Increasing Your Executive Leverage

Many leaders and executives are lately feeling a void. Sheltering in place and working from home means, for most, that there are a lot fewer interruptions. That, on top of the zero commute time, translates to more discretionary time than they are accustomed to having. Now they have to decide what to do with it.

I kinda like it. Having the cognitive capacity to do this has accelerated processes at several clients I advise and that are already seeing promising results. The issue is that those leaders need to know what their raison d’être is. A preponderance of leaders I work with are lacking in clarity in this regard.

I believe that any form of management should be rooted in the focus on performing as a force multiplier for one’s team. For tech executives, this need is even more acute. Their default guidebook seems to lead them to a different form of being force multipliers—the IC way of achieving impact.

Consider this unbalanced seesaw. Thinking the past month or so, on which part of it have you invested the most significant amount of effort? Whether it is due to preference, insecurity, unawareness, you might now realize that you’ve been pushing down on the spot that will not result in the most valuable impact.

You might be a wiz in the technical parts or even a great people manager. However, executives, especially at times of crises, have the onus to focus their efforts where they can achieve more leverage:

  • Upstream of the decision process: Don’t accept being notified of decisions, claim your seat at the big kids’ table to direct those decisions to the way your organization can be most helpful.
  • Strategy: When I talk to a new CTO client and get a blank stare as I ask about their current strategy or business goals, I know something’s up. You might not feel like you’re a “business person,” but you are. Take part in shaping the future instead of just executing it.
  • Culture and values: You have the ability to create a team that focuses on quality, delivery, and excellence. It’s genuinely only up to you. If not now, then when?
  • Processes and structure: Another great point of leverage is to review where you might have outgrown your current way of doing things. For example, I have several clients who are shifting to cross-disciplinary teams right now to great success.
  • Cultivating Safety: It is crucial that you create an environment where innovation and novelty are common. It’s not your job to come up with the ideas, but to put in place the values that make it safe for others to do so.

If you gain this clarity and know where to focus your effort, you can do your company an immense service. How can you afford not to? There’s nothing I like more than seeing how quickly good leaders I help implement changes throughout their teams. You can, too.