Pulling workers in same direction can be like taking 13 dogs for a walk

Dear Joan:
I have recently been promoted to the senior level position in a branch office of a major corporation. I was told I was promoted because I am a good financial and business manager and I have a reputation for being good at developing new business. Where I lack experience is in the people side of the enterprise. The office I will be managing is in fairly good financial shape but there will need to be changes made that I know some people will resist.

I believe I have credibility with the staff and I am at ease with people. I have been a manager for over ten years but not at this level. Now that everyone looks to me to "lead" and the home office is looking to me to produce, I’m wondering if you have any words of wisdom to guide me. I want this assignment to work, since the opportunity for advancement in the parent company is attractive to me.

Many people say, "If I ran this company…" but few actually get the chance. Running a branch office will give you the opportunity to flex your entrepreneurial muscles, while reporting to the home office will test your political savvy. The third component, leading others, will be the other critical piece of the puzzle. If you aren’t an effective leader, the rest of your goals will stall.

Here are some observations from my work with CEO’s and senior managers:

§      Take time to figure out what you want the organization to be and where you want it to go.

Estimate how much communication and education it will take, in order to get everyone on board-- and then triple it. The big lesson most new CEO’s learn, is that getting everyone to share the same picture is a lot like taking 13 dogs for a walk at the same time. Some want to race ahead, others want to explore, some have to be dragged. In the process the leashes can become a tangled mess and you have to stop and unwind it before you can go on.

One meeting or a few memos will not do the job. Your success depends on getting others to share your picture of the future. It’s worth spending time infusing everything you do or say with that perspective.

§      Hold your direct reports accountable, rather than trying to be friends with them.

It is indeed lonely at the top and the temptation is to use members of the senior team as personal confidants and include them as social companions. While some of this is perfectly normal, it’s unhealthy for the organization if it blurs your perspective. You will serve the organization best if you are objective.

§      Give your primary focus to the success of the branch office, rather than on your own advancement.

Spending too much time schmoozing with the top brass won’t get the job done and usually backfires anyway. Spend your face time with the people who need you most. But don’t be lulled into thinking your numbers will speak for themselves. You need to have enough visibility and credibility at the home office to get the resources and support your people will need to be successful. It’s a little like walking a tightrope while juggling three balls in the air.

§      Realize that the culture starts with you.

This is undeniable. People watch what the CEO and senior managers do and only hear half of what they say. Be aware that you will be studied, discussed and imitated. If you model the behavior you want and are congruent with what you communicate, the organization will mobilize around your expectations quickly. Develop numerous channels –both formal and informal—to gather feedback on how management, and the corporate culture, is perceived.

§      Think of yourself as a teacher.

In the book, The Leadership Engine, (’97 Harper Business), author Noel Tichy makes a strong case for developing teachable points of view about both how to build and run a business and how to develop other leaders. A micro-manager or command and control leader doesn’t create much learning for him/herself or others. According to Tichy, teaching others takes commitment and time but becomes the source for confident action.

§      Accept that you are vulnerable.

In the book, The Five Temptations of a CEO (Jossey-Bass Publishers), author Patrick Lencioni talks about the risks of trying to appear invulnerable. You can’t do it all or know it all. You will make mistakes. Your best course of action is to develop trust among your team and let them do what you hired them to do. Trust comes when honesty is the language spoken, mutual respect is the custom, productive conflict is encouraged, and high performance is the expectation.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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