Vistage has a very good strap line:
“We are dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of Chief Executives”
and that encapsulates one of the issues that I have encountered of late with the members of my Chief Executive peer group.
It’s an odd fact that as the economy really does start to grow and activity intensifies, it brings with it different issues; in effect growing pains.
The businesses across the board are busy, often in direct terms with significant growth in both turnover and profitability
During the recession costs were cut and this meant almost invariably that activities like training and marketing were severely restricted.
This has led to a shortage of good qualified people with consequent pressure on the existing staff.
The overall effect is that the leader, in most cases, has taken on more and different roles and has significantly more people reporting direct.
The result is longer hours, yet more upward delegation, spreading the workload over more people with consequent dilution of effort followed inevitably by devoting more and more time to the business.
While we are much busier, most sensible leaders understand that something needs to be done to alleviate the load that all too often can be the day-to-day stuff that others should be doing.
Ask yourself: how much time do you devote to the business at weekends? Can you really devote time and effort to the family when your mind is racing with business matters?
Leaders need to make time to think about the business and that requires a leap of faith. It means that the leader should actually allocate specific chunks of the working week just to think about the business.
US Vistage speaker, Walt Sutton, used to say that all leaders should have one day a quarter at least on the diary in order to take a metaphorical (or actual) walk on the beach, without smart phone or recording machine; just to think and then let the subconscious get on with deciding what to do.
Another potential solution for the overloaded leader is the dreaded restructuring of the business.
The rationale generally goes something like this; I am overloaded and I have too many direct reports so we need to restructure so that I have fewer people reporting to me and that should relieve the pressure.
The key to any restructuring of the business is to decide at the start precisely why it is being done. A Vistage speaker many years ago said that the only reason to restructure a business is to improve the service to the customer.
How many restructures have that in mind?
More often than not it is done in order to move people around, to sideline the inadequate, to promote the best people and generally to take load off the leader.
In fact any restructuring should initially be done ignoring the current incumbents; by designing a structure that will close the gap between our current level of service to the desired level and to decide which functions need to be strengthened.
Only at that point should we see who we have available to fill the positions and that can mean that there could be blood on the carpet as a consequence.
An executive management team should never comprise more than five or six covering the main functions of the business, operations, finance, sales, marketing, HR and so on as appropriate.
It has been said that the great leaders appoint exceptional talent to these top positions and then get out of their way to let them get on with it and even more importantly, to learn from them.
Never let a restructuring of the business degenerate into a mere reshuffle of the pack. Remember that the objective is to improve the service to the customer and to close the gap between the existing and desired state.
That should ensure that the right people are in place, that the decision making process is understood and the leader will have time to think; to work ON the business rather than IN the business.
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