I trust them until I have reason not to, and then I never trust them again. The people you choose are a reflection of you, the good and the bad. Yes men will be your undoing.
Do you need to like everybody all the time? You sometimes need a dissenting voice, if for nothing else to act as a barometer, a gage of the health of your organization. You can still maintain order without suppressing dissent or verve. If everyone marches in lock step, you will only accomplish mediocrity. Don’t be blinded by liking a colleague either. Competence is competence. If it’s not there, move on.
Consider the structure. Is it a council, committee or a court? Are you a peer, first among equals, or an absolute ruler? Make the organization nimble and flexible. I feel loose reigns bring out the best in people. When deliberating, I prefer free-form thinking, the Socratic Method. Reason together but beware of group think. Nobody knows what you are thinking but you. Is the message clear?
Stiff, formal meetings lead to rigid thought and court politics as motivations become distorted. You run into trivial things like who is sitting at the power chair or who is handling the laser pointer. I even saw a chief get really mad and we actually adjourned because his “special” donut had been eaten. Don’t be that guy. You are merging disparate individuals into a whole. Not to sound Arthurian, but get a round table.
It may be hard to relinquish control, but take solace in the fact that you make the final decisions. Once a course is decided then you tighten up on the reigns a bit. Delegate, establish clear expectations with a timeline and let them go to it. Support and consult them but don’t micro-manage because this undermines their self-confidence and initiative. You will find out if they have what it takes quickly, and be willing to accept a few missteps as relationships and rhythm with others develop.
It is all behavioral and it will gel. Hone their abilities. You are striving to create the sharp instrument not the dull blade. Question decisions in a supportive manner. Stress anticipation not reaction. They will then become capable of handling rapid changes in priorities and resources.
Grow in manageable proportions. Don’t saturate your staff with too much at once. I have seen experienced managers crack in public because there simply was not enough time in the day to complete tasks. Make sure there is alignment between responsibilities and capabilities. For example, don’t chain your operations manager to a desk with administrative chores, he or she should be out on the floor.
Also, if you give them a nice desk and the trappings of position, they have a place to hide. One enlightened principal I worked for actually removed all the managers’ desks and placed them in storage. Sure, there was disruption but the point was taken.
Thoughtful, achievable, incremental steps create a strong foundation and foster dedication. Their success in achievement makes them more apt to accept greater responsibility. If you overload them and set them up to fail, they will recoil. Analyze routines and eliminate redundancy. There is such a thing as too “Lean.” If you need to hire or contract more people to evenly distribute the workload that is a good problem to have.
You have to manage yourself as well as others. Growing as a person as you grow the business is essential. Do you have character flaws? Can you listen? Do you need to be the smartest guy in the room? Smarter people keep you on your toes, enjoy it. You are improving each other. Authorship means that if it is not your idea it is not a good one. I have seen people choose the wrong path simply for spite, jealousy, or to affirm their position.
If you reject good ideas for the wrong reasons, you don’t deserve your position. Also, be aware others are watching you and may begin to question your purposes, eroding loyalty. Then morale will slip and they start to jump ship.
Remember, people that deserve and earned the role are humble. Not to get too Freudian, but people that get it easy, or don’t deserve it, are overly ostentatious and are clearly compensating for their inadequacies. Insecurity or indecisiveness also begets suspicion, resentment and secrecy. Ranks are artificial. It is what you project as a person that defines you and your team not your title.
One goal should be the betterment of others. If you are worried about someone taking your job then you are too insecure to lead in the first place. I have always told people that I want them to have my job because you only move up if there is someone to replace you. This empowers them. They need to think about developing their replacement too.
This should not be used as manipulation and you certainly don’t want them to scratch and claw at each other for the role, but you have probably chosen overachievers and they need a path. Let those that helped you achieve your vision share in your prosperity. One way to share is advancement.
Getting authority is easier than keeping it. History is replete with instances where true innovators did not have the ability to convert. They had the drive, vision and passion to rage against the machine. Then they burned bright before they burnt out like a Greek tragedy. Often times it’s because they couldn’t separate their ego from their accomplishments. Aristotle said, “Dignity comes not from possessing honors but from deserving them.”
Sure, sometimes you have to have an edge or even be harsh, but if you play to people’s strengths this will be minimal. Never degrade someone fighting for your cause and know what is appropriate to discuss in public. Be just. Temper your determination with wisdom, introspection and empathy when dealing with those that aid you.
You can easily sabotage yourself without good council. Advisors are important because they can be in the same room with you and witness the same situation but come away with a completely different interpretation. You need this sounding board, another filter besides your own. If you alienate your people or they fear you their opinions become skewed.
You need spectacular people around you. Seek people that excel in their chosen field and gain adherents to your cause. You are not seeking handlers but guides.
Not an entourage but a working staff. Be sure not to go in a bubble and never create or elevate gatekeepers. Be rational, bring out the best in people, they will bring out the best in you, and all will succeed. It might cost you, but it is worth it.
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