This article is an expansion to a presentation that I gave to doctoral students at Old Dominion University on October 16, 2008. The presentation related to administrative supervision in a community mental health center. However, the principles outlined in this paper are useful in any organization.
What does it take to be an effective Executive? Many books and articles have been written about this. Therefore, this article comes from a variety of sources and has been validated by those I have supervised and my own life experiences.
What do Executives do? I have encountered this question often. What do you do? This is often hard to describe in a social setting, usually at a party over drinks. But here’s the short of it. An Executive does the following: plan, organize, integrate, motivate, measure, lead, teach and support.
Planning is the roadmap to the organization’s successes and it is the job of the Executive to make planning a priority. Planning must be done both strategically and tactically. The Executive helps his team see the big picture or vision; therefore both long-term strategic planning as well as short-term and weekly tactical planning is required. It is the Executive duty to assure and guide the team through this effective planning process.
Planning, in itself, won’t help the organization to be efficient and effective if the Executive is not organized. The Executive must organize his or her work to assure that the team’s effort is focused on those tasks that are most critical to the organization reaching its goals or results.
Integrating information and possibly service functions and/or units will help an organization to operate efficiently and effectively. This can be a big task for an Executive. How do you make sense of information coming to you from different sources; how can you assure that like functions are integrated and are operated the same when the functions are being carried out at different locations. How do you get “chiefs” to talk with each other? How do you get them to see that for the betterment of the customers and even their own units that everyone in the organization has to think, communicate and work in an organized, integrated fashion? An organization that operates in silos will never be efficient or effective and in the long run will go out of business. Motivating employees is one way; therefore, an effective Executive must motivate.
Motivation is a constant duty of the Executive. Motivation is easier to perform if the Executive establishes a relationship with his or her employees and the Executive demonstrates that he or she values the employees as people, praises their efforts and rewards their performance (John Maxwell, 2003). Tom Rath and Barry Conchie validate John Maxwell’s premise. In their book, “Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow” the authors said that trust and compassion are basic needs that employees look for in their leaders.
Trust is built through relationship and compassion also comes from having a relationship with the employees. One example of compassion is having that “tough conversations with people about their performance and their positioning” (The Gallup Management Journal, p. 4). An effective Executive or leader is capable of motivating people during good times and it is especially essential to be a motivator when the organization is facing challenges. Challenges often come when an organization is not meeting its performance objectives.
An effective Executive must know the numbers. The Executive must know that the organization is succeeding or winning and that requires the Executive to measure pre-determined indicators. The Executive must be sure that key metrics are established and those metrics must be monitored and measured frequently.
Harold C. Lloyd writes in his book “Am I The Leader I Need To Be” that the Executive or leader “must be able to read and understand the performance indicators…. A leader must also be able to detect impending problems and spot wide-open opportunities before they slip away to the competition. Genuine Leaders are capable of making decisive and calculated decisions based on facts and figures rather than on feelings and emotions.” (p. 76). In other words, the Executive is expected to lead.
The Executive must lead, teach and support his or her people. An effective Executive has the trust of his or her people because the Executive is not only strategic, visionary and make things happen, the effective Executive walks the talk. The Executive then allocate resources to teach the employees new skills required to be successful and provide measured support to help employees during the transitions of doing business differently.
When the Executive walks the talk, teach and offer support, the Executive creates a sense of security and stability throughout the organization. I believe this inspire and energize employees to be innovative and responsive to the customers and thus, assure the organization ongoing success and survival.
In part II of this article, I will discuss additional administrative competencies needed of an effective Executive.