My function as a operations leader at Nextbite is changing. When we were 10 people, I was involved in everything. When we grew to 35 people, I had leaders managing day-to-day but I was still involved in every project. Now that we are well over 100 people, what the organization needs from me is changing again. I’m writing this down to capture my thoughts at this point in time, and in the future I can look back and see if I was right or wrong (because honestly, I’m making this up as I go).
I recently brought on a General Manager of Operations. Three or four months ago, one of my executive colleagues convinced me I needed help because the Operations team was just so huge. We started a hiring process and our new General Manager started about 3 weeks ago. She has a very strong personality and is taking the org by storm, coming up to speed quickly and earning a reputation as a progressive-thinking go-getter.
As she takes the reins overseeing day-to-day operational concerns, I find myself in a new position. I will no longer be in the weeds every moment, and someone else is looking after the day-to-day. So what will be my focus? Here’s what I have so far:
1. DEFINE THE GOALS, EXPLAIN THEM CLEARLY, EMPOWER AND CHEER-LEAD
I want clear visibility into every team’s objectives for the quarter, and I want to be able to see their progress to date at any given time. We have several good systems in place today (we’re using the eOS framework) but I’m not convinced everyone knows their team’s mission for the quarter.
I also want clear visibility into any project the teams are working on. Our company uses Notion to capture and share information and some of our team members are amazingly diligent. It’s so easy to quickly understand that state of a project, what decisions have been made and what is the trajectory of the work. I need to make these individuals into role models and duplicate their excellence throughout the org.
At the start of every quarter we re-up our department-level goals, and all teams need to update their projects and targets accordingly. I need to be clear about the ‘why’ especially as priorities shift from one quarter to the next.
Once everyone knows what they’re working on and why, I need to be a cheerleader. Encouraging, nudging, helping leaders hold their teams accountable, removing obstacles, and celebrating every victory that I observe. The more I observe, the better, because when people see that I’m paying attention, and that I want to celebrate their wins, this will be a positive motivator in the culture.
2. BE A COACH AND MENTOR
Not just to my new General Manager and the one or two other leaders who report directly to me, but to everyone in Operations. This means making myself available to front-line teams, learning what they do and how they do it, asking questions and confronting/challenging/encouraging/nurturing.
Two two greatest characteristics I can embody as I go about these conversations: Empathy and Perspective.
Empathy (not sympathy) that I understand how hard the work is and I’m willing to jump into the bunkers with team members and experience what they’re going through.
Perspective, so each person understands that what they do matters and how their work connects to what the company is trying to accomplish. For our younger workers, who are being managed by younger managers, I suspect there will also be opportunities to share perspective about each individual’s professional experiences and growth.
3. LOOK AND LISTEN FOR FOR OPPORTUNITIES
The org will be so heads-down and it’ll just keep churning on a process that might be not be working efficiently. It’s up to me (along with the GM) to spot areas where things could be breaking, or there might be a better way. This means talking to teams and listening for their frustrations. It means connecting with people in other companies and learning how they do it. I could also mean learning about new tools, processes or best practices that may be available.
Okay, those are the 3 big areas I’ve identified as I redefine my job. There will be other things I need to do, too, like keeping a thumb on what our competition is doing, working with Product & Engineering to determine the right technology strategy, working with Business Dev to bring home whale accounts, etc. But on the question of how do I support the Ops teams and create an environment where every person can be the best version of themselves at work – that’s where my head is today.