Sunday, July 7, 2019

My Talk to Emerging Leaders: Know how to handle increase in volume and complexity of work

This blog is in continuation to the earlier blog I wrote about my experience in being a mentor to emerging leaders in my organization.

What did you find to be most challenging as you moved from middle management to senior management leadership ?
(This is the Part-2 of the question i started answering here)

In the last blog on the same topic, I highlighted the importance of learning to love ambiguity as one of the challenging aspects for move to senior management roles.

I have also observed that in transition from middle management to senior management roles, there are a few more fundamental aspects that change.

In any growth situation, there are two variables that change: Volume and Complexity.

Simply put, as we move upwards in the proverbial career ladder, we are expected to handle more work in the same amount of time, possibly without or without more personnel help. This is the Volume aspect. When I moved to Director level role from the first time, I led the large engineering team (lets call it Role 1). With the move I got the clear responsibility of 2-3 significant aspects of my function. This change came with more responsibility and more people.

However, when I made a lateral shift from Director of Engineering to an offbeat Director of Technical Operations role (lets call it Role 2), I moved from a leader of large team to almost an individual contributor. However, the extent of work that I was responsible for, increased manifold. In this situation, I was expected to deliver on a very broad charter while evolving an Innovative execution model.

So in my lateral move from Role 1 to Role 2, one variable that significantly changed was the Volume of work i was expected to handle. In Role 1, I had the luxury of having a large team that would help me execute the vision. In Role 2, I had to handle a large Volume of work without the luxury of any team.

I talked about dealing with enhanced volume of work as one trait we should look to master once moving from middle management to senior management. Another aspect that I wish to touch upon is the Complexity.

Simply put, the Complexity in job roles attributes to the decision making moving from hard to harder to hardest. In the early part of our roles, we get used to making hard decisions attributing to products, people, projects, problems etc. As we move, the extent of complexity in decision making also rise. In earlier management roles, we are expected to look at a decision from limited dimensions e.g. If a new rating system is introduced, my focus would be how does it impact my team. But at more senior levels, the focus would certainly be how does it impact my team but it should also have far more dimensions such as why is organization doing it now, will it have any impact on the organization's strategic goals, what are the financial implications of the move, will there be any ethical issues, how will i ensure fairness across the organization, not just my team.

Thus, to reach senior leadership level roles, it is imperative to understand that changes that increase in volume and complexity of work will bring in. It's all about the balancing act between- doing the things right and doing the right things.

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