to guide them, but also to trust them.
This means allowing them to make
mistakes. Frequently there are no right
answers, and sometimes managers
can go down the wrong path.
When things are not going right,
these senior leaders have a limited
number of options to make a change.
Long term, it is not effective to step in
and micromanage their direct reports,
or even worse, the people on their direct reports’ teams. This is not scalable, and it is expected that these experienced people should not need that
level of management and direction.
Instead, leaders look for ways to
get high-performing, trusted managers in a position to help them reach
their goals. Generally, this is done in
˲ Start and stop projects. If a project
isn’t going well, a leader can cancel it
and reinvest the resources elsewhere.
If something isn’t working, the leader
can staff a new project to fix it.
˲ Reorg. This is probably one of the
most painful experiences for members
of a team. It can be so upsetting to have
your manager or your manager’s man-
ager move out of your chain of com-
mand, especially if you have worked
to build strong relationships with
them. In large organizations, however,
changing the structure of a team is one
of the best ways for leaders to improve
alignment and strategically place their
top people in positions to help them
achieve better results.
˲ Hire, or fire, the leadership team. If
someone isn’t performing, or the team
isn’t moving in the right direction, a
highly effective course correction is to
bring in fresh energy. Of course, this is
more difficult to do because …
Lesson 2. The More People Under
a Manager, the More Challenging
It Is to Judge Their Effectiveness
One of my favorite questions to ask is
how long it takes to tell if a VP is medi-
ocre or great. The answer can be quite
challenging to determine because a
lot of a leader’s success (or failure)
can be attributed to his or her team,
not to the leader.
If you have strong managers under
you, then it is easy to ride on their coattails. They make sure things are moving in the right direction and that good
things are happening. Conversely, if
you have poor performers, it can take a
while to coach them or manage them
out of your organization. The deeper
the hierarchy, the more levels of indirection there are. Judging a VP isn’t like
judging a software engineer where you
can at least observe his or her output
and contributions directly.
Of course, the signs of a bad leader
are not always immediately obvious—delivery on substantial projects
often takes months or years, and at-trition/retention tends to be a lagging indicator.
This is why bad leadership can be in
place for years before changes are
made. It can actually take that long to
prove it is that person, as opposed to