Striking a Balance between Scalability and Being Human
In the world of high-growth business, where demand for scale and efficiency reigns supreme, there is a nuanced layer that often goes unnoticed: emotions. Beyond the spreadsheets and workflows, emotions play a profound role, influencing everything from employee engagement to customer loyalty. In fact, this emotional attachment is often what can deter a company from bringing in fractional operators - how could an “outsider” possibly understand their intricacies.
Consider the common paths leveraged to scale a company:
Full-time resources are often too deep in the weeds and/or too embedded in interpersonal dynamics to effectively build for scale.
External consultants can build countless workflows and process optimization playbooks, but they often don’t have the context or connection to influence how those plans land.
In contrast, a great fractional operator strikes the right balance of efficiently diagnosing process gaps while addressing emotional attachment and resistance to change. Fractional operators have spent time in the trenches of many companies, which allows them to spot patterns quickly and cut through the noise with objectivity.
Scaling with Emotional Intelligence
A fractional operator will work closely with internal team members to identify the best path for effective scale. Whether building or refining, a fractional executive should have a tried and true discovery process to uncover emotional areas in an organization.
The more hands-on human involvement, the higher the likelihood of that extra TLC is warranted, such as areas that are currently served through manumation and/or teams that have gone through many seasons of rapid change.
In particular, the following questions are effective in uncovering hot buttons that can unexpectedly derail even the best process improvements:
Has this [problem/process/opportunity/workflow] been addressed before? If so, how was it received, and is that original team still here?
The difference in reception of a new approach for the first time vs the 50th is material. Resurfacing something from the past isn’t off the table, but there needs to be additional consideration given to building the business case of why this time it will work. If original builders are still at the organization, operators should value their insights and, when appropriate, welcome direct contributions.
Are there any areas where you’d like to be looped in to every decision no matter the size?
One CEO may happily hand over company ceremonies and communication while another may feel a strong need to stay connected to every detail. There are examples in nearly every department of sensitive areas, so knowing these in advance is incredibly helpful. If teams aren’t forthcoming with where these areas are (or aren’t aware of them), common tells are meetings that are over-attended or topics that always get email engagement despite their relatively low priority level. Knowing these provides opportunities to build trust quickly across teams.
Recognizing and understanding these emotional connection points is crucial for effective operations and this is where pattern recognition is invaluable. Fractional operators are often in the best seat to balance the art and the science of driving strong impact.
Acknowledging Timing and Impact
The other key advantage of a fractional operator’s lens is the ability to make recommendations on the timing of change. The pursuit of operational excellence can sometimes lead to overwork and burnout. While efficiency is essential, employee well-being is equally crucial.
Each operational decision should be weighed in terms of impact vs outcome, heavily considering the emotional impact in that equation.
For example, if there are 10 workstreams to be addressed and 2 of those are determined to be emotional hot buttons, the emotional tax of making change in those two areas runs a risk of offsetting the potential gains. If change is needed, the communication plan and overall approach can be adapted to maximize impact.
In a world where you can do anything but not everything, great decision making can make or break your success.
Positioned to Succeed
As organizations expand and scale, they grow significantly in complexity. A thoughtful fractional executive is a powerful partner who can lead from the inside through a robust communication protocol, integrated with tools like Slack and email, while offering a multitude of best practices and competitive approaches to scale. Striking a balance between repeatability and human-centric operations – between process optimization and recognizing the emotional fabric of interactions – is the hallmark of successful organizations.