Hiring Management on a Fractional Basis: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

With Ben WolfEP 165

Your company is growing, you’re getting too busy to do everything yourself, and you’re wondering if it’s time to hire a fractional or full-time COO. How do you determine if your company is ready? What do you need to do to get your organization prepared for this big step? What skills does the owner need to make this new arrangement work, and what skills does the COO require to succeed? What are the disadvantages of hiring a manager on a fractional basis? Is hiring a fractional COO just a way to save money, or are there some hidden organizational benefits, too?


[00:01 – 07:29] Opening Segment

• Ben introduces Wolf’s Edge Integrators, the largest fractional COO firm in the world

Check out his book Fractional Leadership
• Fractional executive leadership democratizes access to high-caliber talent for companies of all sizes

• How technology and COVID have accelerated the use of fractional COOs

[07:30 – 14:27] The Challenge of Making the Mental Jump From Doer to Leader

• Having a great leadership team requires having great leaders at the top of the organization

• an essential skill for business owners is the readiness to let go and not need to micromanage everything

• When hiring C-level executives, it is vital to have the right people in the right seats

• Leaders need to make the mental jump from doer to leader to be successful.

[14:28 – 21:18] Creating Clarity for Successful Leadership

• Leaders need to create a clear picture of the outcome and provide coaching, metrics, and accountability

Avoid jumping in and doing tasks for people rather than coaching them
• To decide which role to take, identify which activities give you energy and which ones drain it

• When hiring a COO, take time to define the role and other roles in the organization clearly

[21:19 – 28:43] Understanding When to Hire a Fractional COO vs. Full-Time

• Understanding the need for a COO and determining if it should be fractional or full-time is key

• Fractional CMOs typically give an estimate of how much time their accountabilities will take

• Working with recruiters to find the right person and elevating someone internally are other options

[28:44 – 35:50] How to Find the Right Fit for Your Fractional COO Role

• CEOs should be clear about the role and measure it using behavioral-based questions

The COO should not be a clone of the CEO but bring in different perspectives
• Fractional roles can work if you set expectations and measurables are clear

• You should avoid helicopter management as it masks people and processes issues

[35:51 – 46:06] Closing Segment

• Fractional roles still provide flexibility and availability for emergencies

• Ben on the rapid-fire questions

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Practical Pointers
In order for the owner of a growing business to start hiring a management team, he needs to have the emotional skill to let go and avoid micromanaging - but only if he knows that the right people are in the right seats. So if you’re going to hire other C-level employees - hire the people you trust, take a deep breath, and leave them alone to do their jobs.
Don’t fall into the biggest pitfall that trips up the owners of growing businesses: namely, confusing your ability to start a business with leadership and management skills. Unfortunately, many successful business creators continue focusing on their initial success in doing, rather than making the mental jump from doer to leader; instead of creating a vision of the outcome, and teaching employees how to reach it, they just jump in and do it themselves. This is inefficient, undermines your team, and leads to organizational chaos.
When you hire a COO, the most important way to prepare your organization and yourself is to be clear on what the COO job is going to be. Put together an accountability chart that clearly states what the COO role is, what the other roles are, and where the lines between those roles are drawn. If you don’t make it completely clear, your employees will decide for themselves, leading to conflict, disappointment, disorganization, and a huge hit to morale.
If you think of your management team as babysitters for your employees, you can never hire someone on a fractional basis - but a good manager and leader knows how to set up clear manageables and expectations, potentially enabling him to be present on an episodic basis rather than all the time. This means that if you want to hire a fractional manager, you may need to rewire how you operate and think about time, while also making sure that any changes you make are still in line with the culture of your company.
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Guest Bio
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Ben Wolf

Join Meny and Ben Wolf, the founder of Wolf’s Edge Integrators – the largest Fractional COO firm in the world – as they answer these and many other questions. It’s an episode that might permanently change the way you think about upper-level management and the way you integrate executives into your company.

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