Working On The Company Vs. Working In The Company

The C-Suite has a lot on its plate. From managing people and projects to growing the business, executives are often faced with the challenge of maintaining balance between working on the company and working within it. Leaders who are willing to get their hands dirty in the day-to-day are often respected more than those who refuse to take on daily operations with their employees, but it can be tough to do both.

So, how do good leaders know when to step away from business development to lend a hand? And vice versa: How can executives keep an eye on the bigger picture while also dealing with the ins and outs of daily activities?

There are several things that leaders should keep top of mind in order to get in the trenches with their staff while keeping a finger on the pulse of the company overall.

Focus on supporting your people first.

A good leader’s top priority should always be, first and foremost, to hire the best people and continuously determine ways to keep them motivated. Don’t forget why you hired them. Support them but let them do what you brought them on to do. If you hire the right people for the job, they should be better at it than you. Herein lies the balance executives strive to achieve. if you find yourself doing something day-to-day for which you hired someone else, you either have trust and micromanagement issues or you hired the wrong person for the job.

This piece also relies heavily on executive support, not only professionally but personally as well. It’s important to remember that life happens, so have a sense for what’s going on with your team. This should be a no-brainer, as leaders who take a genuine, vested interest in their employees’ lives outside of work are naturally the most respected and well liked. Yet, very few C-Suite executives follow through on building personal relationships with staff despite the fact that it’s these relationships that make employees want to work harder for the success of the company. Truly caring about your people is a win-win, companywide.

Focus on your top clients next.

Which clients or customers do you consider your pillars? Are you allocating enough of your time to personally make a difference in ensuring your team is providing them with the best work at all times? It can be difficult for executives to step away from major accounts, and, at the same time, it’s challenging to know when to step back in to make sure your team has the support it needs. This is where delegation becomes essential; give your team the chance to shine on mission-critical accounts, but never fade into the background so completely that they don’t know you’re there to assist when needed.

This isn’t to say you should ignore smaller-scale clients or treat them differently, but for executives who often have multiple balls in the air at one time, allocating your time to each based on their relevance to your business is key.

Listen more and talk less.

Every now and then, the C-Suite needs to let go of its superiority complex. After all, we’re in this together. Whether it’s with an employee, client or another member of the executive team, you will likely provide more value in supporting them if you understand what they need instead of telling them what you think they do. Another good tip to keep in mind is to provide your opinion in meetings only after everyone else in the room has shared theirs. If you speak first, it will potentially cause others in the room to try to align their thoughts with yours instead of telling you what they really think.

Along the same vein, participate and be present each day. Go to brainstorms, department meetings and employee social events when you can, all the while being an active listener to colleagues and those around you.

Lead by example.

Don’t believe for one second that you’re above a certain task, and never hesitate to get in the trenches with your employees to get the little things done when you see the need. Whether it’s taking care of something menial on a client project, picking up empty water bottles after a meeting in the conference room or helping an intern carry a box of paper up the stairs, taking on these seemingly small tasks do a lot to show your team you’re willing to do whatever it takes to help the company and its workforce succeed… and they will follow suit.

Keeping your mind on the overall vision for the company’s future is so dependent on having your eyes on what’s happening in the now. Never think you’re too big–or too small–to take on a task and inspire your staff to do the same; it’s critical to the company’s long-term growth.

John Piester: John Piester is the President of RedPeg