Before I design a leadership development program for a client, I meet with the CEO or business owner. I ask them questions to discover if the management team is capable and competent – as leaders.
In any business, success is almost entirely predicated upon great (or at a minimum, good) leaders of people. Weak management teams are easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for. And they’re present in every organization. Managers have that title for many reasons. They may have been the hardest worker, kissed the most ass, or been the best salesperson. But none of those attributes mean anything when it comes to leadership. That’s why leadership development exists.
A major reason businesses aren’t successful is due to ineffective line managers. With rare exceptions, most businesses have what I call an “Uneven Leadership Team”. Meaning some managers are more effective than others. This is the rule, not the exception.
So after nearly 30 years in leadership, how do I know if you have the right leaders on your team?
1. You’re Not in the Weeds. The number of C-level execs I speak with who spend time on minutiae is amazing. Think about the primary role of line leaders. It’s to eliminate the day-to-day responsibilities of the business owner or executive. Do you spend your time on issues like customer complaints or employee relations problems? If so, you likely don’t have the right leaders in place.
2. Your various departments and/or locations run consistently. When a branch office or a specific department isn’t performing well, it’s usually a management issue. Uneven management is more common than you might think. It causes friction, creates jealousy among employees, and generates headaches for you.
3. Employee Turnover is Low. I don’t define good/bad turnover in terms of percentages; there are too many variables. Retail and restaurants tend to have high turnover, for example. And the state of the economy can cause turnover to raise and fall everywhere. So simply stated: is your turnover acceptable to you? Or are you losing valuable employees every year?
4. You’re Never Wondering: “Did it Get Done?” When you delegate or assign tasks, do you find yourself asking, “Did that ever got done?” Or are you confident and assured that things get done without you having to check in all the time? The mark of a good leader is they handle problems before they escalate, and they get things done.
5. Things Run Smoothly When You’re Not There. One of my favorite leadership stories is when I learned how to delegate. I was a line manager, and every Friday seemed to be Complaint Day. Frustrated, my boss’ solution was to have me take a Friday and go to the beach. On Monday, I was dreading the inevitable pile of complaints but to my surprise, there were none. My team had handled them all.
How long are you comfortable being completely out of touch with your office? (Is it a week, a day, or a couple of hours?) The quality of your leadership team predicts your answer. As my Coach Dan Sullivan says, the mark of a great executive (you) is the ability to have a Self-Managing Company.
6. You’re Spending Your Time Doing What You Love. My definition of professional success is the ability to do what I want to do, not what I have to do. How about you? How much time at work do you spend doing the things you enjoy doing? The more time you spend in this area, the more competent your leadership team is. I guarantee it.
7. Employee complaints are low and enthusiasm genuine. There are certain things a manager can’t control. But they control a lot in a business, and a major symptom of good managers is happy employees. Happy employees tend to be positive. They don’t file lawsuits; workers’ compensation claims or grumble about minor issues. They’re not looking for another job. They’re happy and feel well compensated in their job and the company they work for.
Beware, though: when you’re a leader, people tell you what you think you want to hear. So when I ask a CEO, “Are your employees happy?” and they reply, “Yes.” My follow up is always, “How do you know?”
It’s always a good time to re-evaluate your management team. What are you missing? What could be better? Is it a training issue, or is it time to make changes? Nothing is permanent. The performance of managers and leaders must be judged not only on what they do, but how well they lead.