You might have a focused strategy, a great product and relentless execution, but if you fail to harness the power of one key leadership perspective in your team, your impact will remain moderate.
In this article we’ll cover the key to skyrocket your team’s influence and achieve your goals faster than ever.
But first, a quick story.
How we rocketed to CEO-level visibility and impact
At Cisco I was in a very strong leadership team, in an incredibly strong ‘elite’ business unit. However, our team’s impact soared and eclipsed many other parts of the business unit for one key reason: our team’s leader, my manager.
Not necessarily the greatest at delivering detailed work, he was a master…. I mean MASTER… of networking and communication. He was promoted through the ranks at astonishing speed, leveraged his vast internal network to catapult the visibility and impact of the team, and ended up becoming personal friends with Chairman John Chambers and CEO Chuck Robbins.
This relational strength allowed our team to have an impact far and beyond most other groups in the company, becoming the go-to resource for some of Cisco’s highest-visibility marketing campaigns and work with customers.
Our manager was a multiplying factor… a true catalyst for our team’s impact.
Ignore the Catalyst at your peril.
The strategic relationships made visible by the Catalyst perspective
Through our coaching and consulting work with leaders and teams, we’ve observed that we all see the world through five “lenses”. These are filters that govern how we see the world, and how we lead as a result. We tend to use one primary lens (our default way of seeing the world), but can deploy all of the lenses to a greater or lesser degree depending on the situation.
Working with teams at all levels, we’ve seen that the Catalyst - the strategic networker and master of relationships - can open up doors for teams that lead to incredible progress. However, the Catalyst perspective can often be overlooked as it’s less predictable and manageable than the more process-driven .
Here’s a quick pen-sketch of the Catalyst. Take a minute to see whether this is your primary lens, a lens that you value and can use when necessary, or a lens that is rather uncomfortable for you and used only occasionally.
The Catalyst lens is the perspective of NETWORKING, PARTNERSHIP and COMMUNICATION. The Catalyst lens encourages us to ask:
- Who can we get on board?
- How can we communicate?
Sweet Spots: Enthusiastic Resourcefulness
Blind Spots: People-pleasing
At the intersection of people and future vision, the Catalyst lens is the primary perspective of slightly over 10% of the population. The enthusiasm, passion and communication skills of the Catalyst means that their viewpoint is usually clearly heard.
Be careful not to rob your team of influence
Often catalysts can be mis-deployed in a team. In a world of tasks and projects, the relational strength of the catalyst can be ignored and under appreciated.
I’ve seen several occasions where a catalyst feels judged for a lack of Operator-style operational rigour and task-discipline. This shuts the catalyst down; they become defensive and either react negatively or start over-selling their position (denying there’s a problem).
In this scenario, the catalyst’s signature ease with people and charm are suppressed, and the catalyst finds themselves unable to bring their best to the team.
On the flip side of course, many a Catalyst boss can frustrate their team with their relentless enthusiasm…. about a different opportunity each week! Catalysts can generate a bunch of opportunities, but need to allow the team to filter and prioritise those to provide some operational stability.
Activate a Catalyst
Who’s the person in the team with great people skills and an address book as thick as a double cheeseburger? Who’s the incurable networker in your midst? Chances are, you’ve found a Catalyst.
Remember, Catalysts have an incredible gift to set up strategic partnerships inside or outside the organisation that will help the team punch well above its weight and get more accomplished, faster. However, Catalysts aren’t often the greatest project managers out there and their strengths can often be underused by task-focused managers and teams.
A simple way to get the best from a Catalyst is to harness their relational resourcefulness. Rather than trying to get them to double-down on task delivery, ask them how they can ‘sell’ the team’s vision to internal or external partners, or ask them to find someone who can provide a key resource or a piece of support. You will be amazed at who they know and what they can find!
ACTION POINT: What’s the specific action you can take to activate a Catalyst in your world today?