How a Fractional Leadership Structure Avoids Likely Pitfalls

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Many people are hesitant to make the leap to using Fractional Leadership. How can someone understand the business if they’re not there full-time? How can someone drive accountability and results in a team they hardly see? How can someone be part of your leadership team when they’re not physically there? Here are some answers to these questions.

Understanding the Business When They’re Not There Full-Time

How can Fractional Leaders (FLs) understand your business well enough to effectively act as a member of the leadership team when they’re not there full-time? Why are they no better than the “drive-by consultants” who do their best to meet with as many people as they can to understand the company but who, through no fault of their own, rarely get it?

The difference is that FLs embed themselves within your company, whether they’re with you physically or virtually. FLs aren’t drive-by consultants because they become part of your leadership team. They collaborate with the other leadership team members consistently and work week in, week out (or month in, month out) with the team or function they lead. They get to know your business, people, and culture over the months or years you work with them.

They do not simply state their opinion after an investigation. They do not supplant your team’s culture, your knowledge of your market, and your experience. Instead, they use what they know works from their experience to focus and concretely implement the knowledge you and your people already possess through a far more effective execution than you had before.

Let’s make this more concrete. I began working with a wood flooring installer as their Fractional Integrator. Two of the leadership team members had quarterly goals related to documenting certain core processes that were unclear and inconsistently applied at the time. This caused tremendous frustration. One process related to collecting A/R, and the other had to do with how to install certain types of flooring most effectively.

I’m not a flooring expert. I’ll just put that out there at the outset. It doesn’t matter. I’m good at documenting processes and figuring out the best way to create accountability around executing those processes. I don’t need to understand the nuances of flooring installation to channel the knowledge of the head of operations into a short, two-page process document.

I showed him how to implement a couple of simple metrics to ensure that once the operations team was trained on that process, they were held accountable for executing the process the right way, every time.

When the Cat’s Away…

How do you ensure that the team members don’t fall back into old habits and do things the way they’d become ingrained to during the 80 percent of the time the FL isn’t around?

This is a great question, and it has a simple answer. FLs know from experience that you don’t create effective teams and core functions of the business by hovering over people to ensure they do things right. In startup mode, business owners want to make sure that every part of their new company is working well, so they hover. Many business owners and leadership team members simply assume that’s how it works in larger companies, just on a larger scale with more managers overlooking more people’s work. But that’s not the best way to get results.

FLs create effective teams by creating accountable teams who don’t need a helicopter manager. They do that by first ensuring that the team is made up of the right people who share the work style and core values of the company. Next, they define the team’s process and set weekly metrics and goals which track those processes to create accountability around execution. That’s it.

Let’s say you retain a Fractional Chief Sales Officer (FCSO) who puts in place a new sales process and implements a CRM to create visibility, accountability, and reporting around sales. He or she creates metrics in the company’s chosen CRM for leads entered, outgoing emails sent, demo calls conducted, and sales closed, each with a specific minimum threshold to be considered on track. If someone on the team doesn’t use the CRM to enter leads or send outgoing emails or log demo calls, they won’t make the numbers to which they are held accountable at the weekly sales meeting with the FCSO. It’s that simple.

Fractional Leaders don’t have to be physically with the team all the time as long as they set up a system of accountability and hold people to that system. They train, answer questions, mentor, and perhaps sit in on calls or listen to recordings when they’re with the team, thus driving effective execution without needing to be there full-time.

So, you see, the Fractional Leadership structure, by its objective alone, successfully negates any perceived or potential pitfalls that might come with hiring a typical contract or temporary executive leader to help with your business goals.

Ben Wolf Author
Ben Wolf, founder and CEO of Fractional Leadership, has been on both sides of the Fractional Leader search process.
As a leader in companies where he served as Fractional Integrator (outsourced COO), he has searched for and found multiple Fractional Leaders for clients. And as a Fractional Integrator, he has gone through many cycles looking for new clients at the successful conclusion of each engagement.
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