Growing High Capacity Direct Reports

 Grow High Capacity “direct reports”
who can share the load


The pace of change spins faster and faster.  Challenges keep coming … more quickly than we can respond. Do your direct reports pick up the slack?  Or are they awaiting your decisions?


Senior executives must step up.  No longer can they remain siloed as content experts.  Needed are versatile leaders who can lead across silos.  Leaders who can braid initiatives together and keep everyone moving in the same direction. 

Five ways to grow ‘high capacity’ direct reports:

Team Focus

Start with the end in mind.  You alone can do only so much.  Strong direct reports and a strong team can take you farther faster.  Over time, we want to delegate more while being assured that our work is coherent and all are pulling in the same direction.  This set of arrows (first three from Peter Senge) shows different ways in which your team might work together.  Which arrow represents your team?

Expect direct reports to be an integral part of the team, working coherently across silos.

Teachable Point of View

Be clear and certain about your core values.  Share your elevator speech at every opportunity.  Open every meeting, speech, and newsletter with evidence of your core commitments to the organization and community.  AND, prepare senior leaders to do the same.  Johnson and Johnson have lived by their CREDO … Serve the customer … for nearly 100 years.  When the Tylenol crisis erupted, thousands of employees knew the right thing to do because they had heard it and seen it in action.

Expect direct reports to “represent” the district in word and action.


Share the loadAssign senior leaders to resolve difficult issues, even those that cross silo lines. One useful delegation tool is R.I.C.E. which stands for:

  • Responsible … I am giving you total authority to take on this issue and resolve it.
  • Inform … I am giving you total authority … just keep me informed.
  • Consult/Collaborate … Go do all the preliminary work and bring back workable solutions.
  • Execute … Here is my decision. Go make sure it is carried out.

This process shares the load and removes roadblocks.  You can delegate and still maintain appropriate oversight.

Expect direct reports to become increasingly “responsible” for system-wide work.

Completed Staff Work

The “consult/collaborate” part of the R.I.C.E. model is the toughest.  Never should senior leaders be able to dump a problem on your desk and say, Just tell me what to do!  Train senior leaders to do completed staff work:  Call the meeting.  Invite those affected.  Define the problem.  Solicit best options.  Identify pros and cons. Bring back well thought out collaborative “workable solutions.”  Make briefing papers, in the above format, an integral part of your organization.  They become shorthand for effective decision making.

Expect direct reports to do “completed staff work.”


Patrick Lencioni’s newest book, The Motive, asks whether we, as executive leaders, want to BE the executive or DO the executing.  Do we want the privilege of rank or do we want to use our rank for the greater good?  Direct reports come by their position as content experts.  But they earn their pay by executing … leading with commitment and competence.  They step up.  They vet good decisions.  They own, support and defend the work.  They solve problems.  To paraphrase Peter Senge (below) only slightly, it is about commitment not compliance:

  • Commitment: Wants it. Will make it happen. Creates whatever structures are needed.
  • Enrollment: Wants it.  Will do whatever can be done …
  • Compliance: Sees the benefits.  Does everything expected.  Follows the letter of the law

Expect direct reports to lead – to DO the executing – with commitment.

Grow a Powerful Team AND “high capacity” direct reports

Use these five steps to grow a powerful team.  Invest in them.  Believe in them.  Grow their capacity. In time you and your team will be able to travel farther and faster.   You will work as a team, solve problems, make better decisions and implement with coherence and commitment.

Expect – and invest in – extraordinary “high capacity” leadership.

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Larry Nyland speaking

Larry Nyland – Leadership Coach and Consultant.
Seattle Schools superintendent 2014-2018

To talk about growing extraordinary "high capacity" leadership for your team …
Contact: | 425-418-4398 |