How is an executive useful or useless to their company?
If the executive were to disappear from his company for three months, a year, or forever, what would happen?
These are the questions that we, as leaders, are sometimes confronted with.
When we take extended vacations, how do we organize things so that the company runs despite our absence? How do we keep confidence in our teams while being away?
If we understand that it is possible to manage our company remotely, are we ready to apply this principle to all our employees, our HR Director or our Sales Director? What is the impact of the absence of hierarchy or managerial layers on our business?
Our life as a manager is getting shorter and shorter, 9 years today against 11 years 15 years ago. There are a lot of us: two million of us manage companies with more than 10 people in Europe.
So how can we reinvent the company, our profession? Is it possible?
As managers, we intuitively understand our limits, even if it’s hard to admit them. We are three times distorted and therefore subject to improvement.
By ourselves (e.g. vanity, narcissism, comfort zones), by others (e.g. courting), and by our sector (gregarious instinct).
We can see that we are not always, to say the least, an outstanding person. We are often the only ones to manage and make decisions, with varying degrees of competence to do so. Are we irreplaceable?
We have all heard real-life or urban stories of co-management within companies, with splendid successes but also great failures.
Some businesses and major successes have gone without a unique leader. For example, The Accor Group. Incidentally, Belgium has operated for a long time without a political leader at its head.
More recently, the company Chronoflex (Nantes), the European leader in the maintenance of construction equipment (300 people), operated for a full year without a manager. Alexandre Gérard, its leader, had left two instructions to his teams before taking a year of sabbatical with his family:
To make all decisions within the framework of Chronoflex’s strategy and if a decision had a budgetary impact, that it should be discussed with the CFO.
Once back in business, Alexandre noticed that his company’s sales had grown by more than 20% while it was in a zero-growth market!
Aren’t we big oaks that cast shadows on smaller trees? Are we sure we are getting the best out of our collaborators and making them grow?
Many governance systems successfully go without the “Latin” leader model, that is one of a charismatic leader. This starts with the neighboring federal states (Switzerland, Germany) where special attention is paid to reducing conflicts of interest, with short and sometimes non-renewable terms of office.
Co-association or cooperative systems also work well as long as the business logic is still placed at the heart of the project.
There is even talk of replacing us with robots! A first test, for a member of a board of directors, is underway.
The question of duration of our mandates is key. We know that we give the best of ourselves in the first three years of our tenure, whether we are an executive or an entrepreneur.
This momentum generally lasts for 5 years, and, after those 5 years, usually leads to a fairly significant drop in motivation, because the initial drive fades over time.
What about longevity in the executive position? Are we temps, project-oriented managers? This raises important questions for entrepreneurial leaders, second or third-generation managers, and HR directors of large companies.
The counter-powers and guidance of a board of directors, a supervisory board, or a strategic committee are essential to the smooth running of operations.
Shouldn’t we be talking about several managers rather than just one? Because the operational manager (the CEO) needs to be challenged by his Board of Directors when all goes well and encouraged when all goes bad.
Rule n°1 – Impose conflict
In the cockpit of an aircraft, the co-pilot must contradict the pilot. Do we do the same with our collaborators, to explore the issues and make the best possible decision?
Rule n°2 – Develop initiative
How can we give all managers a lot of room to maneuver? How to trust and be trustworthy?
Rule n°3 – Have a right-hand at all times
Because we, as leaders, have a short time frame of action. Because we have to delegate to have enough time to dream and then to carry out.
Rule n°4 – Set a clear path
“A collaborator without a goal is going nowhere. He quickly is disengaged.” Do we apply this approach to our employees, our company, and our employees?
Rule n°5 – Know how to leave gracefully
Unless you are an exceptionally driven leader, unless you are challenged by a flawless Board of Directors, you have to know how to bow out. For the good of your company, for the good of your employees and their families. Don’t we stay too long in our position for the wrong reasons?
Rule n°6 – Hold accountable
We must always create and encourage contradiction. Upstream, via a Strategic Committee or a Board of Directors. Downstream, via a Management Committee and other executive bodies.
Rule n°7 – Listen before making decisions
The more an executive listens, the more time they will save. Their speaking time in a Management Committee is about 20%. Our role as leaders is to bring out initiatives and then to decide. And not the other way around.
Rule n°8 – Remain discreet and humble
One must always fight against one’s own narcissism (and not against one’s ego). Jim Collins, in “From Performance to Excellence” describes outstanding leaders (level 5) as those who put their people first if they succeed and blame themselves if they fail. These same leaders rarely make the headlines (except for a product launch, of course).
These eight rules, as you will have understood, are not limited. They reposition the leader in their role of social and economic service. This is this post’s goal: that we, as leaders, should be at the top of our abilities!