Do You Need a Fractional Leader® or Another Set of Hands?

Businesswoman working with eight hands, representing to very busy business concept.

The main value of Fractional Leadership® is bringing experienced, been-there-done-that direction into your leadership team to collaboratively lead and drive execution by creating discipline and accountability around a certain core function of your business.
If what you need is primarily someone to personally get things done, then Fractional Leadership may not be right for you.

Instead, you might need to hire a manager-level person, elevate someone to a greater level of responsibility, or you may have the wrong person in a key role. If that person happens to be a family member, it creates a thorny issue. You may be tempted to retain an FL to escape having to make a difficult change with one or more of your people, in the hopes that the FL will “whip them into shape.” Unfortunately, the only solution to people issues is either helping them level up or replacing them with someone more suited to the role. Retaining an FL does immunize you from the need to make a change when you have wrong-person or wrong-seat issues. It simply costs more and delays the inevitable.

That being said, particularly with respect to operations, I have found that some smaller companies (usually those with five to twenty employees) match up well with FLs with experience at similar-sized businesses. In these engagements, the FL has a dual role of acting as a member of the leadership team as well as just getting stuff done. I call these “Doer Leaders”. Particularly for operations, there is sometimes a place for a dual head of operations and FCOO role, but it’s a tricky balance and you must ensure that your expectations are aligned with those of your potential FL. I’ll explain more about this in Chapters 8 and 9.

For example, Rachel Beider, founder and CEO of Press Modern Massage and author of Massage MBA, worked to scale a massage practice in Brooklyn, New York. She fought tooth and nail over about seven years to expand into seventeen treatment rooms in two locations.
But she was stressed out, overwhelmed, and anxious all the time. Everything was on her head. She had to supervise her staff, drive expansion to new locations, furnish the treatment rooms, lead marketing, and oversee everything else that went into running a business. She felt like it was actually running her into the ground. Rachel could not afford a full-time COO, so she finally connected with another woman who could act as her FCOO to take over supervision of the staff and execute on the various physical expansions. That way, Rachel could focus more on building the business, marketing, and clinical supervision and culture, things she loved doing and was great at. She credits her FCOO with restoring her sanity and her ability to expand her practice to five locations in less than a third of the time it took her to open just her second location.

  • For those who need more of a Doer Leader, there are two main approaches they can take:
    Hire a manager or head of operations full-time. They don’t have to be super -experienced in larger companies or be leadership team material. Business owners considering this route should understand that such a manager-level or head of operations will still cost more than the people they already have on board. Once they have a manager-level person on the team, they can then reconsider Fractional Leadership because the FL will then have someone they can rely on to drive day-to-day tactical execution while the FL brings greater strategic and accountability leadership.
  • Find a Fractional Integrator an FI or FCOO who’s looking for a more tactical, Doer Leader role in addition to the leadership element. I know many such people available and I usually introduce those business owners to two or three of them whom I can vouch for.
    In my experience, Doer Leaders are a relatively small part of the Fractional Leadership community because they work more hours for a smaller number of clients. Whenever I speak with potential clients, I always probe for a clear understanding of their expectations so I know if they’re looking for a Fractional Integrator more focused on leading, managing, and creating accountability (a “Manager Leader”), or if they’re looking more for a tactical, get’ ‘er done, head of operations (a “Doer Leader”). For those business owners who are looking for a Doer Leader, I let them know that I am more of the leadership, management, and accountability type of FL, and that I’m probably not a good fit for what they’re looking for.

For most business owners, the right time for Fractional Leadership is when they desperately need the experience, leadership, and ability to drive execution and accountability—that is, i.e., a Manager Leader. Fractional Leadership is usually not right for people who just need an extra set of hands.