Ok, so far my earlier blogs displayed my thoughts on manager roles. I intend to cover the role of a Director in this blog.
Off late, I have noticed interesting change in pattern – A few years ago, a dream of becoming a Manager seemed achievable even for average performers. Today one seldom gets “very” surprised if a manager/senior manager is promoted to a Director within a year or less than 2 years. Need facts? Not very long ago, I know a reputed MNC where a Director at US was let go due to some reasons. A person, who was a “Manager” was promoted to “Senior Manager” and then to “Director” overnight! You think that is ridiculous? How about this? I have also experienced a more classic case than that where a senior manager was promoted to a Director, senior Director and to a VP, straight within 3 years and country head by the fourth year!
Not enough? How about this fact? A person who could barely manage a team properly was promoted to “Senior Manager” and to a “Director” to reward his loyalty of staying with the organization for 3 years (and NOT because of his capabilities). Interestingly, today, when he is looking out for a “similar” title of a Director, rarely any good organization is willing to hire him at that level. Whose loss/fault do you think is this? Was it the person who was unnecessarily promoted to a Director without grooming/honing his skills OR is it the organization that, unknowingly, made it difficult for him to be absorbable in the market?
Another fact? Very recently, in one of the organization I know, a person was brought in as a Senior Manager. He had no background on the product, no enough data or specific skills that are required to manage that product line. He was promoted to “Director” at a country level after few months, probably because he had spent more number of years in US. The net result? He was not able to manage the large teams effectively and excused himself of some reasons to relocate to US. He seldom came to office and was mostly seen traveling to US to manage his property at organization expense.
Today one can find “ample” number of job openings for Directors. I sometimes feel that organizations have started awarding the titles as a part of motivational/retaining campaign rather than on a need or skill basis.
However, I think that Director role is a respective role/title and must be awarded to people based on a requirement/skill or “true” availability. I strongly believe that the person at a Director role must be completely business-savvy since this is where the person gets real “corporate”. (S)He must shift his/her focus more towards business on strategic front rather than getting tied up at tactical levels. I believe that any Director must possess the below characteristics –
Clearly a Director must know direction – direction of his business. This is one of the most important characteristic to ensure that (s)he does not get carried away with the irrelevant innovations that may happen in his team. The direction helps him/her keep his foot on ground and justify to the nerds or innovators without de-motivating them why few ideas may not be as per business objectives (unless he is able to accommodate them properly and yet meet the business goals or make a business out of it). It also helps him/her to give answers to the point when he is clear about the business direction. Direction also comes in handy especially when crucial decisions of M & A (mergers and acquisitions) need to be made.
Seasoned Intra-preneur (Internal entrepreneur)
A director needs to be an internal entrepreneur at heart. He must constantly look out for getting new business ideas, run the division with available budget, market his product/services, come up with innovative ideas of growing the business and establish a great level of network within and outside the organization.
This characteristic is similar but different from that of being Intra-preneur. He needs to not just understand the business but should look out to grow it. He must schedule regular meetings (indeed with purpose and strictly, a business agenda) with stakeholders like customers, support folks, sales/marketing, Product/Service Managers, Account Managers and Business Development Managers. He must run his division as if he is running his own organization and must be familiar with profit/loss ratio, growth rate, and attrition rate, competitive analysis, sales/marketing activities, how is his business doing region-wise, actions required to stabilize/grow it, explore integrations/compile with other products/services etc.
This is one such area where most of the Directors tend to give up either due to lack of finance knowledge or “presuming” that it is not their domain. Nothing can be far from truth. In fact, I strongly believe that it is a responsibility of every person in the org to know and contribute towards finance; wherever they can. A Director must be able to leverage budgets creatively, translate the finance reports to his team in their language and play a crucial role in converting a cost center to a profit center.
Ready to face corporate world
Although the interaction with the corporate world starts when one becomes a manager/senior manager; based on their efforts, I strongly believe that the corporate “starts” considering the person a part of them only when after a role of Director is assigned to him/her. (S)he must become familiar to the verbiage/terminology that is being used by the corporate world to quickly get the context before their counterparts move onto next agenda. His thinking pattern should slowly change to look into strategic matter/decisions and assessing long term impact.
Balance Hiring v/s Consulting
Today, the hiring pattern has changed so much that you need to be able to quickly make decisions on what can be leveraged and delivered meeting/exceeding expectations. Hiring a right talent usually takes its time and as mentioned in one of my previous blogs, it should be a constant process. These days, you also get few good consulting organizations providing consultants/SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) at a reasonable cost and during the project phase. This helps in retaining/enhancing the quality of deliverables (since you get experts and different perspectives) from the consultant and also to avoid the paying salaries to people on bench after the project is over. A Director should get acquainted himself of balancing the ratio of employees v/s consultants (I repeat and prefer to call them as consultants rather than contractors).
Grooming Managers and Technical leaders
Grooming sub-ordinates should never be ceased. One would be able to climb up next level in the ladder only when someone is available to fill the void that gets created when you climb to the next level. However, a Director should also start mentoring and developing technical leaders who could be considered at a peer level of managers (your subordinates). This becomes little challenging to convince the managers who do not usually let go their technical members to report to someone else. An honest discussion should be initiated with both of them to share the benefits and importance of making reporting changes. It needs to be planned appropriately to be communicated with rest of the teams/departments to avoid rumors and most importantly, attrition leading due to ego clashes.
There indeed could be many skills that need to be acquired before getting into Director shoes; however, I believe the above ones become necessary to play a successful role of Director. I also believe that post Director; the roles of VP, SVP are on the similar lines but of greater strategic importance, as they focus more at the corporate level than at a grass root level. It becomes pertinent to keep grooming appropriate managerial and technical leaders so that one gets proper and genuine details/information to make effective decisions for the organization. I intend to end the Leadership series here unless I come with distinct pointers for VP or SVP levels. Thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed the Leadership series. Feel free to comment or send your feedback to me at [email protected].