So you think you need an Integrator…

As any reasonable Visionary, I too read Traction and RocketFuel salivating over the idea of an Integrator.  As a small business owner, I also thought: if only!  If only we could afford it.  If only we had the perfect person.  If only they could learn our business or industry.  If only I could trust them with my baby.  If only the list didn’t go on and on!  No worries!  Keep reading and you’ll feel better.

Of course, those of you who know me, know how lucky I am that my husband is also our Integrator, so at least the trust part was easy.  I believe much of the reason we have so many doubts about finding the “right” Integrator is because there is so much unknown.  Not everyone is as lucky as me so the trust part becomes a big deal.

As a result, we hear,

“I’ll be willing to change the reporting structure after a few months or a year when I trust s/he can handle it.”  This is destined for disaster and does more to harm the trust between Visionary and Integrator.  The Integrator has no idea when or how this trust will be earned.  The direct reports of the Visionary who certainly don’t want a new boss, have no incentive to work on the relationship with the Integrator, and the Visionary analyzes and appraises every action/non-action without having context.

“Once we make it to $X (fill in your Goldilocks amount), then I can afford to hire an Integrator.”  This isn’t an expense; this is an investment!  The Integrator should pay for themselves multiple times over.  The whole purpose of the Integrator is to save your sanity and help you grow.  They are much better at integrating (hence the name) all the different parts of the business to work better individually and together, so that you can envision (again the name) the future and apply your unique abilities accordingly.  Sure, you need a little upfront runway for salary, but this shouldn’t be seen as cutting into profits.

“Well, they have to have at least 10 years of expertise in our industry so everyone in the company will respect them.”  Really?  Do you want the Integrator to be an expert at integrating (remember the name) or be a resident expert in you product or service?  Whether they need to build a team of experts, or you’ve already got top grade people who can be trusted to do their job, those experts want to be valued as the best in their field – not to have a new guy, no matter how experienced, doubt them or dictate tactical moves.

“If I delegate all that Integrator stuff (i.e. my identity), what am I going to do???”  Ahhhh, yes.  Remember, just because you CAN and HAVE done all that integrator stuff, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.  And what do you actually want to do?  Where do you bring the greatest value to your team, your organization, your family, yourself?  Most of the time, we find the answer to the first concern about trusting enough to relinquish control over some things, has more to do with the Visionary being unclear about what they could or should be doing.

All of these concerns are actually what drove us to clarify our selection process, specific to the Visionary looking for their ideal Integrator.

For those of you who are familiar with our Selection Process, you might expect we’d simply apply it to the Integrator.  While we do eventually apply the process to the Integrator, we start with defining the role of the Visionary through our Accountability Matrix first.  We’ve learned this is absolutely critical for many reasons:

  1. When we include the stakeholders of the position (Visionary’s Direct Reports, sometimes your Strategy Coach/Implementer, sometimes your spouse who understands your community roles or activities) we get phenomenal insight into the Visionary’s future role.It also can be humbling to the Visionary to hear from these close colleagues which activities bring the greatest value to the organization. Often, we undervalue the activities at which we excel because we assume if it comes easy to us, it must come easily to everyone else; hearing from others how they count on us for those things can be an amazing experience.
  2. Stakeholders are frequently resistant to the idea of reporting to someone other than a Visionary. Once our Accountability Matrix is complete, the stakeholders accept, if not embrace why the Visionary should not have more than one direct report, the Integrator. As a reminder, the Accountability Matrix includes clarifying 3-5 Accountability Buckets of tasks (i.e. Strategy, Culture Champion, Innovation, Key Customer Relationships, Community Outreach, Corporate Ambassador, Chief Experience Officer, Financial Review, Team), priorities, percentage of team for each bucket, and success factors.
  3. The greater the clarity on the Visionary role, the easier it is to build out the Integrator role and the ideal person to fill that role given your culture. When this also includes the stakeholders, the fear around a micro-managing, interfering boss goes away.In fact, the excitement around what this person will bring to the organization really begins to build and the commitment to helping him/her succeed becomes obvious.
  4. Including the stakeholders in designing the position clarifies the myriad of activities that need to be accomplished. This helps you decide if you’re really ready to bring on that Integrator.

So how long does all of this take?

  1. Visionary Role- If we do this in-person, we’ll bring the stakeholders together for 2.5-3 hours to build out the Visionary role.If we do this virtually, we’ll need two 90-minute sessions.
  2. Integrator Role- If we build out the Accountability Matrix and the Avatar for the Integrator in-person, it generally requires a 5 hour commitment, but building the Accountability Matrix and Avatar virtually requires three 90-minute sessions.

The whole idea of bringing on an Integrator should give you peace of mind, not stress you out.  Just like anything else that seems overwhelming, make a plan and work the plan; if it’s a good plan, it should allay your fears.

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