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Who's Pressing the Accelerator?


When it comes to organizational energy, someone is always in the proverbial driver's seat.  Whether it's functional or departmental, someone has control of the accelerator.  A human is required to generate movement for different parts of a business.   Yet, it has become common to see people in one function pressing the accelerator for people with other functional duties.  Why is this occurring?  More importantly, why is this tolerated?

Why does a CEO hire someone to drive a particular organizational function and then feel the need to reach her leg over the console and press the accelerator for that employee?  You hired someone to manage human resources, yet you go to conferences, read the blogs, watch YouTube videos, and develop a company's talent strategy.  You hired someone to manage marketing, yet you attend meetings to learn digital marketing strategy and guide the company effort in this area. You hired someone to manage your warehouse, yet your research and discover better ways to be more profitable with your space. What gives?

Are CEOs expected to be omnipotent in all functional areas in a business?  Must the CEO be the internal expert in every function he hires and manages?  If not, why do I see CEOs and business owners pressing the accelerator for others managing essential functions? The pandemic has lowered the water level and surfaced remarkable opportunities. The problem is not "what" people get paid to do.  The issue is who is in the driver's seat.

We hire capable people to manage business functions.  We fail to hire people who drive business functions.  The problem is who, not what.  For whatever reason, companies tend to hire competent managers and avoid hiring drivers.  This strategy gets tolerated when the business is not experiencing pressure to perform.  You hire a mediocre sales manager, and results are acceptable until the market declines.  You hire a mediocre operations manager, and productivity is sufficient until market pressure is applied.

Why does a CEO avoid drivers and hire managers? That's a more beautiful question.  Following are reasons CEOs avoid driver employees:

  • Drivers challenge the status quo and make the CEO develop new skills and knowledge. The CEO must research to understand the new direction for digital prospecting and sales.
  • The CEO enjoys being an internal expert. Your ego gets stroked when you are the smartest person in the room.  You earn validation about your intelligence, and it feels good.
  • Drivers insist on change. They force the CEO out of her comfort zone.
  • CEOs are afraid to make complicated decisions in functional areas without familiarity.
  • CEOs are afraid to let someone else drive the business. He started the company (in the driver's seat) and fears letting go of control.
  • CEOs must trust a driver employee. It would be best if you trust someone before you allow them to have the controls.
  • Drivers are more challenging to manage. They make you work faster, and you are too lazy to maintain the velocity for change.

CEOs are influential in cascading organizational energy. That's the job of the leader. Wrong!  It is a common misconception.  Or worse, it is a great deception.  Many leaders fail because they become surrounded by sycophants, who follow cascaded energy and direction.

Authentic leadership creates bottoms up organizational energy.  CEOs must surround themselves with corporate drivers as the business grows. Think of a battery with a full charge.  The demands of a growing organization will exhaust the capacity of any battery's capability, eventually.  The most outstanding leaders will subsequently become diluted and ineffective if she is the only organizational energy source.  By hiring functional drivers (with energy), the CEO is capable of guiding the power below her.

Think of the CEO as the rudder, not the propeller.  The captain controls the ship instead of powering the vessel.  If the CEO must develop a sales strategy, he has the wrong sales manager.  If the CEO must create new products, he has the wrong R&D manager.  If the CEO must develop the new web strategy, he has the wrong marketing manager.

If organizational energy is cascading from top to bottom, there is an opportunity for improvement.  The CEO should never need to press someone else's accelerator.  There is a people issue to be resolved.  Until you hire and promote business drivers, you will provide the energy for your business.  And if you are fortunate to experience growth, you will run out of capacity before realizing there is an energy deficit.

To assess someone's energy for the business, ask insightful questions.  When hiring, ask what is cool in their field of expertise.  What have they seen or read about that excites them about their industry?  If someone is not continually researching and exploring their area of expertise, they are unlikely to do so while on your payroll.  Ask about projects they have been a part of in the past and how did it turn out.  You will learn the highest indicator of organizational energy is curiosity.  If someone is not curious about their industry or occupation, they will not miraculously become curious when on your payroll.

When you employ curious, high-energy people, you are more likely to earn discretionary effort.  Discretionary effort is an effort that extends beyond the required action.  Average performers give an amount of effort (extrinsic energy) that correlates with compensation.   Top performers, in the proper environment, tend to be intrinsically motivated.  They bring energy to your team.  Always remember the law of energy conservation.  The law of conservation of energy is a physical law that states energy cannot be created or destroyed but may change from one form to another.  You cannot generate energy for mediocre, average performers.  No amount of leadership will produce energy for another person.  If they don't have intrinsic energy, you will continuously find yourself pressing their accelerator.  You only have two feet. 

Pressing the accelerator
I have seen this in several companies I've worked for. Many of those folks reaching over to press the accelerator were seen as nothing more than micromanagers. If someone else is pressing the accelerator or continuously making corrections to the actions of those tasked with a job, they're training their drivers to do nothing more than keeping the seat warm.
(December 01, 2020 ~ 7:54 AM)
By Anonymous