In my work with growing companies, we often discuss the barriers to growth. My clients will say they’ve hit a wall. So, what exactly is in their way?
Nine times out of ten, it’s a leadership issue.
Before you can become a great leader – and take your company to the next level – you need two basic things: time and knowing where to focus.
The “Do Whatever it Takes” Attitude: Is it Preventing You From Leadership?
As an organization grows, there is a tendency for CEOs, managers, and other leaders to wear many hats. But that carries risk. These are the signs that your focus may need to be adjusted from “doing” to “leading.” Do you…
- feel like you are on a constant treadmill with no idea or plan to get off?
- find yourself working in multiple roles?
- spend time on things you don’t like doing?
- believe you can’t leave or take time off because the organization can’t operate without you?
- notice employees experiencing fatigue and seeming less engaged?
- avoid developing your #2’s?
- feel that your culture is breaking down?
- have difficulty fulfilling customer needs?
- spend less time with your family or miss important events?
If you were nodding your head to most of these questions, it’s time to get focused on your role as a leader. Here’s how:
Write a Job Description for Yourself
I often advise leaders to spend time identifying tasks that drive the most value for their firm. These tasks should also align with what they are best at.
We derive the greatest enjoyment and excitement working in areas that we are truly passionate about.
Focus on the five most important areas that you should be spending your time. They should tie in with what you are best at and what delivers the most significant value to the organization.
Once you’ve identified those tasks, put them into a job description. Yes, you as a CEO or business owner need a job description.
In a start-up business, when everybody did everything, not having a job description was fine. But as your company grows, you need to focus on what you do best.
Set Goals and Share Them
Every business I have worked with has expressed a need for increased levels of accountability across the organization.
Accountability starts as the top.
So, after writing your job description, outline metrics that will measure your progress. Then share it with the entire organization. This provides clarity and holds you accountable for staying focused on the tasks you say you’ll focus on!
In fact, everyone in the organization needs to know what they are accountable for or get paid to do.
Make sure that all roles have job descriptions that are supported by clear performance expectations. Leadership is all about accountability.
Cultivate a High-Performing Leadership Team
You have created your areas of focus. But what about all those other hats you’ve been wearing?
There is work that you need to redistribute across the organization. Tasks that are not related to leadership – or your core 5 focus areas outlined in your job description – should be delegated. (LINK TO ROM’S BLOG HERE).
But there will be additional leadership tasks you can’t do all by yourself. Now, it’s time to lead and deliver results through people versus your individual effort.
As headcount in your company grows, you need to create a leadership team to keep the organization growing effectively.
Take the time to truly understand what you are looking for in new roles as you build your leadership team. Define clearly what business results the new roles will be responsible for delivering. You are paying people to do a job. They need to know what they are responsible for.
Create a repeatable process for how you create new leadership roles and interview both internal and external candidates. Post your new positions internally and externally.
Be sure not to appoint internal candidates into new roles without running them through your internal process. They may be the best candidate, but next-level growth in companies requires discipline and repeatable processes.
Your team will appreciate the consistency and you will have internal team members that will “raise their hand” for new opportunities. Some may be a fit, some may not, but at least you will know, and it will provide you opportunities to have transparent and honest conversations with potential leaders.
Set Priorities and Get Strategic
Great companies are methodical in their ability to identify their most important priorities and create action to deliver on their strategic plan.
Every 90 days, host a planning session. You can do it with your leadership team or solo. Focus on what is most important right now – and how to get it done. Elite leaders limit their priorities to top three to five most impactful initiatives.
Then, they create clear accountability on who will own the initiative and deliver it successfully. (If you’ve taken time to create job descriptions for each role, this will be an easier task!)
Create Consistent Meeting Rhythms
Effective meetings are the lifeblood of successful organizations. They are an opportunity to review performance, make adjustments, and continue to reprioritize the most important initiatives across the organization.
Each meeting should have an agenda and a facilitator responsible for managing the meeting to achieve its goals in a timely fashion.
We suggest that CEOs delegate meeting facilitation to others in the organization, perhaps high-potentials that are trustworthy and looking to gain experience.
Send team members to professional facilitation training to improve their skills. Why should CEOs delegate meeting facilitation? Because when they are in front of the room, they are frequently selling their ideas versus facilitating the meeting to leverage the collective brain trust.
Also, it provides opportunities for the CEO to observe the team dynamics and mine for conflict. The CEO can then ask probing questions that create healthy conflict in the room.
If you are doing this right, meetings at the leadership level should only take about 5% of working time throughout the year. We like to see a cadence of the following:
- Two Days of Strategic Planning
- Three one day session for quarterly review and reprioritization
- One four-hour monthly meeting reviewing monthly performance, hot issues, and updates on priorities
- One 90-minute meeting weekly to discuss hot issues
No Light Switch Effect, But Expect Gradual Change
Great companies don’t become great companies over night. There is no light switch effect for leaders. You can advance your company – and your personal growth – by having a strong focus on leadership. Combine that with a disciplined approach to continuous improvement, culture building, and an openness to the truth… and your company will be unstoppable.
Certified EM Advisor
John has experience running companies from start-up to $50 million a year in revenue and has used the EM Advisor tools and processes to drive organizational growth. He works with CEO’s, business owners, and their leadership teams to consistently and predictably grow their businesses.