Do Your Direct Reports Manage as You Want Them To?
- by David Shedd
As your company grows, you, as its leader, will inevitably have to delegate a large part of the running of the business to your direct reports.
You will have a P&L and other accounting measures to determine if they are making their numbers. But how can you ensure that your direct reports are managing as you want them to?
For those unable to get on the television show “Undercover Boss,” I suggest the following.
1. Ensure that your message is heard
As the leader, you need to define your company’s values, philosophies and vision. This, however, is only effective if they are heard throughout the organization. As such, you must communicate, preach, discuss and teach. While posters, signs and slogans may have their place, the message is best heard in person, face to face. My recommendations are to:
• Manage by walking around your offices.
• Have regular conference calls, write blogs and engage in other direct communication with employees.
• When possible, teach classes to employees at all levels of the organization or hold skip-level “lunch and learns.”
• Reinforce and explain the values and vision in greater detail.
• Take the opportunity to get to know employees as individuals and to be known by them.
• Repeat. As Jack Welch once said: “There were times I talked about the company’s direction so much that I was completely sick of hearing it myself.”
2. Develop Relationships with Stakeholders Down, Across and Outside the Organization
Develop relationships with the individuals working for your direct reports. They are likely to be future leaders in the company. Wherever possible, you should also develop some relationships with those who are three, four or even more levels down in your organization.
Likewise, you need to develop relationships with key suppliers and customers to know how your company is delivering on its promises to these stakeholders.
Of course, there is a fine line between getting the views and opinions from a subordinate’s subordinates and overstepping your bounds—thus usurping the authority of your direct reports. But it is a line that must be approached. The key is to ask broad questions about individuals’ daily problems and challenges and to verify whether they understand the company values and vision. Then, listen closely to the answers without offering to solve their issues; that is their supervisor’s job.
3. Look the Gift Horse in the Mouth
The biggest challenge you will face will be the direct report who delivers on the numbers, but is toxic to the culture of the company.
As the leader, you will need to look these “gift horses” in the mouth. Spend the time to observe how they get their job done. Listen to the stories they tell about their business and their team. Observe their behavior with others in their office.
In all these instances, you must ask yourself one important question: Do they share your values, vision and philosophies?