My question is: how does an organization scale their management team and keep skills sharp as they grow? We are a software development services shop and we are growing fast—we currently have 30 people in management positions.
It’s getting more difficult each day to make sure everyone is managing from the same playbook. We have seen many of our customers reach this stage and fail. We don’t want this to happen to us.
Dear Growing Fast,
Well, thanks so much for asking! How smart you are to notice the chaos out there and to be extremely intentional as you grow. I will try to keep this short because, honestly, the answer could be a Ph.D dissertation, and also because I need to keep this from being a long plug for everything we do here at The Ken Blanchard Companies.
Begin with the end in mind. I have two words for you: Vision and Values. Vision means that you know exactly where you are going and how you are going to get there. The book to help you with this is Full Steam Ahead. Values means identifying what is most important to you in your culture and your employees.
A lot of lip service is given to values—but once an organization decides what they are and prints them up, they are generally forgotten. All you have to do to see what happens when organizations do this is to read the news. If you don’t want your employees writing blogs someday about what a nightmare it is to work for you, you can avoid it right now at the beginning of your journey.
The organizations that last and make it are the ones with values that are used to make decisions. You are still a small shop. You and the other founding leaders can get together and work to get crystal clear about where you are going and what is most important about how you’ll get there.
Next, you need absolutely solid operational leadership. Jim Collins nailed it in his book Good to Great. Collins says you have to get the right people on the bus, in the right seats, and get the wrong people off the bus. This means keeping the people who can be aligned with the vision and values and who have the right skill sets and attitude to go the distance. It sounds so stunningly simple, but I can assure you it is fiendishly difficult to achieve. It’s much easier to start with this idea rather than having to retrofit later.
Finally, you will want to absolutely bullet proof your day-to-day performance management—and I can say with confidence that our Situational Leadership® II model is what you need. Learn it and teach it to every manager in your organization, because it is a no-brainer. Seriously, I managed people for a decade before I stumbled over it and thought, “OMG where has this been all my life?” I just can’t imagine how anyone manages people without it. Well, actually, I take that back, you don’t have to imagine it—all you have to do is look around at all the terrible managing that is going on.
The fundamentals are: it starts with crystal clear goals and tasks for each employee. Then the manager and employee work together to assess the employee’s competence and confidence on each task or goal. From there the manager and employee identify the right mix of direction and support so the employee gets exactly what they need to win. Finally, the manager and employee check in regularly to go over goals, tasks, and development needs so there is no confusion. As Ken Blanchard says, “Common sense, but not common practice!”
If you focus on these fundamentals, the good news is that you won’t have to be worried when it comes time for performance reviews. As you probably know, many companies are getting rid of them—see our recent white paper here.
I suppose you were hoping for something a little less involved. Sorry. But if you have your company’s vision and values articulated in a way so that there can be no confusion, and if you have the right people in the right jobs and everyone actually knows what their job is, you will be ahead of the game.
The upside to getting all of this even kind of right is incalculable. It will mean staying in business when your competitors flame out.
About the author
Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!