#23: Get Clear on Roles for Leaders and Executives

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What Should Leaders and Executives Do All Day

When you think about a leader or executive, what comes to mind? It’s likely a well-coiffured person in a stunning outfit overlooking a cityscape with massive windows and plush furnishings, perhaps putting the finishing touches on a presentation or studying a budget spreadsheet. 

Were we close?

This quintessential vision of a top executive leads to the pressing question, what do leaders do all day?

Today, we are going to look at a few ways our organizational structure at CX Institutional supports leadership and executives, empowering them (and the rest of the team) to lean into the niche they are passionate about and incredible at. Let’s dive in. 

Address The Expectation Gaps

The expectation gap comes from a central tenet of Matthew Kelly’s book The Culture Solution which explores building a workplace that your employees love. He argues that constructing a dynamic work culture that lasts isn’t about an amalgamation of personal preferences, rather it’s about creating a space that empowers employees to do what they love. 

One crucial element of that is avoiding the expectation gap. Kelly says that as a leader, a central role is to make your expectations clear for each person you lead. Your employees can’t read your mind no matter how long they have worked for you or no matter how much you want them to. When you don’t set clear expectations, they likely won’t be met which can lead to friction and frustration. 

The expectation gap is the space between what people expect to happen and what actually happens. The gap creates this vacuum, which gets filled with one or more of these five things: 

  • Disappointment
  • Resentment
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Loss of trust

An effective team minimizes those gaps, so those negative emotions don’t have a place to fester. If you find yourself experiencing one of these emotions, take a moment to pause and realize you are in the gap. This enables you to reset your mind and take productive steps to close it, not fuel it. 

Let’s look at a basic example. Take the phrase “I’ll see you this afternoon.” The recipient might think that means 1:00 p.m whereas the speaker simply meant any time before 6:00 p.m. Neither party communicated what “afternoon” meant to them, which left both with a big gap. 

This predicament happens far too often in business communications and can cause delays, errors, and waste. How can the expectation gap be avoided?

Write it down. 

In his book, Matthew Kelly suggests that leaders state their expectations clearly, loudly, and in writing. He recommends an exercise for both leaders and staff to write what’s expected of them. You might find that someone in HR feels it’s their responsibility to tackle a project that the marketing team covers, as an example.  

Once both the leader and the staff outline expectations, you can then look at the similarities and potential differences. This exercise brings clarity to everyone about roles and responsibilities. By gaining an understanding of these expectations, misunderstandings and tensions have a space to be resolved.

Narrow Your Role To Broaden Your Horizons

As businesses grow and evolve, natural specializations tend to form. Moving from a solo-shop to a small team to a large practice to an enterprise requires a more narrow and specialized focus from individuals, teams, and business units. Operations move from a jack of all trades approach to building narrow and deep roles. 

Think back to when you first started your practice. All of the tasks of running a business fell on you. You were the marketing manager, HR specialist, and IT expert. You prepared the paperwork, completed administrative necessities, and served clients by building the financial plan, selecting the right investments, fielded phone calls, and more. 

By design that solo-role requires you to be a jack of all trades, but it doesn’t allow you to dive deep into the things you love most about your work. Instead of narrow and deep roles, you engage in broad and shallow roles, which aren’t as fulfilling. 

But when you can finally hire a team member or outsource time-consuming tasks, that role gets a little narrower and gives you space to explore it with more meaning. When you lessen the scope of your role, even just a little bit, you can engage it with more depth and substance. 

Stay In Your Lane

Once you have clear expectations and dive into the niche of your role, you must stay in your lane. 

Without this clarity, someone could easily jump in on decisions or actions that they hired someone else to accomplish. While that might be a minor irritation in a two-person office, it becomes more disruptive in a large firm, where leaders are managing big projects across departments and teams. Engaging in another person’s area of expertise can be tempting, especially for natural leaders or those who were in a leadership position in a previous firm. 

But doing so can derail projects, waste time, and actually decrease the quality of the work being done. Why? Because they are the expert in that area, and you aren’t. It’s critical to know who is managing what and to simply let them do their jobs. Poking around in other people’s work will just lead to chaos and confusion, two things that not only impact the client experience but also the bottom line. 

An incredible benefit of a larger firm is the ability to self-specialize. You can do more of what you love and carve a space to thrive. Working in a leveraged ensemble enables people to find their little nirvana spot where they are happy and fulfilled in their work. 

The Secret To Good Work? Communication

Good work relies on a strong communication system. Letting communication simply occur naturally or organically is a recipe for confusion, mistakes, double work, and more. When leaders don’t talk frequently, that can cause swerving into someone else’s lane. 

This idea leads into our next post which will dive into the meetings that drive your firm forward. Leaders must regularly schedule communication. A weekly leaders meeting, for example, gives everyone assurance that they will have that chance to give the input, have their questions answered. 

If you have a team who is comfortable talking with each other and gives their communication openly and freely, you are setting yourself up for success. 

CX Institutional is always looking for top talent to join our ranks. If you are interested, check out the resources on our website. We have a free evaluation tool to help see if we could be the right fit for you. 

CX Institutional is a registered investment advisor.

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