Stumped, Stuck, and Stymied? An Integrator Can Get You Out of the Mud

“We’ve tried everything; nothing is working.”

I’m familiar with the phrase and I’m familiar with the frustration. When clients come to me because they cannot seem to execute on their vision and plans no matter what they do, the first area I probe is whether they have an Integrator and, if so, how well that Integrator is functioning.

The term “Integrator” is part of the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®). Gino Wickman, founder of EOS® Worldwide, defines an Integrator as “the glue for the organization” and the person who “holds everything together, beats the drum (provides cadence), is accountable for the P&L results, executes the business plan, holds the Leadership Team accountable, and is the steady force in the organization.” Understandably, then, when a company is failing to execute well, there is a strong likelihood that a problem exists related to the Integrator position. Problems typically fall into the following five categories.

1. The need for an Integrator has not been recognized. 

Companies start out small and tightly-knit. The founder often acts by default as both Visionary (the idea and strategist person) and Integrator. But as the company grows and becomes more complex, a distinction of roles becomes necessary. This is true from both a time and skill standpoint. In relation to time, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for a single person to act as an all-in-one Founder, CEO, President, COO, General Manager, and Chief of Staff. It can’t be done. From a skill perspective, the Visionary needs to focus on what he or she does best – innovate, create, and lead – and employ an Integrator to do what they do best: run and manage the organization and operations.

2. The seat for the Integrator has not been defined.

Recognizing the need for an Integrator is one thing: defining the responsibilities of that seat is another altogether. Frequently, companies hire someone who demonstrates capabilities in “execution and management” … and then turn them loose. No job description. No goals and objectives. No deliverables and accountabilities. Such a person might be phenomenal at execution and management, but if their expectations do not align with the founder or leadership team’s expectations, friction will inevitably follow. Success is built on detailed definitions and clear expectations.

3. An Integrator is not put in the seat. 

Regrettably, a company can recognize the need for an Integrator and define the position, but put someone in the seat who can’t deliver. It happens. In EOS®, we use the GWC™ tool to assess if a person is qualified to be in a seat. GWC stands for Get It, Want It, and Capacity. That is, the person gets the role: they understand the requirements and how the position fits into the broader organization. They also want it – it is exciting and energizing for them. Finally, they have the capacity to do it, which includes the skills and experience to perform at a high level in the seat. If someone is missing one or more of those components, they are not going to be able to get your company out of the mud.

4. The founder is standing in the way. 

Let’s push this another step: suppose a company recognizes their need for an Integrator, has defined the seat well, and has hired a great Integrator for the seat. Now everything should be coming up roses, right? Ideally, yes. Practically, that is not always the case. The most common culprit is the founder/CEO/president: the one person in the company who is above the Integrator in the food chain. If that person can’t let go of the need to be in control with their hand on the helm and their fingers in the minutiae, then the Integrator is not going to be able to function optimally and the business will suffer.

5. The leadership team is not aligned. 

What if the founder/CEO/president is supportive of the Integrator? Well, there is one more place issues frequently arise, and that is with the rest of the leadership team. If the leadership team digs in their heels and refuses to get on board and collaborate with the Integrator, momentum is going to stall. This can happen overtly (such as with confrontations in the conference room) or covertly (such as with sniping ‘water cooler’ discussions).

So if you are stumped, stuck, and stymied in your execution, ask yourself:

  • Do we need an Integrator? (Hint: Yes, you do!)
  • Have we defined the Integrator seat well?
  • Do we have a skilled Integrator in the seat?
  • Does the founder need to let go so the Integrator can do their job?
  • Does the leadership team need to get on board with the Integrator?

The answers to those questions will likely help you get yourself out of the executional quicksand you find yourself in and achieve your full potential.

There are other troublemakers in business, of course. In our next “Stumped, Stuck, and Stymied” blog, we’ll explore additional hindrances to great execution and how to move past them.

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