Leaders: to employ or to nourish?

Leaders: to employ or to nourish?

Vasiliy Ivanov Jul 26, 2018

First off, I’d like to clarify that in this piece I will state my conclusions based on personal experience in KeepSolid and other companies where I worked. This information probably only concerns young companies, and may not be applicable to organizations that have long existed in the market or do not plan to actively increase their staff.

I will often be mentioning the role of "Owner" in the text, as it fits well in the scenario of creating and developing a small company. However, in your case it can be any other person that’s close to the Owner and is engaged in the development of the department/line/company.

So, the first question to ask yourself: why do I need a leader of any given level? Having weighed all the arguments, I came up with the minimum expectations from him:

  1. Take the laboring oar from the Owner in tasks with well-known and defined algorithms of actions
  2. Scale activities


Production culture

Next comes the question of production culture. How will the leader who came from another company behave? It’s highly likely that he will give up the idea that he knows nothing about the work in our company and the structure of our processes, and will begin to implement his own, familiar way of working. "After all, you took me to do what I can!" - he’d argue.

Yes, we did. But in order to become confident in their professionalism, it is necessary to go through the procedure of acquaintance with the company, with its production culture, to understand why specific rules are set, what are they based on, what were the goals of the person who created them. This stage is called the "state of Nonexistence": the new employee who has just arrived is still "not there" for the company, and the only thing that is required of him or her is to find out about communications in the company, and of what needs to be done.

When our own employee is considered for a senior position, the situation is different. They do not yet have the experience of leadership, but are already saturated with the culture of the company, they know everything about communications. Learning the guiding principles, they will take them through the prism of this particular culture. And they will also adjust their future subordinates according to this culture. Thus, the company will be able to maintain its uniqueness, and the Owner - to be more confident that the ideas laid down in the foundation of the company will remain at the head of decision making.


Correcting the manager

It's no secret that any employee can make mistakes. Which is good, because the expert is the one who’s already made all possible mistakes :) Let's look at the price of an error in two cases.

When we hire a manager externally and put him on a fairly high position, we expect to occupy him with many functions - ten, let’s say. Then the manager gets to work: performs three functions well, two more he has not figured out yet and they are not getting executed (this may even start chaos in production), for several others he does not see the problems or goals so far, and the rest he performs poorly (for now, at least). What will the Owner do during this period? He will have to postpone his direct duties till the Greek calends and begin correcting (or help correcting) the mistakes of the hired manager, while also trying to instill the culture of the company in him.

If we gradually raise our own employee, on the other hand, the functions performed by him are gradually built up. We have the opportunity to stop at any stage and decide that this employee can not handle more tasks yet. Or, conversely, the Owner might see that the previous stage has gone well, and with minor adjustments to the function it can now be delegated from the Owner.


Salary and consequences

Hiring a full-fledged manager implies a hefty salary. It's great if this leader can pay for himself in the first months of work. But what if he can’t? What if the owner realizes that in lieu of the above problems, this manager does not suit the company? Or if you pay a "golden parachute" on leave?

Promoting junior employees is a lower financial risk. For each new function that the Owner hands over to the employee, he can gradually raise the employee’s pay. Provided that this function is performed competently and the Owner does not have to keep his attention to it now.


What conclusions have I drawn for myself?

  1. Employing a manager externally or raising one within your organization depends on the:
  • urgency of tasks
  • ability to select an employee and train them
  • need to preserve or dilute the corporate culture of a unit
  • willingness to take risks associated with either option
  • ability of the junior employee to develop toward management
  1. Of course, I will still consider a manager with extensive experience, test them for compliance with the company's values, try to understand what really motivates them.
  2. As before, we at KeepSolid allow employees to develop both professionally and administratively. Read about this in detail in my previous article.
  3. Our corporate culture is pivotal for us and no specialist or management wizard will force us to change our philosophy.