If you are lucky, you have leadership role models. For me, I have a few. And one of the best is Lynn Morris Wiggins.
I worked at a large national retailer that was implementing a whole new supply chain system. In that supply chain system, there was a new forecasting tool and a new replenishment process. Both were important for getting the right product, to the right store, at the right time.
Lynn Morris was a senior vice-president overseeing the project, and one of the best leaders I’ve ever worked for. She was a truly Strategic Manager. Lynn inherited and elevated a team of about twenty team members participating in this big change, with two expert Working Managers reporting to her. The first knew everything about forecasting in that organization, and then became an expert on how to use the new tool in forecasting as well. The second Working Manager worked on the replenishment side of things, on how to manage the supply chain.
Structuring her team in this way gave Lynn the ability as a Strategic Manager to step out of the details of execution. She was able to focus on influencing senior leadership and communicating what was coming next in the project. She got decisions out of them them early because she presented all ideas to them early. She was able to set a clear vision for the team of what they were trying to accomplish. She did this through monthly meetings, where the team collaborated together and reviewed, “How are we doing in our work to achieve these goals? Is there anything we’re doing that is against these visions?” Lynn did an excellent job leading change. She was always six to eight months ahead identifying and removing roadblocks.
In addition, Lynn coached her team. She did not get into the details of replenishment and forecasting, but instead coached those two Working Managers to truly own their projects and make decisions themselves. She didn’t tell them what to do, but she helped them think, and through that she was able to really make them empowered leaders who stood up for what they were doing and how they were doing it for the organization.
To this day, if Lynn Morris (now Wiggins) were to call anyone from that team and say, “Hey, I’ve got a job for you,” we would move our families to go work for her. Because she built trust, understanding, and excellence!
I asked Lynn once how she became a great Strategic Manager. She said she was a strong Working Manager who just kept taking on more and more responsibilities. She started thinking more strategically and became overwhelmed. She wished executive coaching was available, but was thankful she had multiple mentors who were able to provide advice. Over time, Lynn learned how to delegate and trust others. This gave her time to focus on strategic planning. Then, she learned to coach. As she became a senior leader, she spent time coaching her direct reports in becoming better leaders. And she supported their participation in executive coaching and leadership development programs.
Hopefully you have an example of a great leader like Lynn in your work history. Take time to reflect on what characteristics and behaviors you need to display to be a strong Strategic Manager.