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“Take Five” Management Series

This is the first in a series of JJIMS “Take Five” articles designed to help managers deal with the rapid pace and ever constant changes in business today, and the challenges that come with them.

Avoiding Flameout

We see it all too often. Someone is doing great work, rising in value and reputation in their organization and the industry. People are chattering about them. First they are known as up and comers, and then seen as dependable leaders and in time become stalwarts in the industry. They become known for solid work ethic. They have a large threshold for work. They are innovative, smart, and have the right touch with people. They have arrived. The company takes notice, and gives them additional responsibilities.  Great companies set them up to succeed with training needed to acquire the necessary additional tools. But companies that are cost stressed may not have the resources. They promote you, and you are on your own. As the aspirants climb up the ladder, they need more skills to work with and enhance the company’s culture, additional direct reports, different sets of colleagues, disparate workplaces, and complicated company matrices that can stonewall or slow a process down. Along the way, they may find too many cooks in the kitchen, leading to accountability and empowerment issues and roadblocks that make it exhaustive to get some of the simplest things done, and in a timely manner. Meanwhile, they also find they have to migrate through an increasingly political corporate culture, something that is even more prevalent today as executives border on flameout are more engaged in hanging onto their jobs vs. pushing the business forward. Some find themselves in a “Survivor game” and trust levels go way down. With the additional workloads in our business today, people are performing multiple jobs, none of them easy. Many work in multiple cities. They work hard to best perform their jobs, but often feel they are simply juggling plates all day long. They convince themselves they are being effective but when they truly look in the mirror they realize they are stretched beyond their current capabilities. They don’t feel they have the time to truly be an effective Leader. Due to time pressures and getting bogged down with administrative work, they become less proactive, and increasingly reactive. They tend to be more autocratic and less communicative. They stop listening. Mentorship and Coaching take a back seat, if any seat at all. There is the expectation that the company will provide the assistance, but the necessary training is not provided or acquired. It’s hard to do this without help. The chance to mentorand coach to uncover dreams, and grow functional staffers into tomorrow’s leaders, can slip away. Managers these days find themselves stumbling out of bed into work and stumbling out of work into bed. There is little life/work balance. It simply “is what it is”. Somewhere in the process, the levee breaks. If the leader is not careful he/she can become distracted, disassociated, disengaged and then flame out.  People start saying ”He/she was so good at what they did, what happened to them”, or “I guess they lost touch?” or “They became complacent” or “They were over their head”. Many flameouts are going to happen to people who could otherwise be great leaders. Most companies will be reticent to condone additional headcount to prevent flameout so we need to find other ways to deal with the current reality. People quite often are promoted, but not afforded the tools needed to meet their new challenges. Here are a few initial steps you can take to cope with this reality. First Steps to “Avoiding Flameout” Most important, make a commitment to self investment. We know how important training is, but in cash strapped times, company provided training can take a back seat. Great companies understand the importance of this and make training opportunities the last place to cut. Because of this, they usually find themselves with a solid succession plan and a line-up of recruits. But what if you work for a company that is unable to or unwilling to provide the resources? The answer is for you to invest in you. A lot of potential flame out victims will say “but I don’t have the time or the personal resources.” If someone told you that investing in yourself, while taking personal time and expense on the front end, would get you more time and considerable financial rewards on the back end, would you do it? The best time to act on this was many years ago—the next best time is now. Create a “Personal Board of Directors.” Identify half a dozen people you know and respect who can and will help guide you. They are people you respect, have great business and/or life experience and success, and will level with you. These are people who are not hesitant to tell you when you’re headed in the right direction and when you are going down the wrong path. They should generally not be people you work for, rather esteemed colleagues from various fields. For instance a Board could consist of a finance counselor, an HR advisor, someone with a medical background, someone close to the ground in your industry, a close family friend etc. They are there for you individually on an ad hoc basis. How to do recruit your Personal Board of Directors? If someone appeals to you for help in the areas of mentoring, and being a sounding board as a personal Board member, how would you feel? Most would say “honoured”. Don’t hesitate to reach out. They can only say no but you would be surprised how many takes you will have if you are genuine. Consider investing in a Coach. Some of the world’s top athletes and executives have Coaches. Why do the best on the planet, need a Coach? Very simply, they are the ones savvy enough to make sure they keep the saw sharp and avoid flameout. The perception of Coaching has changed drastically over the years. Here is the 25 year evolution of Coaching:
  • Late 1980s: “I’ve been assigned a coach? What’s a coach?”
  • Early 1990s: “Get a coach? They are like the company psychiatrist right?”
  • Mid-to-late 1990s: “Get a coach? Am I in some kind of trouble? Am I going to lose my job?”
  • Early 2000s: “You’re getting me a coach? Thank you – I think. ”
  • Mid-to-late 2000s: “You are giving me a coach? Wow. Thank you”
  • Now: “A coach? Great. How does this work? How long is the process? Can I be part of the process to choose one?”
Until recently, Coaching was mostly provided by employers. Today, Coaches are in greater demand and 50% of Coaching is initiated by individuals. They are either in situations where their company cannot or will not foot the cost, or they would rather be discreet about their aspirations. They make a personal investment to receive the help needed to identify and reach their potential. In ensuing issues of the Take 5 series “Avoiding Flameout” we will discuss the following key areas and more; -       Job Role Clarity -       Empowerment -       Inclusivity -       Priority Management -       Clear and Effective Communication -       Delegation- A fine art -       Trust. What it is and how to build it -       Self Management and Preservation -       Work Life Balance JJ-Johnston   Jim JJ Johnston is a Co chair of CMW 2014 and nine time Canada’s “Program Director of the Year” winner. His successful leadership roles in Media/Management include Corus Radio, Standard Radio, and Moffat Communications. He is CEO, President and Executive Coach at JJ International Media/Management Solutions and is working with a number of media and non media companies to help them expedite their business growth. Reach him at jj.imsconsulting@gmail.com 
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