Even before the recent economic downturn, corporations were shedding layers of management and increasing spans of control. The recession has merely accelerated and expanded this trend. For corporations, the goal is expense reduction, although they will put marketing speak around these moves stating their intention to “increase customer focus” or “streamlining to become easier to do business with”. But we all know that these moves are all about expense reduction.
I’ve worked with clients who have been directly impacted by these sorts of moves. For example, an executive leaves and is not replaced and the work is re-allocated to the remaining members of the executive team. Operating regions are consolidated into fewer, larger regions. Firms target a higher percentage reduction in executive levels during layoffs, consolidating departments and divisions under existing leaders. A company eliminates the COO role, with upwards of 18 executives reporting directly to the CEO.
What are the ramifications to the survivors – those still holding leadership roles in larger companies? There can be benefits. Work sometimes truly is streamlined and bureaucracy reduced, speeding decision making and time to market. For the individual leader, it may provide increased autonomy and authority to make decisions.
However, the downsides are plentiful. We already know about the expanded work loads for the “survivors”. But an often overlooked cost created by flatter organizations is that there is no time for coaching and development. You don’t have the time to coach and develop your team members – the pressure is so high to produce results NOW. Plus you have to review 500 emails daily. And you aren’t getting personalized coaching from your boss either – s/he is likely too busy with increased spans of control.
Your world as a business leader is more complex, with higher expectations, 24/7 work environment, accelerated timelines, and higher stress – yet you get less help and support than ever. Do you know what your strengths and weaknesses are? Do you know how to maneuver through the politics at your company and get things done? Does your boss have time to counsel you about the unspoken culture of the company and the vagaries and personalities of leaders of other divisions/departments who are critical to your success? Do you know how others perceive you?
Companies, due to cost cutting and re-structurings, are less involved than ever in helping executives build their careers. You alone are responsible for managing and building your career. Its one of the trends that is driving the huge growth in executive coaching – corporate executives are seeking help and support that their companies no longer provide them. Just like pro athletes, executives can benefit by working with a coach who helps them develop their unique skills – and to be aware of and minimize their weaknesses. Coaches serve as sounding boards and offer alternative approaches and methods, all with the goal of making the executive the best she or he can be.
What proactive steps are you taking to manage and develop your career? Don’t just “let it happen” and don’t rely on your company – they have other higher priority goals. Now, more than ever, the most successful leaders are investing in setting themselves apart from their peers in this complex, highly competitive marketplace.
For more information, visit our website at www.makinglifecount.com or contact Joni Lindquist – firstname.lastname@example.org, (913) 345-1881.
Photo credit: vitroid / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)