What the Heck is an Integrator?
In Traction™, Gino Wickman describes the Visionary as the idea generator who understands the big picture and sees the future of the company and the industry. Visionaries want to do the big things that will move their company forward, like finding new clients, developing new products, or adding new markets.
The Integrator has a complimentary role. They listen to the Visionary’s vision, and then their job is to turn that vision into reality. Other names for an Integrator might be General Manager, right-hand person, #2, or COO.
I was an Integrator before the book was written SM, and I want to share why I think Integrator is a critical role in a growing company.
I have seen Visionaries who think an Integrator is just a personal assistant, keeping them on track for appointments and reminding them of important to dos. A great Integrator is so much more than that.
What does an Integrator do?
The first role of the Integrator is to free up the Visionary. Visionaries have to be free to use their superpowers, whether that is sales, product development, or operations, to grow their business. But they cannot do that if they are trapped in the details of the day-to-day.
On my first day as a fractional Integrator at a new client, the owner told me, “I’m a Trapped Visionary™.” I asked him what he meant, and he replied, “I want to work on building out a sales team. I want to be on our industry board. And I want to work on our company culture. But do you know what I spend all my time doing? Working in QuickBooks.”
In order to get him un-trapped, I trained one of his staff who had the necessary ability to use QuickBooks and manage cash. Free of those two large responsibilities, the Visionary built out his sales team, beefed up marketing, and implemented a CRM program. He was then able to bring in some new large accounts and drive sales growth. His superpower was sales, and once I freed him up, he was able to use that superpower to achieve his vision for the company.
The second role of the Integrator is to make the members of the Leadership Team successful. Remember that the Leadership Team reports to the Integrator, not the Visionary. This further frees up the Visionary and further insulates them from the day-to-day details by eliminating their supervisory responsibilities.
The Integrator does for the members of the Leadership Team what every good manager does: lead, guide, coach, motivate, encourage, and instruct. The Integrator holds the team accountable and removes obstacles. They work with the team to create and execute action plans, develop metrics, and drive results. The “integration” part of the job title comes from the fact that the Integrator coordinates all aspects of the business so that they run smoothly and work together effectively.
Finally, the third role of the Integrator is to own the operating system. It is the Integrator’s job to make sure the company is following EOS® properly. That means ensuring the Scorecard™ is effective, the Accountability Chart™ is up-to-date, and that Quarterly Rocks™ are being set and completed.
The Integrator also typically facilitates the L-10 Meetings™, the weekly 90-minute meeting in which the team solves issues. The Integrator is more than just a facilitator, though. Not only are they skilled at following the L-10 agenda and at using the IDS™ process, but they also use their years of business experience to lead the team in solving problems.
I told one of my clients that I expect them to eventually run their own L-10 meetings. One of the team quickly responded, “You mean, we’ll need to learn to say, ‘What is the real issue?’, and ‘Is that the same issue?’” That kidding remark told me that they must be learning something from me in our L-10s.
What does it take to be a great Integrator?
A thorough background in EOS® is essential to be a great Integrator. Training is great, but even better is actual experience at a company that is running on EOS. This means experience in L-10s and Quarterly and Annual Meetings and practice at setting and achieving Quarterly Rocks.
More important than a background in EOS, though, is a diverse and cross-functional business background. This means (1) experience in more than one industry, and (2) significant management experience in the three main functional areas of business: sales/marketing, operations and finance. This cross-functional experience can only be developed from an intentional effort over many years to develop a broad background. It puts the Integrator in the position to go head-to-head with the leaders of the different functional areas.
Most, but not all, Integrators come from the operations side and add sales/marketing and finance experience during their careers. I have found that the best background for an Integrator is experience as the general manager of a small company.
I had a guy tell me once, “I’ve been a CFO for 35 years. I’d be a great Integrator.” I told him, honestly, “No, you probably wouldn’t. That’s only finance experience.”
If you are an Integrator, congratulations! Only about 2% of people have the skills to be an Integrator. And since Visionaries outnumber Integrators 6 to 1, that makes Integrators all the more in demand.
If you are Visionary who could really use an Integrator, reach out to me. I have extensive EOS experience and a diverse, cross-functional background. I have been a fractional Integrator for five years and have worked with clients in a variety of industries. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-247-1993 or my LinkedIn page.
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