Being at the top of the ladder comes with the challenge of maintaining the balance between big priorities and regular routine ‘details’. On the one hand a leader runs the risk of Macro-managing or over-delegating – on the other of Micro-managing.
“Rising high up in the ranks means that many more responsibilities! For the first few years after I was made Vice President of my vertical, I was completely overwhelmed. The to-do list grew as high as a eucalyptus tree, suddenly there was a huge population that was reporting to me and phones in the cabin would ring endlessly. If that were not enough, the deadlines became shorter and the expectations grew manifold,” Lula Mohanty, Vice President, Global Business Services – Global Delivery, IBM India says about her experience as she moved into with a senior profile.
Although Mohanty settled down in a matter of months, there are many like her who find themselves burdened with the increasing demands on their time as they move into a larger role. That’s when one wonders whether there is a need to be involved in tasks even at the micro-level, often at the cost of playing a more proactive role for the greater benefit of their company. “I call this the phone ringing problem that most senior executives face today. They don’t know whether to react (answering calls full time) or to be proactive employees (contributing towards the company’s vision). The best way out is to strike a balance between the two. But that’s not easy,” Aditya Berlia, Member Management Board, Apeejay Stya & Svaran group warns.
Here’s how you can master the balancing act:
1. Correct your work style (or create a new one!) If you are one of those who likes to be in the thick of the action on every project, it’s time to start delegating. A leader has to work hard to prove that she is dispensable to the organization rather than the other way around. She should be the one who puts together a sound team and processes so that even if she is out for a few days, work doesn’t suffer at all. You are a successful manager if your team wraps up a project, even without having you around.
2. Opt for the ‘CEO TEAM’! Many organizations today have a ‘CEO Team’- a team of five to six fresh graduates from recognized universities or premier B-schools who are able to take care of the ‘reaction’ part of the CEO’s job while she takes care of things of more importance. They are supposed to communicate with the team and track day to day activities, typically when there is a large project on hand. They also act as a creative hub that evaluates concepts & new ideas to pitch to the big boss. The team disintegrates after a year and the members are given functional roles depending on their appraisal.
3. ‘Do you really need to be doing this?’ Ask yourself if you really need to be ‘reacting’ and on call all throughout all your work hours. The reason why senior employees tend to micro-manage is because they are not assured of the quality of work of their teams. Instead of monitoring every detail, spend time in communicating expectations at the outset and making sure your team and you are on the same page. Follow up by checking on progress, offering insights and creating accountability and learning. A recent example is the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi who has delegated to a team of efficient deputies while he takes on ‘bigger’ issues.
4. Time management is the key If you are going to get on top of a growing role, you need to ‘divide’ time between activities that are pro-active and those that are reactive. You could allocate the first half of your day to proactive planning and strategizing, while the second half could be marked for every day routine jobs, be they internal meetings or conference calls to take feedback on existing projects.
5. Automate where possible Step back to assess if there are elements of your job that can benefit from a touch of automation. Technology used imaginatively can handle a number of tasks, especially those that are repetitive. Put your own job under the scanner to see if you can benefit from an automated solution or reporting software and you might be surprised at what you can achieve. Save valuable time and put it to better use, working towards the larger vision.
While some ‘phone ringing’ will go with the territory in any role, it’s your contribution to the company that will go down in time!