I’m working with an executive who’s serving in a general manager-kind of role. He’s always been good at his job but recently was asked to help supervise expansion of the business into a branch operation. This is something new for him and generated some uncertainty as he approached the work. Turns out, this is something he’s really good at and he’s been recognized for leading the new branch team really successfully. As a result, he’s been asked to take on a regional role over several branches. He’s, of course, happy for the recogntion and broader scope to his work. But it did raise questions for him: this feels really different, what should I be thinking about now?
Be careful what you wish for. That’s the case sometimes when you’re promoted or your scope of responsibility expands. It’s great that you get to have more influence, have potentially more impact on the organization’s culture and results. But it also often means that that your thoughts and priorities need to shift, you might need to delegate more, communicate more clearly and compellingly.
As your role grows and you take on more responsibility or a larger team, below is a list of questions to be thinking about which can help set the right priorities.
1. What are the Core Success Factors- What are the 3-4 things that must be true if the organization is to be successful right now? In most businesses there are a small number of areas which ultimately drive success. These may be complex to execute or require collaboration among many folks, but it often boils a core set of principles. I keep this list small because it can get overwhelming if you start to list everything. And, keeping the priorities list short allows you and your team to focus. You can help yourself and the team by bringing clarity to a short list of hyper-important factors.
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” ~ Warren Buffet
2. How will you measure progress in these success factors? Some organizations call these KPIs or metrics but the key is having reliable and accessible measurement of progress. It’s essential that the numbers be reliable because people need to rely on and trust the data to make decisions. And the metrics must be accessible, i.e., people across the organization must have ready access to the same set of numbers so you can be talking about solutions rather than problems with the data. So many organizations stumble because people are relying on different measures of success. Build a system where everyone understands, has access to, and trusts the key meaurements of progress.
3. Are we building the right team?- this can be called ‘having the right people on the bus in the right seats’. This just means aligning the critical success factors with people capable of excelling in delivering in these areas. Sometimes that means waiting for the exact right person but it’s worth it. And you’ll notice that, when someone isn’t in the right role, it has an outsized effect on your time and ability to accomplish your goals. I’m an advocate of being continually in recruiting mode (not necessarily hiring mode) but always have an idea of what strengths are needed on this team and always having conversations with people that might be a fit. Also, it’s helpful to ensure that people are working in their strengths- the biggest driver of performance is people working in their strengths every day.
4. What does success look like? It’s the Leader’s job to set the standard of quality within the organization- what does a good customer experience look like, what should be a good attrition rate, what margin should we be expecting, etc. This isn’t about setting unattainable goals; it’s about ensuring that people know what’s expected and have the resources to meet those expectations. People like to be challenged and stretched; they respond well to high expectations, as long as they are reasonable, and the team has the resources to accomplish them. If the Leader isn’t consistent in establishing clear outcomes, it’s terrifically difficult to build consistently high performance.
5. Is our communication clear and compelling? Ensure people understand where you’re going and why. Be a relentless drumbeat of what it is we’re trying to accomplish and why it’s important. Keep it as clear and simple and as consistent as possible. When people know what’s expected and why it’s important, it becomes so much easier to deliver.
6. Finally, what’s the highest and best use of my time? We’re all called to wear many hats in our work. However, I like to think about the Leader getting so focused and efficient as to be only doing those things that others cannot. As a Leader, your time is ideally invested in setting the vision, defining success and ensuring the teams have the resources needed to be successful. This means delegating effectively, letting go of tasks and decisions that can be done at lower levels. A good first step is to take a hard look at your calendar over the next month- what are the meetings I’m in that I don’t need to be in? Here’s a test you can use to determine whether you need to be in a meeting: Am I there to 1) make a decision 2) be informed about a future decision or 3) providing direction to a colleague so that person can do their job effectively. If the meeting is outside those parameters, you need to be thinking about whether it’s a good use of your time. Getting to a place where you’re only doing things others cannot is likely one of those unattainable goals, but one you can be working on all of the time, and it’ll drive you to greater efficiency and impact.