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  • Writer's pictureMark Samuel

12 Ways Senior Leaders Can Ensure Business Runs Smoothly When They’re Away.

Updated: Mar 8

12 Ways Senior Leaders Can Ensure Business Runs Smoothly When They’re Away

Guiding a company’s operations and its team comes with many challenges, keeping senior leaders engaged every hour of the day. Like everyone else, though, there will be times when a leader has to be away from the job, whether because they’re on vacation, traveling for business, recovering from illness or another reason. That’s why it’s essential to have the structure and plans in place to ensure the company can run smoothly—even in your absence.

With the right planning and help from an engaged team, a business can keep firing on all cylinders even when one or more members of the leadership team are away. Here, 12 members of Forbes Coaches Council discuss important steps senior leaders can take to ensure that their company continues to run smoothly, even when they aren’t present.

1. Leaders Focus On Structure, Systems And Strategy

For any company to run smoothly, there are three major things that have to be in place. The first is structure—a proper structure ensures that there is someone accountable for ensuring all tasks that need to be done are done. The second is systems, or an outline of the “how.” Detail how the work that needs to be done gets done (for example, in HR systems, detail how the company hires and fires). The third is strategy, which is the competitive advantage of the company. - Othman Abdulrasheed, Business Leadership Consulting

2. Don’t Just Manage - Lead

Shift from managing to actually leading. Leaders set the trajectory, motivate and empower. They ensure their people are equal to the tasks at hand, providing the learning and resources to execute their mission. Senior leaders often fail to make this leap by relying on the habits that have led to success to date. The shift to leading requires a shift in self-image and habitual action. - Tevis Trower, Balance Integration Corporation

3. Give Everyone An Opportunity To Lead

One of the things high-performing leaders can do to sustain momentum even in their absence is to commit to the ongoing grooming of their people for leadership. This requires that everyone is trained and given an opportunity to test their capacity to lead. Those who consistently show visible improvement in performance can be given more responsibility to lead. - Abiola Salami, CHAMP

4. Create Confidence Through Monitored Leading Opportunities

An executive can create opportunities for leaders to “run the place” while they are in the room, creating confidence for moments when the boss is out. This could include rotating business review leadership and creating co-ownership of high-profile initiatives. The objective is to establish a shared understanding of business metrics and an agreed-upon protocol to course-correct when needed. - Christine Grimm, Aria Consulting International

5. Have Employees Create Role-Based Continuity Plans

I recommend that senior leaders have their employees create a business continuity plan for their job roles. For tasks where the senior leader is critical, they should identify a backup plan or resource for when the leader is unavailable. The business continuity plan has two advantages: documentation of role operations as well as directives for when key stakeholders are not available. - Karan Rhodes, Shockingly Different Leadership (SDL)

6. Hire A Trustworthy Team And Prepare Them To Lead

Build a wonderful team! Everyone needs time off, vacation and rest, and top leaders are no different. To ensure that the business thrives while you’re away, you must have a trustworthy and competent team in place. Surround yourself with wonderful people, develop them carefully and delegate to them to help them be ready. And when it is time, let them amaze you with their competence, eagerness and loyalty. - Agata Dulnik, Ph.D., Global Leadership Experts

7. Establish ‘Shared Accountability’

Develop a strong, cross-functional team that has clear direction, expected outcomes, clear roles and relationships, and a strategy for success. Most importantly, establish “shared accountability” between team members so that they are accountable to each other, not just the leader. Use meetings to practice surfacing and resolving breakdowns and holding each other accountable in a supportive manner. - Mark Samuel, IMPAQ Corporation

8. Be Transparent

Transparency is essential. A leader who trusts their team will be transparent in providing insights, context and vision for organizational goals and initiatives. They will invite questions and respond openly. Their team members are then able to be responsible for carrying out the work and making decisions in the moment. They are free to soar when they have full clarity. - Candice Gottlieb-Clark, Dynamic Team Solutions

9. Solidify The Team’s Commitment To A Shared Vision

Engage your leadership team in the conversations that solidify their commitment to your shared vision, goals and plans, not just individual success in their own sphere or division. Create clarity on who has what authority. Ensure that a regular rhythm of team conversations is practiced at every level, keeping all team members aware and on track for executing both individual and company goals. - Christine Rose, Christine Rose Coaching & Consulting

10. Effectively Delegate And Train With Trust

Senior leaders must redefine their own value to the organization. It’s no longer about the “tasks you do.” Instead, it’s about “the wisdom you share.” This means you must effectively delegate and train with trust. Prioritize all your tasks into three categories: 1. tedious tasks that need to get done, 2. tasks you don’t enjoy, and 3. high-level tasks that you must teach. Then coach and delegate to your team. - Christie Garcia, Mindful Choice LLC

11. Empower The Team And Reward Positive Growth

In order to ensure that a company can run smoothly when the leader is not there, it is critical to build the right corporate culture. What does this mean? It starts with having the right people in place and then actually empowering, teaching, guiding and mentoring them. It also means equally critically rewarding positive growth and, sometimes, allowing for growth through mistakes. - Ash Varma, Varma & Associates

12. Create A Constant Feedback Loop

Communication is key. There should be a constant feedback loop and a way for people to communicate with each other effectively. Similarly, if someone needs to reach a senior leader, there should be clear communication strategies. It is important to build strong communication channels, because this allows the team to develop a transparent culture. - Josephine Kant, Google for Startups


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