20/09/10

By Andrew Lester, Managing Partner, Carr Michael Consulting

Successful leaders not only recognise their shortcomings, they use all of the resources at their disposal to overcome them. But this is easier to say than do. Changing your own behaviour is tough. Behaviours are often deep rooted, and anything deep rooted is difficult to uproot. The good news is that changing the four behavioural blockers makes a huge difference to productivity on both the day job (the urgent) and growth initiatives (the important).

So how do you do it?

The first key action is to separate activities into short term urgent operational tasks and longer term growth initiatives. This is not difficult to do. The difficult bit is in defining exactly what needs to be done by whom, by when and with what outcome.

The next task is to identify the resources needed to deliver separately stretch but achievable objectives for both the urgent and the important side by side. This requires leaders to recognise that everyone has a natural style of working and learning that is either more left brain (operational) or right brain (creative). Very rarely are people equally balanced between the two, or at the total extreme of one or the other style. Consequently in every company there is a natural mix of capability that leaders can tap into to manage the day job and growth side by side, provided it is controlled. This may seem obvious, but it is clear that very few leaders are accomplished in driving controlled growth and delivering the cash at the same time for the very reasons mentioned in the other short articles.

There are however plenty of examples of great leaders who purposefully team up with people with opposite skills to generate balanced and a powerful leadership team. Think of Hewlett and Packard, one the creative technician the other the commercial deliverer. At the side of most great creative leaders is an equally potent “more left brained” operator. Conversely there are also fields full of creative leaders who fail to make the transition, who fear sharing their ideas with others, who think their creativity is unique and who fail to understand the need for operational support to drive success. They stay as mere inventors, dreaming of what might have been and being incapable of delivering commercial gain. The opposite is also true. Operational left brained leaders who shun creativity and merely try to drive margin improvements as the market moves away at ever increasing speed.

But it is essential that leaders also recognise that driving growth and the day job side by side require two different styles of management. Both need to be controlled and managed. The day job focuses on delivering cash today, working with our known products and services with our known customers and prospects, in our known economies. Growth deals with broader interpretations, with less well known markets and less complete data where inquisitive minds and open questioning deliver new business in new ways for emerging market needs. Successful leaders recognise and use these two core management styles leaning on the strength of the total team to provide the right balance of resources and capability on the day job and on growth. In this way their clear, balanced and specific expectations on driving cash today and growth tomorrow sit side by side in the company and avoid the natural confusion and inefficiency that regularly exists between the Urgent and the Important. My book “Growth Management: Two Hats Are Better Than One” details exactly how this can be accomplished in any business or organisation, provided there is the will to make it happen.

Please feel free to comment by contacting me: andrewlester@carr-michael.com. Andrew Lester is Managing Partner of Carr-Michael Consulting, specialists in growth management and business performance improvement.

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