𝗙𝗿𝗮𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗟𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗽 𝗟𝗮𝗱𝗱𝗲𝗿𝘀 𝗘𝘅𝗽𝗼𝗻𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗮𝗹 𝗚𝗿𝗼𝘄𝘁𝗵
Updated: Aug 28, 2021
As a founder getting off the ground, you need to control every decision. As the business grows, it may be hard to delegate away some responsibilities.
Like a stairway when ascending steep stone, engaging a fractional leader can shortcut exponential success.* Just be mindful of the risks and your desire to hold on.
Fractional leaders operate part-time to bridge the gap before hiring a full-time executive, especially if you've grown quickly, face a major crisis or inflection point, or need to cover a sudden departure.
You may approach the role as cutting off one specific responsibility or project and seeing how someone else can handle it. Keep experimenting in that way until you get more comfortable setting expectations, agreeing on success, and measuring progress with others.
Since founders should focus on strategic areas (e.g. fundraising or product development), if running the business requires over 20% of their time, then a fractional leader can help.
There are many benefits to engaging a fractional leader:
𝙀𝙭𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙚𝙣𝙘𝙚: Apply insights to install best practices, gain market insights, and mitigate potential risks. Fractional leaders can draw actionable connections between your vision and the current state.
𝘼𝙛𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙙𝙖𝙗𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮: Ease your budget, since their rate often does not include overhead, benefits, bonuses, or recruiting costs.
𝙁𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙯𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣: Inject innovative perspectives based on multiple successes and failures bearing down on your challenges.
𝙇𝙚𝙖𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙥: Separate management from expertise. Startups may promote first hires based solely on contribution and ignore management skills, so fractional leaders can productively mentor.
𝘼𝙬𝙖𝙧𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙨𝙨: Realize it’s tough to fully appreciate how a new role will function until you actually place someone in the position. This role shows you how a full-time position could perform.
Engaging fractional leaders should be a rigorous process – seek diverse sources, vet properly, and know how they solve problems. Also, clearly define deliverables and how you will measure success.
There are also 𝗴𝗼𝗼𝗱 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗲𝗻𝗴𝗮𝗴𝗲 a fractional leader:
· If they will require a lot of direction and support.
· If they propose solutions too quickly, that's a bad sign (imagine a doctor writing a prescription before examining you).
· If they will not collaborate well (an expert who causes problems in the team just trades one problem for another).
· If the person seems to create opportunities for their own interest.
Overall, if they won't add value at scale, then seek other options.
Fractional leaders offer exponential impact during an inflection point. There will always be more to climb, so take stairs when possible.
* Full disclosure = I’m a fractional COO/CFO and my bias shines here, so I forced myself to include the many downsides. Let me know what I missed on either side.
Photo by Angelique Downing who can be found here: https://www.instagram.com/angelique.henry/