This is part two of our Building a Strong Executive Team series. To start at the beginning, click here.
As an executive, you should be working on the business instead of in the business. But what does that mean? Basically, executives should be doing less of the day-to-day work that keeps the business going and doing more work on product development, overall business strategy, and creating a vision for your company’s future. In this article, we’ll talk about some of the ways to get yourself out of the daily grind and strengthen your business through careful planning.
How to work on the business
Delegate whenever possible
As an executive, you can’t be personally responsible for all of the work your department does. You don’t have enough time for all the work that the business needs and your skills won’t align well with every task. You need to delegate whenever possible, so you have time for planning for the company’s future and can ensure that all the work gets done properly.
When delegating, try to align tasks with your employees’ interests and skillsets. Obviously, there are some jobs that no one wants to do, so make sure you spread those around evenly. You can even ask for volunteers on certain projects. This allows you to gauge your employees’ interest and not just assume what they would and wouldn’t enjoy working on.
John Ross, CEO of Test Prep Insight shares how he handles delegation. “You need to empower your direct reports to handle decisions themselves, while also setting explicit boundaries. For me, this has meant setting dollar thresholds. I have essentially told my direct reports that I don’t want to be hassled about a business decision unless it has the potential of crossing the $10,000 mark. If it has the potential to earn us more than $10,000 or may cost us more than $10,000, then I want to be looped in, at least initially. Other than that, I have given my team full power to handle matters on behalf of the business. This gives me more time to focus on big ticket items and removes more mundane tasks from my daily agenda.” Empowering your employees to make decisions for the business not only takes work off your plate, but it can also give them a greater feeling of ownership over their work.
“You need to empower your direct reports to handle decisions themselves, while also setting explicit boundaries.” – John Ross, CEO of Test Prep Insight
Delegating also sets a good example for managers that you might one day like to promote to the executive level. By delegating your own work, you show them that they don’t have to handle everything on their own. This allows them to manage their team effectively, instead of getting buried in work.
Schedule time for planning
The truth for most executives is that if it’s not on their calendar, it doesn’t get done. If this is the same for you, make sure you block out time on your calendar specifically for planning. You may even consider having these planning sessions off-site in a coffee shop or the library to prevent interruptions. You can do this planning alone or with other executives and key stakeholders. Christine McKay, CEO of Venn Negotiation says, “Dedicate an hour at the beginning of the week to strategically plan what must get done, and an hour at the end of the week for evaluation, data analysis, and most importantly: celebration of your team’s accomplishments.”
In these planning sessions, you should look over company data and customer feedback to determine how your business is performing. Then, decide what the next reasonable steps would be. These sessions are also a good time to review employee performance. Determine if it’s time to hire and who you might consider for promotions as new positions become available.
Make SMART goals
When planning for your company’s future, ensure that you’re making SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals. By aligning your goals with these criteria, it’s easier to determine the steps you need to take to achieve them. Using business intelligence software and sales intelligence software can help you measure your current performance and figure out what your goals should be.
Once you’ve made your SMART goals, you need to cascade them down through the rest of the company. Everyone on your team should know what your goals are and how their work contributes to achieving those goals. This can be especially helpful when you’re delegating work no one wants to do but is crucial for the business.
Create processes and systems
Use your planned goals as an outline for creating processes and systems within your business, if they don’t already exist. You might consider using business process management software to make mapping out these processes easier. Processes and systems should always be a priority in your business. Although they don’t contribute directly to client value, they’re still important to improving the business overall.
Addressing some of the problems executives face when creating processes and systems, Brad Touesnard, CEO of SpinupWP says, “You need to narrow the scope of what you want to do to figure out what you need to do. There will always be appealing, futuristic innovations coming out in the tech world that you can see your business implementing, because these products are designed to make you imagine. At the end of the day, however, it goes back to improving the gaps in your vital business functions rather than trying to build new ones through a digital bauble.”
Adding processes can help your employees optimize their workflows and free up some of their time. This allows them to respond to client requests more quickly or gives them more time to spend on innovative projects. These processes can also make training and performance reviews easier because everyone is following the same playbook.
Work on the business to achieve your goals
Working on the business instead of in it can be difficult, but it’s important if you want your business to remain competitive and continue growing. It allows you to take a step back and actually spend time and effort on planning for the future, rather than getting caught up in the day-to-day. Schedule your planning sessions, delegate tasks when you can, and create processes and systems that keep you on track with your goals. Each of these steps can help your business reach new milestones and allow you to better prepare for the future.