The context to perfom
A few years ago, many advertising agencies found they were falling behind in digital media. What most of them did right away was hire a digital director and a small team for them to lead and bring in new business. Years later, most of these teams were disbanded, reorganized or had most of its members replaced more than once. What failed?
As managers, we constantly hire talent to lead new projects or solve different problems. Just as often, we do not have the knowledge or expertise to understand the problem completely, hence the need to hire someone who does. However, many managers expect the new guy to figure things out on their own. They sit back and wait for results and when they don’t get them, they blame the new guy. But is it his fault? Most likely, no. It is his responsibility but only to the extent he was clear about what he needed in order to do his job. Prior to that, it’s the manager’s responsibility to understand why the position is being opened in the first place.
‘Let’s hire someone to figure it out’ is as effective as playing the lottery. If you identify a problem or an opportunity, you need to understand what it will take to fix it or make the most out of it. That means setting specific goals and laying out some basic but clear premises you can then discuss with the person you are bringing in. If you just allocate the resources in your budget, hire someone, and then forget about it till the end of the quarter, you are dumping the problem on someone else’s lap.
It is your responsibility as a manger to provide the context in which the new position will find success. That means you need to have perspective about what can be accomplished, in how much time, and at what cost. You can’t bring someone else to figure this out and expect results right away. It is a process you should lead or at least be very involved in.
If this problem or opportunity is important enough to create a new job for it, it is important enough for you to take the time to design the initial strategy. The person you hire may and should change some things in it, but they will need context and a basis to build from that only you can provide.
To get started, make sure to answer these questions (and add your own as well!):
- Why is the project important for the company?
- How big is the threat/opportunity the project faces?
- How big are the results of the project expected to be?
- When do you expect to see results?
- What do you expect after 30 days? After 60? 90? 120? Afer a year?
- How much are you willing to change your organization in order for the project to succeed?
- Who in the company is at all related to the project?
- What has kept the company from addressing the problem/opportunity before?
- How much time can you dedicate to overseeing the project?
- How often do you expect updates on the project?
- If needed, how much would you be willing to spend in the project?
Once you have committed to your objective and hired someone to execute your strategy you must stay in touch, validate the premises you had, see if resources are being put to good use, and convey your expectations to the team in charge with clarity.
The project leader will face new issues every day and will need guidance and support. Many times, these issues will have to do with how things are done in the company or used to be done, and your support will be needed in order to change what has to be changed. Other times they may find themselves going about something without all the information they need about the company, their colleagues or the clients, and you need to make sure they get it.
Be consistent about going through with the project and be honest about how much you are willing to invest, change, and do for it. Remeber that it is a person you are bringing in, not a readymade solution that will need nothing from you once installed. You are starting a new relationship. Be there if you want it to work out.
If your team is failing it is likely because they do not have the context to perform any better. That is the manager’s responsibility and how she or he can truly connect with their teams. Make sure you do.