Just as companies seek to re-engineer the value propositions of their products, managers should consider doing the same. Companies do it by adjusting the features, benefits and pricing of their offerings; managers do it by re-evaluating the services they offer their employees.
For example, as companies are challenged to do more with less, either in terms of resources or headcount or both, many managers’ spans of control are expanding. Doing more is expected, but it is not always feasible; a manager with five direct reports cannot expect to manage them the same way if he picks up another five, ten or twenty employees. It is not simply a matter of spending less time with each; it is finding ways to maximize his value to them and to the organization. Three questions may help with the re-engineering process.
How can I continue to add value to my team? The answer comes from defining what you do now compared to what you need to next, or may already be doing. With more responsibilities, you need to find ways to delegate others some of what you do. You may also need to eliminate things, e.g., reports, meetings, and travel. You need to distill your new role to its essence and ration it to those who need it most. That is, you pull back from doing and spend more time advising.
What obstacles are holding me back from adding that value? Two big obstacles typically loom. Your boss and your people! You need to confer with your boss and gain agreement about your larger role, and especially how that may affect your relationship with her. There is after all, less of you. Your people need to be preparing to make more decisions and to assume new responsibilities. This is actually a good thing and should free you to be more strategic.
How can I sustain that value over time? The thinking you do to prepare and act now will be essential to the future of your team and your organization. With less of you, everyone gets the opportunity to step up and do more decision-making. For some this begins the leadership development process. For others, it could be a weeding out process, not necessarily from the company but from future leadership. Knowing the capabilities of your team is essential.
One factor that may help a manager seeking to determine his value is personal discipline. Paul Saginaw, the co-founder of the world-renowned community of food-related businesses known as Zingerman’s, once told me he learned to ration his time. As his company grew from a handful of employees to more than five hundred Paul focus his leadership messages where they would have the most effect.
One way Paul did it was to plan what he would say to people if he encountered them during the day. To one, he might talk window merchandise, to another it might be service improvements, and to another it might be business development. The act of planning helped Saginaw not only discipline his time, but also his thinking and his actions.
Re-thinking your value to the enterprise might be the best thing a manager can do in a recession. Return on the investment is critical in times of scarcity and also lays a foundation for times of plenty.
John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership development consultant, executive coach, author, and speaker. In 2010 Top Leadership Gurus named John one of the world’s top 25 leadership experts. John’s new book is Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up (Amacom 2009). Readers are welcome to visit John’s website, www.johnbaldoni.com