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Brain Circuits

An exercise for leaders as they move up

IbyIMD+Published 3 October 2022 in Brain Circuits • 2 min read

Most of us like the idea of moving up to higher and higher levels within our organizations, but when the great news comes that you have been promoted, it can often carry some confusion about what needs to change. As we move up to more senior levels, our roles as leaders have less to do with our technical knowledge, that brought us to our positions in the first place, and more about shaping the processes to frame and solve complex problems. That is not to say your technical knowledge is not important, but at the senior levels it is important to know both how and when to seek input from the teams that support you.

Your identity may be deeply grounded in the job-specific mastery that allowed you to do well in your previous position, so it is worth taking some time to look at the issues you are dealing with to identify whether you should be seeking more engagement from your teams. Try these guiding questions:

What type of impact will this issue have on your organization?

If you are trying to solve a problem that has a major impact on the overall health of the business, or its prospects for growth, you should be seeking more engagement from your teams. The larger the impact, the more strategy that will be required, and you need to seek out people with knowledge where you may have blind spots. Examples of this type of problem would include starting a new line of business, making a significant reallocation of resources, or changing investment strategies.

Is there an obvious answer to the problem, and what is your level of certainty that you aren’t missing something?

If you have a high degree level of confidence in your ability to frame the problem, define the options and make a good decision independently, then you should probably proceed. Some issues have time pressures and enlisting team input isn’t realistic. Other problems are simply not that strategic.

Many leaders find that shifting their perspective to identify how much input they should seek from others can be a challenge. One tool I have recommended is developing a checklist of what I call “team engagement modes”. You can find that checklist here.

Framing and solving strategic problems is the hallmark of teams with top performance, so it is critical to know when and how to engage them.


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