• 22nd January 2007 - By proteman

    Today’s Wall Street Journal Boss Talk article interviews Ken Favaro, co-chairman of Marakon Associates. He discusses the challenge, or “tension”, leaders face in balancing conflicting business goals. One set of conflicting goals is the need to build individual business unit autonomy versus the need to strengthen the company as a whole. Too much focus on individual autonomy, Favaro says, creates silos. Too much centralization can inhibit innovation and specialization.

    To achive the right balance, Favaro says that CEOs must be both “coaches and conductors.” Good coaches know the strengths and development needs of individuals, and capitalize on them. Good conductors know how to bring a team together, to work as a whole. In other words, strong leaders must be able to focus on the big picture (the entire business enterprise) as well as tap into individual needs.

    I agree with Favaro and even go a step further. I believe that in today’s flat, technology-driven organizations, managers at all levels (not just the C-level), must be coaches and conductors. Imagine an operations manager who can only focus as a coach, at the individual level. She may get the best out of her own team, but she’s unlikely to build strong cross-functional partnerships. She may make decisions that help her team, but conflict with the greater organizational goals.

    On the flip side, think of a sales manager who is a strong conductor, but is weak as a coach. He may be good at influencing up and make strategic decisions that are in the company’s long-term interest. Yet he may be out of touch with the individuals on his team and their needs. He may avoid performance problems and stay in the office attending meetings, rather than be in the field with his reps.

    Being a manager at any level is always a balancing act. The right amount of coaching and conducting helps ensure that individuals feel empowered and automous – while the good of the whole is being served.

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