Leading at the right level

They aren’t all strategic decisions, so why are you making them all?

By Teri Citterman, Executive Coach

In my executive coaching practice, one common challenge I see company leaders face is how to do the right things at the right level. In other words, many executives have trouble staying focused on strategic initiatives and instead dive into the weeds.

It’s human nature to feel great about how busy you are and how much value you add to your organization. Most of the time, however, the problems that leaders end up solving are actually better suited for their teams to solve.

So why is it so hard to stay at the 30,000-foot level? Two words—energy and independence. I’ve assessed hundreds of CEOs and executives. Two of the most consistent traits they have are high levels of energy and equally high levels of independence. These traits often manifest as “everything is urgent” and “I’ll just do it myself.” When that happens, delegation doesn’t stand a chance.

Yet delegation is critical. It’s the only way to build capacity in others, which is the only way to scale yourself as a leader. 

The following tips can help you stay focused on the right things at the right level:

 Define what the “right things” are and then draw bright lines around them. The higher up you are as a leader, the fewer things you do—but the bigger the risk and the greater the impact those things have on your business.

 Push down as many decisions as you can. Before making a decision out of habit, ask yourself if this is a decision you need to make. Nine out of 10 times, it should be made by someone else on your team.

 Track where you spend your time. Look at your calendar and determine how much of your time is spent at the strategic level and how much is spent in the weeds. Regularly review the things you’re doing and delegate the work to the people whose job it actually is to do it.

Here’s the bottom line: When you hire the right people, leverage the right resources, and trust your team, you’re able to do the right things at the right level. And that will make you a better leader.

As published in the January/February 2020 issue of WAC Magazine

—Posted December 20, 2019

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