Collaborating with your managers
Getting the results you need from your managers
Your direct reports are senior managers. You’re not going to do their jobs for them and you’re not going to interfere. But you do need to help them succeed by being their collaborator and facilitator — setting clear priorities for them and providing a sense of urgency in seeking results.
You want to establish a real connection with your managers. You’re playing your CEO role – not intruding, nor meddling – but being a collaborative resource for them, just as they are for their team members.
You’re not interested in how they’re spending their time, or how busy they might be. You want to know what’s going on in the crucial areas that will make the biggest difference in results.
You’ll need to make a short list of the issues / items you’re interested in.
- Objectives (what success or completion will look like)
- How they’re doing on their time line for completion?
- If completion is in doubt or delayed, what’s going on?
- Are there obstacles that need to be addressed?
- Can you help them in addressing or removing those obstacles?
If you’re surprised by an outcome or the lack of progress, ask yourself: ”Should I have known about this before? Why am I hearing about it now?”
You’ll also want to do a quick scan of some metrics – key operational results that will serve as indicators of progress. But be sure to choose your metrics carefully, because we’ve seen too many CEOs get diverted by focusing on the wrong things.
You do not want your conversations to be detailed show-and-tell exercises. You just want to find out which important activities are on track and which ones aren’t – so you can determine whether interventions or adjustments in plans might be required. In that way, no one is confused about what’s happening or not happening — and there are fewer nasty surprises.
Ensuring clarity and better thinking
Your continuing attention to major issues will confirm their importance to your managers, and your continuing attention will help them to stay focused.
Your continued engagement will also help them to gain a more complete understanding of your thinking, which will help them develop a better thought process.
It will take time for this to become comfortable – for you and for them
If you’ve been a hands-off CEO, it will take time for you to build a comfortable process of interacting with your managers. It will feel unfamiliar and maybe a little awkward, until you become familiar with your new approach.
It will almost certainly take even longer for the new process to feel comfortable to your managers, because they’ve become used to you leaving them alone.
At first, people may feel that you no longer trust them, are interfering, or are trying to do their jobs for them. You’ll have to work hard to help them see it differently – that you’re trying to be the CEO the company needs you to be, and you need to build an effective collaboration with them, just as they’re building solid working relationships with their team members.
But however unfamiliar the process may feel at first, there’s no substitute for you being fully engaged. However much you want to delegate certain things, you’re the CEO, and you can’t delegate that role to anyone else.