Three simple ways leaders can grow their organization

Many CEOs feel as though they've plateaued when it comes to growing a company. They quickly find they don't have enough time in a day to get done what needs to be done. Kelley School of Business professor of management, and former corporate executive, Ken Wendeln shares simple ideas that will free up your time and expand the growth without running yourself ragged. 

Show Notes:

Shane: Before we start the episode, I want to share a quote from the book Time, Talent and Energy from Michale Mankins and Eric Garten, which plays right into what we’ll be talking about today. And here’s the quote: “Energy is an intangible but powerful force that enables companies to accomplish great things. Leaders who learn to boost and harness their organizations’ energy can multiply the impact of their employees’ time and talent. The key is to tap the power of engagement, inspiration, and a strong company culture.”

(The ROI Podcast Music)

Shane: Welcome back to the ROI Podcast presented by the Kelley School of Business on the IUPUI Campus here in downtown Indianapolis. Hopefully, all of you are having an amazing day! For those of you who don’t know already – I’m Shane Simmons and my co-host is Phil Powell, the associate dean of academic programs here at the Kelley School. Phil, we’re talking about executive leadership today – and there’s tons of literature out there regarding the importance of great leadership – but today we’re really going to get specific on how leaders can measure their success and grow the organization.

Phil Responds

Shane: Today we’re talking with Ken Wendeln who’s a professor of management here at the Kelley School – but before coming to Kelley – he was an executive for multiple companies where he was very successful. And Phil, you had a great conversation with him – and we’re about to play the soundbite that I thought was very interesting – and that’s the obstacle that’s holding many organizations back from growth – which can be the CEO themselves because they’re too involved. Take a listen:

Ken: Let me give you a good example: as a sector executive, I took over a business in California. It was a small business, grew quite nicely, and I was sitting down with the general manager after we had acquired them, and he was talking about his frustration over the fact that he had not been able to grow his business beyond $30M in today’s dollars. As I watched how he operated and what he did, what we found was he was trying to do everything. Instead of him being the one who led the business, he was the one trying to run and manage it! The natural point of his inability to grow the business was himself. Eventually, he moved off to do some other thing, we put some professional managers in place who knew how to scale the leadership, how to put people in place to be able to grow the business and were quite successful. 

Phil: So, how do smart managers or executive leaders get into this new position of leadership, who’ve excelled most of their career – all of a sudden, can’t see what’s so simple? Seeing yourself as the growth inhibitor seems like it should be obvious – but according to Ken it’s not that easy and sometimes that’s the result of the lack of positive feedback.

Ken: As you as move up an organization, one of the things we find in working with our MBAs, is it’s hard to get honest feedback – even though we have performance reviews, annual reviews, it turns out that it’s hard to get honest, helpful, useful feedback on how effective are you. Without that, you do not know what to change. The habits you had, the things that may have gotten you to where you got before – which may have been a lot of hard work, a lot of doing things yourself – all of a sudden limits you because you’ve run out of time. As you move up the ladder, you need to then say, “What does the organization need from me? What do I need to do to help others grow through my leadership so that they are the ones who are providing the work, the smarts, doing the things that maybe I did in the past, but I don’t have time to do today?”

Shane: And Phil, that’s an interesting concept to think about: The routines and habits that we may have had that made us so successful – can now almost become our kryptonite as a leader.

Phil: Exactly and that’s what can get in the way of progress for an organization. As you grow into new roles within an organization, you have to learn to delegate tasks and give up control – but as Ken explained during our chat – there may be others who would be happy to take on those tasks that need to be delegated… And then your time, as the leader of the organization, can be better spent in a different area. But some people may be wondering what kind of tasks they should delegate? Ken explains that here:

Ken: Well, I think you want to delegate those kinds of tasks where you can accept somebody else’s perfection. As an example, if I’m doing presentations and they don’t have to be absolutely perfect, I can give that to somebody who will do a good job, will be more than adequate, and I’ll be very happy with. Whereas I might spend a lot more time on things in that presentation that would’ve taken a lot more time and would’ve added little value. Or, on tasks I’m not particularly good at or interested in, others may be very interested in doing that. I know when I delegate, I’m very careful about picking what can I give to somebody else, what can I accept of them, and what will they be happy with? I keep just those tasks to myself where either they’re something only I really can do, or I know I can’t accept somebody else’s perfection because it’s really important to me. 

Phil: And when you’re delegating effectively, you’re setting your organization up for growth.

Ken: Good delegation not only helps free up your time, it also helps you develop with other people because as I give other people the chance to do things, guess what? They do them well, grow, learn, and become part of the team, and they’re happy to be there! They see themselves as valuable. Delegating to others and doing it well is a trait that helps not only you time-wise, but also helps others grow in the organization. 

Phil: So tip #1 – find ways to delegate tasks. And the second tip that Ken says is critical to growing the organization and thriving as a leader is creating a conducive workplace culture.

Ken: Culture is an interesting one because people want to be part of organizations that they can identify with - their personal purpose, and hopefully the organization’s purpose, is one and the same, so we like to identify with those that we want to be with. Creating a culture that fits what your strategy [is], what customers want, but also has to fit with what your own employees want – an honest culture is not easy to create! Finding ways that you can have a place where people really want to feel valued is a challenge, particularly in today’s workforce. You look at some of the younger kids coming out through school - the millennials, so to speak - they have a set of expectations. How do we meet that? How do we align our organization to fit with what the customer wants, what our culture is, and what our employees need? That alignment, if you can do that, is tremendous because now you’ve aligned your whole purpose to all those that are stakeholders. 

Shane: So Phil, here’s my question when it comes to company culture… How does accountability fall into this? What’s the biggest mistake executives make in accountability?

Phil: That’s a great question and many people may be surprised by the answer to this.

Ken: The biggest mistake in accountability is not letting people make mistakes! If you don’t support those that you ask to do things, even when maybe they made a mistake you have to support them. They have to know that if they mess something up, that’s okay, they’ll learn from the mistake, and go forward and support you. You really want to create a culture of making mistakes, but making them quickly, and being honest about them: that’s accountability. Now people take pride in what they’re doing, and if something does go wrong, they’ll step back, learn from it, and take another stab. If you don’t do that, then people will be fearful of taking things on. I think allowing people to make mistakes, trying things but failing quickly, so to speak, and then supporting them when they do that helps to build the organization and the people. 

Phil: To sum up what we’ve talked about today – the most successful leaders know how to delegate and set the organization and the people in it up for success. And we’ve also discussed the importance of workplace culture… But if you want to measure leadership – which can seem nearly impossible to do at times – here’s a really interesting way Ken says you can do that…

Ken: Leadership is hard to measure, because what do you measure? What I found interesting is one trick from a professor I know at another school talks about the measurement is easy - just measure the energy in the room when you started and finished! What happens if I’m having a meeting or teaching a class, if the energy level is here, and I go through that 1-3 hour of class/meeting time, is the energy level higher when I left because of what I did, then I’ve accomplished something. If it’s lower, then I’ve sucked the energy out of people. Again, just like time, we’ve only got so much energy. My measure today of how well I’m doing is, was the energy left, were people more people excited, more motivated, and more interested? I started to use that as a simple measure, and it’s an easy one to look at because you can see the expressions of people’s faces, the pace that they walk in and out of the room. I think it’s a great measure, that along with being able to grow others - your talent - make others interested and excited because they’re with you, and that becomes your energy level too! 

(The ROI Podcast Music)

Shane: And that’s going to wrap-up this episode of The ROI Podcast Presented by The Kelley School of Business – we’d like to send a thank you to Kelley professor Ken Wendeln for all the value he provided in this episode. I think there are lessons we can all learn – whether we are currently in a management position, or if that’s something we’d like to achieve in the future.

Shane: Don’t forget you can subscribe to the ROI podcast on iTunes and leave us a review!

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