Resources and Insights

Act like a director (whether you are one or not!)

I’ve been having lots of conversations recently with clients who are newly in director roles or interviewing for posts at that level, and I wanted to share with you a common pitfall I see with this transition and what to ask yourself in order to step around that big gaping pit (which is typically filled with emails, meeting requests and board papers!)

Even if you have no intention of ever being a director, this reflection will still support you at any level of management…

This is what I’m seeing: super-talented folk who have always been acknowledged for getting things done, handling tricky projects and influencing successfully taking on director level roles and sinking into a hole. Why? Because they’ve always been praised for the doing, they try and keep doing, on top of their new responsibilities as a director.

Responsibilities that include…

  • Contributing to a leadership team and having an opinion on organisation wide matters, not just the technical bit they know,
  • Spending time thinking strategically,
  • Leading others – building relationships, influencing and looking outside the organisation.

If you are also still spending a day creating a whizzy spreadsheet for the finance team or dipping down into the detail of exactly what’s going to happen minute by minute at your annual conference, you’re going to struggle to find capacity to also focus at the level you need to as a director AS WELL.

Getting lost in the detail feels safe, because it may be got us to where we are. I had a CEO once who got very involved in the colour of event T-shirts. He didn’t need to, but he was probably getting some light relief from the complexity at the top. The odd dip down will be forgiven – but do it all the time and your team will feel like you don’t trust them.

However talented you are, your time and brain space is not infinite (in spite neuroplasticity being a thing that helps us create new habits), so what can you do?

01 Audit what’s on your list.

Who else can do some of the doing? Does some of it not have to happen at all?

02 Block out time in your week for activities that energise you

The people, the reading, whatever it is that helps fill your tank, because at director level you’re going to get lots more of the sh*t on your desk, and you’ll need to be fully fuelled to deal with it.

03 Develop your peer network

One thing you may need to give up is the acknowledgement you get from being the do-er who got the project over the line. Be assured that if someone in your team did the thing, that’s still a win for you. And if getting specific acknowledgement is important to you, then ask for it from somewhere else. This is where having trusted colleagues at your level (inside or outside your organisation) is a must.

All of these are sensible things to do in any management role. Which could you focus on this week?

And if you want to make the move to a director level role, check out this 40 minute conversation I had with Suzie Henriques, The CV Bee, on how to get your CV ready for the step up.

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