Are you Outsourcing or Insourcing Your Leadership?

July 10, 2014
# min read
Janice Giannini

When was the last time you critically asked yourself this question? When you did, was your very next thought, "How would I know?"

I invite you to explore this question with me. Typically, highly effective companies/organizations/environments focus on their core expertise. They outsource, in a variety of ways, critical job functions that are not their core talent. The rational is to focus on doing what you do best and engage partners to do what they do best, as much as possible.

Companies that try to do it all typically achieve less than optimum results. The same goes for those that outsource critical talent that they need to possess for business success. In some cases, this becomes a significant risk for the company.

Here's an exercise that can help. Take out four sheets of paper. At the top of each sheet, write one of the following questions:

1.What business are you really in?

2.What is the core expertise or talent on which your business is built?

3.To maximize your core expertise/talent/business results, what other closely related talents do you need to maintain at peak performance?

4.What other expertise/talents/critical functions are needed to maximize your results but can also be accomplished by partners/associates?

Take some time to answer each of these questions as objectively as possible. Record on each sheet every area of expertise that is appropriate. As you step back to review these lists, all aspects of your business should be represented. If there are critical functions missing, take a second pass and be as comprehensive as possible.

Now, place the sheets side by side on a desk and just look at them. What observations jump off the page at you? What observations do you not like or create discomfort? What observations may become significant business risks if left unaddressed?

Here's the next step. Ask yourself how many times in the past week or month you opined or wondered the following to yourself:

1. It would really be good if he/she would outline the alternatives, make a recommendation, go with the best alternative, and let me know what decision was made.

2. Why is it that the product service team always seems at odds? It takes an act of congress to negotiate differences in viewpoints and necessary outcomes.

3. The cross-functional teams either complain that the functional standards are getting in the way, or they have no standards at all. Where is the middleground that protects both standards and output?

4. I've outlined the company strategy over and over. Why is it that folks still don't get it? Am I missing something?

5. Our partners are always asking these nitty-gritty questions. Why can't they step up and take ownership? If I have to do it all, why do I need them?

6. Our customers are always complaining. What are sales, marketing, and product development doing? Or better yet, what exactly is it the customer wants?

If your numeric response tothese questions is zero, you are either perfect or (potentially) out of touch.That is a question for you to ponder.

If your numeric response to any of these questions is greater than zero by enough that it is uncomfortable, you may be outsourcing your leadership at some level. Consider the following:

Question 1 relates to personal or self-leadership. Question 2 relates to product or service team leadership. Question 3 relates to functional organization leadership. Question 4 relates to company leadership. Question 5 relates to unrealistic partner leadership. Question 6 relates to unrealistic customer leadership.

In the current fiercely competitive business environment, can you afford to be outsourcing leadership at this level? Effective and successful companies put leadership on Sheet 3. As you peruse Sheets 1 through 4 again, where is effective, strategic, balanced leadership?

If you put leadership on Sheet 3, but your answer to some of the questions is greater than zero, ask yourself what it would take for you to insource your leadership. When we talk about insourcing leadership, we mean developing and strengthening your leadership team at multiple levels to create a balanced, strategic, forward-thinking standard. If leadership is not on any of your sheets, we recommend some immediate triage.

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