When working with a leadership team, the CEO, or even the owner, one of my biggest objectives is for them to stop being “doers” and to start “leading”. For this to happen, they need to do three things:
- Truly start thinking
- Become teachers, facilitators, and coaches
- Build communication and trust
In this post, we will review these from a high level then I will provide a full blog post on each step and how to improve upon them in the following weeks.
- Thinking. I know, I know…I get push back on this. “How can someone run a hundred-million-dollar company and not think?” Yes, all leaders think – A LOT! However, this thinking is typically done “in” the business, not “on” the business. When I suggest that a senior leader needs to learn to think, I mean in the sense of thinking about the business, the future, the trends, the challenges, the potential blind spots, etc. This is high-level thinking that is truly the highest and best use of a senior leader’s time. Often, though, this is last on the list of priorities. In my observation, their primary reason for not focusing on the business at a high level is that they don’t have enough time. Well, I would assert that it is one of the key requirements of the job, and if they need to let go of other things to think about the business, then they must do it. Remember, if you are not taking the time to step back, think, and work “on” the business, it is likely that no one else in your organization is either. And where does that leave the organization?
- Becoming teachers, facilitators, and coaches. We all have the same number of hours in a day. For an organization’s leaders to grow and break through ceilings, transition from “doers” to leaders,” it requires a shift in how they interact with their direct reports (and, in some cases, with those they personally report to). If the primary way you have achieved growth in the past has been through working harder and by forcing more cycles of the same productivity into the same 24 hours, you will face limitations. Not only does this burn out you and your team, it leaves little time to think and work on the business. In addition, this is the example and culture you are setting with your team. The situation described above stifles innovation, creativity, and efficiency. To grow out of this, senior leaders should start investing heavily in teaching, facilitating, and coaching their direct reports to elevate them to become leaders and coaches. This is the fastest way to grow and actually do more with less. The further into the organization we go, the less this may be true; but for much of the senior-level staff members, helping their team leaders truly learn to lead, manage, and hold their own teams accountable is paramount. I spend a lot of time here and it never ceases to amaze me, regardless of the degree or experience, how often this area of an organization is neglected.
- Build communication and trust. I believe this may be the top limiting factor to an individual’s growth within an organization. Just as teaching, facilitating, and coaching can be applied to our direct reports and to those we report to, so does building clear communication and trust. This is often the missing link to leadership. For growth to occur, we have to be willing to delegate responsibilities, tasks, and accountabilities of critical components of the business. Most owners, senior executives, and managers have experienced the negative side of not delegating. I bet the majority of these leaders can reflect back to a time when they delegated a task or when something was delegate to them, and the outcome was an unadulterated train wreck. As a result, most of us go into this process with nervousness and skepticism. To avoid this and to transition from being doers to leaders, we have to be honest about what we are expecting, open about our concerns, be curious to know how others would approach the challenge, and be willing to overcommunicate the steps being taken to address them. Learning how to be comfortable with how our direct reports think and to trust in their abilities is imperative.
With intention and work, it is possible for each of us become great leaders.
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