In hard economic times, everyone will try to score If you do that, be aware that only collective quick wins last. And be even awara of the fact that you actually should manage collective constraints, which (- life is hard) are often not quick wins. But ultimately they will deliver you on a business and personal level more benefits.
This is even more applicable if you are working in a new (top) position. The included post reflects on that.
New leaders know they must prove themselves right out of the gate. But in pursuing quick wins, they often fall into traps that undermine success, say Van Buren and Safferstone. For example, a new leader might:
- Focus too much on details
- React negatively to criticism
- Intimidate others
- Jump to conclusions about how best to solve particular problems
- Micromanage employees
One new call center supervisor began micromanaging employees in a bid to improve their first-call-issue-resolution rate. Her style made them feel stifled and underappreciated. Within five months, the rate dropped 15 percent.
To escape the traps, resist any urge to ride roughshod over others to prove your mettle. Instead, pursue collective quick wins: measurable business accomplishments (cost reduction, revenue growth) enabled by substantive contributions from your employees.
Collective quick wins benefit your company and unleash your team’s potential. They also advance your career: Leaders who produce them outperform peers by as much as 60 percent.
The Idea in Practice
Avoid Barriers to a Quick Win
More than 60 percent of underperforming new leaders fall into at least one of these five traps:
- Focusing too heavily on details. Leaders may try to ace one component of the new job and (as a result) pay insufficient attention to their broader responsibilities.The new district manager for a fast-food chain got bogged down in designing in-store displays and advertising — something she had excelled at in her previous role as store manager. She ignored higher-priority performance problems. Year-over-year sales in most of her district dropped.
- Reacting negatively to criticism. Some leaders intent on change view any criticism as resistance to their ideas. They may retaliate or fail to use the feedback to improve weak areas.A division director at a Silicon Valley firm pushed products that didn’t match customers’ preferences and didn’t listen to team members’ informed objections. Interpreting the criticism as foot-dragging, she chided them and pressed on with her plan. Several directors left, and sales plummeted.
- Intimidating others. Convinced of their brilliance and highly ambitious, leaders can be highly intimidating to those around them. Confident in their plans, they can mistake employees’ compliance for agreement and endorsement.
- Jumping to conclusions. Leaders may arrive in their new role with solutions already formulated instead of engaging others in the solutions’ design. They risk making serious mistakes.An engineer-turned-team-leader believed that minor modifications to a previously successful product would help his team quickly develop customized versions for three clients. He had locked in a solution without analyzing the clients’ needs — and without involving his team. Two of the clients rejected the team’s work, and the leader was reassigned.
- Micromanaging. New leaders may meddle in work they should trust others to do. This demotivates employees.
Score Collective Quick Wins
With members of your team, brainstorm possible accomplishments that would:
- Lead to cost reduction or revenue growth
- Require substantive contributions from team members
- Stir pride in employees and enable them to see their fingerprints on the outcome
The director of Global Media Corporation’s Emerging Technologies Division worked with his Web 2.0 specialist to generate ideas for developing new content quickly. They prioritized ideas based on criteria such as cost, feasibility, and collective impact. Three ideas resulted, all involving a Wiki-based restaurant-rating guide that would compete with an existing paper-based guide. The team launched the Wiki in less than a month. Three months later, it had collected 20 percent more restaurant ratings than ever before.
HBR Article Collection
You knew that being a CEO would be tough, but this tough? The job is filled with paradoxes. For example, you bear full responsibility for your firm’s fate, but you don’t control all the forces determining that fate. And the more power you have, the harder it is to use. Worse, nothing in your past has prepared you for these paradoxical demands. No wonder half of all CEOs get fired.
How will you stay in the game? This HBR Article Collection offers powerful pointers. First, anticipate the surprises that blindside many new CEOs. Here’s a preview: You can’t run the company. And you’re not the boss; the board is.
Second, correctly diagnose the situation you’re facing: Are you turning around a company in serious trouble? Starting a new enterprise? Helming a rapidly expanding business? Realigning a firm that has just begun faltering? Select the right organizational strategies and leadership style for your situation.
Third, get the right things done, in the right ways. For example, solicit input from peers and subordinates on your action plans; take responsibility for decisions; and make sure everyone knows who’s accountable for what, when.
Only experience can help you excel as CEO. This collection helps you mine your experiences to master this toughest of jobs.
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- See more on Leadership and Managing People at Harvard Business Online.
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