As a leader, you have team members to be hands on and do many things. What should you, as a leader do hands on; Personally? In my view, it should be mitigating the risks for the team personally – no delegation. Clearing their path from upcoming obstacles.
A leader has far more experience, knowledge and access to information than the team to identify the challenges and hidden risks, and make sure that these challenges don’t hit the team as they approach the respective challenges in the course of their work.
As I was rising up the ranks and building teams, I built teams with people responsible for each and every functional area. I wondered about my personal contribution to the work being done. As I contemplated, I discovered that my operational role as a leader was to identify and mitigate risks for the team. Making those calls to other leaders, partners, participating in red alerts, etc.
As a leader, you may have a larger team that can take care of all the objectives. Your team is operating in the context of a larger organization, a large eco-system of partners and stakeholders. Many times, they are delivering to external stakeholders like customers. It’s very natural that as they focus their energies on operations, they might miss out noticing any pothole on the road.
We were doing an outsourcing program, a highly technical program, with some big consultants as well as my team members. I was very much involved in it, but I was always looking out for ‘what could go wrong next?’, ‘what could fail?’, ‘what could delay the timeline?’, ‘what could create the next confusion in the team?’ I was continuously working on mitigating them for the team across 7 organizations and two geographies. I took it as my hands on role to connect all the dots, network with everybody involved and make sure that team’s work is not impacted with any unforeseen challenges. I took it as my role to foresee the challenges”
What are these mines that you have to sweep?
- Organizational politics: Initiatives that you are running might impact some departments adversely and certain departments positively. Be prepared to bring in your organizational knowledge to identify those who are going to be the aye Sayers, and those who are going to scheme against your initiatives. Meet them, engage with them, allay their concerns and factor in their concerns into your program design, to make sure that they don’t become ‘landmines’.
- Change Management: As a leader, keep a keen eye for the operating people who will be adversely impacted by your initiatives. Catalyze interactions with these stakeholders. Bring your own new perspectives as you meet these people, and thus, sweep a mine of change management for your team.
- Program risks or Operational risks: Every program manager may want to look good and paint a good picture. It’s your job as a leader to not get swayed, and focus the team to discuss the risks and challenges. Here, you can lead the mindset of risk management – so important in project management.
Every level in the Organization is like a different gear in the gearbox. So, if you are running any initiative/program in a higher gear where speed is high but torque is low, the initiative engine will stall when it comes across uphill task of organizational change or politics. That’s why you need to use your position and your connections higher up in the organization to change the gear to ‘first’ and provide the necessary thrust and torque to the engine of your initiatives, to be able to push through any challenge successfully.
As I ran enterprise transformations, there were many times when I was not the decision- maker. I reported to my boss who was a CFO and I asked for his support and involvement without any hesitation. Many times, the decisions were fastracked, and tough decisions were made, because the CFO put in a word to a leader, not because IT did it!
So, seek help from senior stakeholders to provide the necessary thrust and torque to your initiatives.
Partners and expert eco-system
As a leader, you’ll be connected to your peer functional leaders in other industries, industry experts as well as partner experts. Once again, use these connections as a personal responsibility to de-risk and find – solutions to give speed to your teams.
You are in a leading position as a leader where you are connected with other leaders of the organization, your partners, experts, and you have access to knowledge that your team may not have. Use all of these to help your teams run faster and help minesweep their challenges. Don’t micromanage them – enable them!
A leader’s role is not to micromanage for his team. A leader should be a minesweeper for his team.
That’s a best enabler role you can play, still being hands on.
The article has been written by Jagdish Belwal, Founder and CEO, Jagdish Belwal Advisory