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Insight 6: If you want proper leadership, draw your organisational chart upside down

This insight is part is a series of six insights into strategy, people and performance, derived from working with my clients in 2013.

Creating the space for others to perform

If you genuinely believe that leadership is about creating the space for others to perform; if you believe that the role of support functions is to support; if you believe that delivery for customers only really happens at the front line.  Then you have to change how you draw your organisation charts – and mean it.

Stop putting the boss is at the top!

I expect that your organisational chart has the “boss” at the top and everyone else underneath.  Even if it is drawn as a matrix, somewhere there will be the boss at the top of the hierarchy.

Stop it!  Now!

Drawing an organisation chart with the Executive team at the bottom

Instead get a pen and try this approach:

  1. Put your clients and customers at the top.  They are most important and should be at the top.
  2. Beneath the customers, put your front line staff.  They are next in importance.  They serve your customers.  Everything else the organisation does should help your front line staff serve your customers better.
  3. Underneath the front line staff put your front line management.  What is their role?  It is to create the space for your front line staff to perform as the customer wants, deliver great service/products and keep them happy.   The role of front line managers is not to do, or get in the way, it is to make sure that the front line can deliver.
  4. Underneath the front line managers put the support functions.  For once in their lives it is clear from this organisational chart that support functions support people (they support the ones above them).  They are not to the side, they are directly in line to ultimately support the end customers.  They do that by supporting the front line managers and front line staff.
  5. Finally, (and least important) put the executive team.  What is their role?  It is not to manage everything.  It is to create the space to support the rest of the organisation as they deliver.  In other words their role is leadership and support, creating the space for people to perform.

Now the effect of drawing the organisation like this is profound.  First the executive team have to recognise their role not only looks different, but is different.  It is to help make things happen.  Once this happens, they have to help others (support functions and middle, front line managers, to recognise that their role is to enable the front line to deliver.  Nothing else matters.

It has certainly had a profound effect on the clients where I have been doing this recently.    Try drawing your org chart the right way up, with customers at the top and the executive team at the bottom.  See how it changes your perspective…

…and the perspective of those that you show it to.