Matrix Management

Great question to ask a new management team

I was delivering a keynote speech to a supply chain meeting at Lego-Land Denmark recently, an interesting and fun location for a meeting.

The session before mine ended with a Q&A for a relatively new group of leaders who had come in to manage a more integrated supply chain organization. This was the first meeting of the extended supply chain organization so there were several questions on the detail of how their matrix would work.

Then came my favourite question of the day, perhaps one that is only asked in countries where a direct communication style is so valued. “You are a new management team, can you tell us why we should be led by you?”.

It’s a glorious question, implicit in this is that you can’t be a real leader unless others choose to follow you. It fit well with my session on succeeding in a matrix where hierarchical power and control are undermined by multiple reporting lines, accountability without control and the need to influence without authority.

In these increasingly connected organizations, where we have multiple bosses and work on multiple teams, individuals need to make constant decisions on prioritization and where they will allocate their limited time and attention.

Several years ago we asked people with both solid and dotted line bosses which of these two they preferred. Most people preferred their dotted line boss because their solid line bosses just told them what to do. The dotted line bosses, without the same access to hierarchy and control tended to explain, influence and support more and people preferred to be led this way.

In a complex environment the impact of your style of leadership will influence how much attention and priority you get from people, – the bare minimum they are forced to allocate through to the extra mile they will give if inspired and engaged.

At the conference in Denmark some of the new leaders were surprised by the question but they each made a good natured attempt to answer the question. It was great that someone from the middle of the organization felt confident to ask the question. I suspect that in some other national or corporate cultures that would have been a career limiting question to even ask.

Try answering that question for yourself – why should your people, be led by you? If you can’t answer this, maybe you need to work it out, it could be your people are asking the same question. The lack of a good answer could be holding you back from influencing people to support your initiatives and ideas.

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