Scaling companies is wrought with challenges and every company has their own set of issues to overcome, but the biggest challenge always starts with the team leading the charge. Leadership teams often have between one and three executives who are holding the company back.
While there are many leaders who are simply over their skis in their current position, or simply have poor leadership qualities, in this case, I’m referring to leaders who outright work against the company initiatives.
It is common to find two leaders at completely opposite ends of their leadership career, hurting the company in their own ways. People are added to the executive ranks based upon their unique abilities within their discipline. They have been rewarded throughout their careers with progressive promotions because they were better than others in their field of work. When they get promoted to the Executive Leadership team, nobody told them their job has changed. They are still looking out for their team and focused exclusively on their area of business. Nobody told them they are now fiduciaries of the business. They are now responsible for stakeholders and making decisions that are best for the company. They will know they have crossed the bridge to the executive ranks when they make a decision that may not be great for their area of the business but is in the best interest of the company.
You can identify a new leader who hasn’t stepped into this role when you hear them say something like, “I hate this corporate stuff”, or “All I do is sit in meetings and I don’t have time to do my work”. These folks are still looking to others to provide the vision and strategy.
The other end of the spectrum is the person who is at the later stage of their careers. These folks have typically been around a while, they may be responsible for a large part of the company, and they typically have a big voice inside the company. It’s not uncommon for CEOs to look to these people as their go-to person and lean on them ‘to get it done’. They are often great at executing the daily grind of business.
One of the complaints from CEOs is the team executing an old plan versus their vision. The problem with these tenured team members is they can kill a vision or new strategy in a second, by simply saying, “We don’t have time for this, we need to get back to work”. The rest of the team respects them and looks to them for guidance and the CEO is caught flat footed trying to push for change. What makes it even worse is the comment may be made in the hallway 30 seconds after the meeting where the CEO has no idea why initiatives aren’t moving forward.
While there are other team members who simply don’t like change, are not team players, are poor leaders in general or simply are incompetent, it is these folks that are the most common and dangerous to a company’s future. The new leader can be coached into their new role, while a tenured leader may be harder to change.
If you can’t identify the person holding back your team, listen for the team members' reactions the next time a major initiative to exponentially scale your business is revealed. Look at who is leaning in driving the change and who is silently resisting it.
Dale Robinette will be leading a Scaling Up Accelerator next quarter This is a one year accelerated program for up to 5 executive teams that want to lean in and scale their business. We will be addressing the four disciplines of business including, People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash with four quarterly offsites. For more information, please check out San Diego Accelerator.