Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Offering a unique value proposition as an employee 22: senior and executive management and leadership 2

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on September 8, 2013

This is my twenty second posting to a series on offering defining value as an employee, and on presenting yourself as the answer to problems faced while doing so (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 311-331 for Parts 1-21.)

I began examining the issues of working as a senior and executive level manager and leader of an established business organization in Part 21, with a focus on leading a team and an organization as a working member. And I at least began to address the issues of leading and making overall decisions and even unpopular ones when needed, while working as a connected member of your team and organization. I said at the end of Part 21 that I would continue its discussion here, delving more fully into the issues of working with others, and both directly and also indirectly through subordinate managers. And I clarified what I would post on here by adding that I would more specifically be writing about:

• Taking ownership and supporting others as they do too, and as they take on decision making responsibilities.

This brings up a whole complex of issues that go to the heart of being an effective leader. I first started explicitly writing about this in this blog very early on, with Maintaining a Vision While Loosening Our Grip. I continue this line of discussion here.

• Real leadership is strategic and takes a long-term perspective. It does not limit itself to just the short-term and tactical even if that approach is an important and even essential one for any leader to pursue too.
• And as soon as you take a long-term perspective, ongoing business continuity and sustainability become key and ongoing issues. And that long term perspective does, or at least should include staff development.
• That includes giving hands-on, non-management employees the tools and the resources they need to do their jobs. And it means giving them access to the tools that they would need to stay current in their skills and to develop new ones that they would need to advance in their careers. And that means giving them opportunity to develop the skills and experience they would need to be managers if that would be a good direction for them to move in.
• And that means giving managers, from lower level on though senior, the opportunity to develop their skills too.
• And at all levels, this means being willing to step back and let the people who work for you to do their jobs and make decisions and learn from them. And a leader has to be willing to accept that others might see things differently than they do and they might approach and seek to resolve issues and challenges, and perform tasks differently too and even if they do in fact see the underlying situations faced in the same way.
• Some tasks and responsibilities are truly mission-critical and do not leave room for errors or re-dos. But for most businesses and for most situations in those businesses, that situation is more the exception and there is at least some room for flexibility. And then as a leader you face the trade-offs of balancing short term efficiencies (perhaps) of stepping in and doing it yourself, against the longer-term benefits for all involved of giving your people room to succeed or fail at a task on their own, and to learn from that in any case.

So this posting is about micromanaging and its problems and discontents and about avoiding this trap. And micromanagement can happen as a matter of a manager in effect taking over the jobs of their non-management employees and making all of the decisions and even doing key parts of their work. This is demoralizing and ultimately it can only serve to break both trust and work flow efficiency, and both for those micromanaged and for the manager who does this. At least as importantly, and perhaps more pertinent to this particular posting and discussion, this can mean stepping in and undercutting subordinate managers by taking over their jobs – and with the consequence of telling the people who nominally report to them, that you do not trust them.

If you want to lead then your goal should be, and certainly short-term, to succeed and to facilitate success. But as a leader you have to be willing to accept the fact that a venture that holds promise for creating positive value, might not work out. Or it might work out but with delays and only after problems and even unexpected ones have been identified, worked upon and resolved.

• As a leader, you need to give the people who work for you, non-management and management alike, the opportunity to succeed on their own, and even when they are working as closely integrated members of a team.
• And that means you have to give them permission to fail at least occasionally too, or to succeed but only after overcoming challenges.

I have worked with senior executives and managers who allow no room for errors. I do not think it an accident or an anomaly that in my experience, their teams tend to have very low morale. Their teams are not unified or trusting of each other or of the people who lead them. And their teams and even their entire business organizations tend to perform poorly. These teams and their individual members lack any real agility or capacity for innovation, or at least any real capacity for this that they are willing to risk exercising. Their employees become and remain defensive in seeking to secure their own individual work positions. They are afraid to take even small risks for the consequences they see if anything goes other than perfectly – and with “perfection” an ill-defined and elusory goal. These are essentially without exception, managers who with time find themselves and their organizations falling into traps where they would need change management recovery help if they are to pull themselves and their businesses out of a hole of their making.

I want to stress here that I am not writing here about organizational styles or systems or of authoritarian and top-down versus democratically organized and bottom up – or of any organization options that might fall in-between. The issues and challenges that I write of here can develop in organizations that at least nominally follow any of these patterns of authority and decision making. Ultimately this is all about trust. As a manager and at whatever level in an organization, you need to find and hire the right people who can do their jobs and who you and the members of your team can work with. And you have to trust them as the default and unless and until they prove that this is not warranted. And if you find that you really cannot trust them to do the right thing, you need to let them go and move on, hopefully taking a positive lesson from this experience that will help you to be more effective in your hiring and promotions policies and practices.

And as a key to making that work, you need to see and understand the difference between learning curve opportunity failures, and failures that are more indicative of inability to learn or to perform. And that leads me to the last point that I would make here in this posting. The litmus test question here is: “has anyone learned anything from this failure or set-back, and if so who has and what?” Trust has to be about succeeding in what is attempted. But it also has to be about learning and moving on too.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will delve into at least some of the issues of identifying management potential and cultivating and encouraging it, and in employees in non-management positions who hold management potential and in lower level managers who could succeed taking on greater levels of responsibility. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at its first Guide directory page.

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