What makes a key person so key? Is it because they have much experience and know to solve all issues? Is it because they have skills that others do not have? Is it because they have a relationship with your customers that makes you vulnerable when they would leave? Read this again, these are all bad things! Although you can be very happy with the key person, the truth is that you have failed to spread the experience evenly, or have failed to ensure the key person trains other people in your organization, or you have failed to stay in contact with your important customers.
In all of these cases, you have failed to secure the longer term survival of your company and by relying too much on one person, you have not done the company a favor.
Experienced reliable employees are a true asset to the company but failing to use them to build capacity for when they would not be available is a management failure.
So think about when your key person would leave. See this as an opportunity to shore up your company resources and find out exactly what you have in place to continue your services, when that person would unexpectedly not be available anymore.
Also review what exactly makes the key person so key. Is it the lack of policies, processes and procedures that requires heroic deeds every now and then that build the legacy of your key person? Well, read up about our views on process and get busy.
It is great to have key people but remember, you as the responsible person for the business always needs to be the key-holder and ensure the continuance of the company.
When you are first appointed as a manager many things will come your way. New impressions, new relations, new responsibilities and new issues that you need to ponder and find solutions for. It makes a huge difference if you were already in the company and got promoted or that you were hired from outside. Both have their pros and cons. When you were internal you’ll have an easier time negotiating the company politics, when you come from outside it will be easier to be seen as a manager and not as “Joe who got a new position”. Much more can be said about this but my main point, as usual, is that you need goal clarity. The assignment needs to be crystal clear for you as manager, in order to be able to effectively lead your group.
The other important immediate issue is to find out what the social composition of the department or group is. Who hangs out with who, who has been here forever, who is the smartest person in the group, who has most experience. You need to know your resources.
Next you’ll have to find an effective way to communicate with the people; do they need meetings, are memos a thing, will emails be effective, is there a reporting system that helps the flow of work.
All great things to think about. The Fast company has a nice article about someone starting as a manager and the lessons learned in their first 30 days.
For me the goal clarity, getting to know the resources and finding an effective way to communicate would be the first focal points. You can read more about this in my book where I highlight the importance of many other points also.
Let me know what you struggled with in your first days as a manager. We’ll follow up over time with a summary.