“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd”
So we recently decided to add a “Senior” role to our business. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, I know, as most companies have a “Senior” designation somewhere and it is very common in Insurance. So why did it take so long and why now?
When I started the business it was all about the clients and that very strong focus still remains. When we were only a few people, we resisted the use of titles. I still have a copy of my first business card that has just my name and contact details on it. Then one day, about 4 or so years in, one of our team had a title under her name. That is curious I thought….and then I realised we had reached the point where our people wanted to be known as something.
My reasoning for the lack of titles was that people should be known for the work they do and the reputation they build. A title doesn’t buy you credibility- it just gives you some self-assurance. And that is probably where I got it wrong, as it is right that a title doesn’t buy you credibility, but it does provide recognition, and that recognition is key to people feeling valued and buying in to your purpose and goals.
My other concern was what is called ‘the law of crappy people’ which talks about the problems with multiple titles and that peoples reference to those roles is often through the weakest people at that level. However, that is more a problem where promotion is based on tenure. In our case when we advance the idea of senior roles, we developed a clear role profile that emphasised the senior behaviours that were required.
So what do we expect from our Seniors now we have made the leap?
First and foremost we think as a Senior they are positioned to make a significant impact on the organisation. Through their roles as emerging leaders of the business they have the opportunity to have a profound impact in the critical areas of client relationships and our people. In terms of our people – they can demonstrate behaviours and model the way for those aspiring to rise in the business. And by advancing our values and working towards our strategic objectives they can help shape the business for the future.
So now we have Senior roles for our emerging leaders, the Senior Management team has a great responsibility to provide opportunities for growth and development. Delegating, empowering and challenging the next generation to stretch themselves and learn. One of the great quotes about leadership is likening an effective leader to the Conductor of an Orchestra…..where sometimes you have to turn your back to the crowd and let others shine. And it can be hard allowing others to rise and getting credit that in some cases you deserve or used to get….but that is part of the challenge.
So onwards and upwards is often about stretching others and letting them develop to be their best. Being senior is a significant step along that path- of being stretched, and stretching others.