The Executive Difference

There is a distinct difference between being a manager, even a senior manager, and being an executive and Scott Eblin in his book The Next Level: What Insiders know About Executive Success takes us through these differences.

As Scott explains, some things that lead to the executive level need to go and other things need to be picked-up to be successful at this new level and beyond. He breaks these down into personal, team, and organizational aspects.

One main difference is that an executive can no longer do or even check all the work but has to rely on his team—and allow them—to do the work. It is the difference between relying on your functional expertise and your leadership expertise. It is also the difference between being responsible for getting the work done or accountable for ensuring it is done. A big difference which many struggle with. 

Another related difference is that instead of directing how your team does the work, you need to direct the what and trust that they will get to your desired outcome in their own way. This requires having the right people in the right roles, which Scott also discusses.

Scott interviewed many executives across industries and uses their quotes to "mentor" readers on how to make this transition. A great quote that he repeats a few times is that executives can't stay on the dance floor with their dance partner but need to get on the balcony to see the bigger picture and patterns. The executive can then return to the dance floor to execute on what he's seen.

Have you had to make this transition or worked with someone who has? What made them succeed or fail in this?

Internal Silo-Busting

After reading and writing about Gillian Tett's The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers, I got to thinking about the internal silos we all carry with us.

Gillian does mention how not revisiting classifications can lead to disasters such as the financial meltdown of 2008, but don't we all have our own labels? When was the last time you revisited what you think of yourself and your strengths?

I'm probably unusual in the amount of time I spend thinking about this and in all the personality tests I take to shed more light on this, but even I have personal classifications (aka, internal silos) I probably need to bust out of. 

The one that comes to mind is "I'm not a salesperson."

I'm not, really, but if you've read Daniel Pink's To Sell Is Human, than you understand that we all are. And I've actually held a business development role which I enjoyed more than I expected to and did far better at than I expected to. So perhaps I'm not the traditional type of salesperson that can sell just anything...but that does not mean that I cannot sell. 

And perhaps that silo has caused me to overlook opportunities in the past. Just today an opportunity to bust this silo came up and I'm considering considering a step in the right direction but more work is needed.

There is of course a fine line between internal silo-busting and forgetting one's strengths, so perhaps the answer is to widen those classifications or look at the circumstances in broader terms. Perhaps one needs to carefully weigh all the pros and cons to see if an opportunity is a bad fit or an internal silo.

Do you have internal silos that need to be busted so that you can reframe how you see yourself?

Review: Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual

Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual by David Burkus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

David Burkus, in the afterword to his great book Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual, shares this quote from one of his interviewees: "Great leaders don't innovate the product, they innovate the factory!" And although this is definitely one of the traits shared by the leaders David profiled, I believe there is another, more critical underlying theme: trust.

David has outlined various practices that need to be upended in the new age of "knowledge workers" since as he points out, many of the old management practices were created for factory workers. Some of these practices are putting customers first, standard vacation policies, keeping salaries secret, noncompetes, performance appraisals, and inflexible org charts.

Doing away with these practices lead to more successful companies because in doing so, the leaders indicate that they trust their employees.

If you hire the right people, pay them fairly, treat them right and give them the tools and resources to succeed, you don't need to dictate how they work, how much time they can take off, or many other things that have become SOP in most companies.

This book is a must-read for anyone who manages or leads since it's a long-needed wake-up call and guide how to truly engage your staff and let them do their best work for you and your customers.

Resource Tip: Tab Snooze

If you're like me, you often have many tabs open since you're either toggling between all of them or opening interesting links as they come up. And given that they hog computer memory and become annoying, you may have tried various methods and tools to get around this.

You can save sessions. You can send links to your email and/or send them to Pocket or one of its competitors. You can also copy and paste urls to another page.

But now there's a far easier and more seamless method that allows you to address all of this with one extension: Tab Snooze.

As its name implies, you can actually snooze a tab. When you're on a given tab, just hit the moon in your Chrome extensions bar, select when it will reappear, and watch it disappear.

You can also choose the check box at the bottom of the pop-up to get a to-do tab. This tab only has room for one to-do item and can be snoozed to reappear when you'll have time to tackle it...or re-snoozed until you actually get it done.

Tab Snooze is only available on Chrome for now (both web and phone/tablet versions), but you can sign-up to be notified when it will be available on other browsers.

I now snooze everything but my Google Inbox tab since that's the only one I want open all the time. It's made my Chrome faster and me less distracted by the extra open tabs. 

Tab Snooze is also great for occasionally checking-in on things (e.g., a job board or eBay auction).

If you decide to try the extension out, please let me know what you think and if you've discovered other ways to use it.

Hyper-Efficiency Leads to Silos?

You've probably heard someone talking about breaking down silos. I actually used the term myself recently so picked-up Gillian Tett's The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers

Silos are what happens when groups within companies, either due to specialization or a bad culture, do not share or communicate with other groups. This leads to problems such as the financial meltdown of 2008 and Sony's demise. I won't go into the details (nor can I do it the justice Gillian did), but her stories on how silos lead to these and other problems is riveting reading.

The first half of the book describes these companies and how internal silos lead to their problems; the second half explains how a few companies are actively fighting the creation of silos. Facebook is an example of the latter, as is an experiment successfully run in a Chicago police station to predict and thereby lower their increasing murder rate.

At the heart of these silo-busting experiments is structuring the organization, the pay, and the physical space so that people are encouraged to collaborate. Another common theme is that by sharing data across groups not only will redundancy and internal competition be eliminated, but surprising patterns may be discovered when all the data is reviewed as a whole. 

Gillian ends the book acknowledging that in a world that is becoming more complex and specialized, and where everyone is expected to become more efficient, silo-busting may seem contrarian. She argues that although spending time talking to people and ensuring data is shared may not seem to be an effective use of time, it is well worth avoiding the potential troubles that come along with silos.

What this means for all of us is that in addition to doing your job well, it is equally important to build relationships with peers in other groups and in other functions. Efficiency and effectiveness can only get you so far, but collaboration and communication are well worth the effort. You never know what a conversation will lead to or what idea it can inspire, nor what others are working on that could be of benefit to your group.

Does your company have silos? How can you ensure a more healthy sharing of information?