Every leader of a group or organization larger than 10-15 people needs a Key 3. We may be responsible for more than three people, but these are the ones with whom we should spend the most development time. Our inner circle. The future leaders.
Here is a short list of benefits of having a Key 3:
- Focused leadership: we have limited time to invest in people so we must choose. When we pick a few people, we can devote our energy and have a greater impact. It is better to focus our efforts than to spread ourselves too thin and not really effect anyone.
- Better alignment: just because we can’t lead everyone individually doesn’t mean people can function without leadership. Our Key 3 helps spread our vision throughout the organization. If each of our Key 3 also has a Key 3 (and so on down the line), our vision is woven into the organization and becomes reality, instead of just some abstract collection of words.
- Shared burden of company value creation: if we’ve identified the right Key 3, they will share our desire to create real company value. They will act like owners and approach each day with creativity and energy.
- Clarity on new projects: since the Key 3 shares our vision and desire to create company value, they have a stake in everything. They can help brainstorm at the beginning of new projects, provide direction, and improve the chances they are completed on time and on budget.
- Personal and professional freedom: we can’t be there for every decision, and people need to know to whom they can turn when we’re not. We can trust our Key 3 to make good decisions in our absence.
- Accountability and support: let’s be honest, leading people is difficult and sometimes lonely. The Key 3 holds us accountable to our vision and plans and can keep us honest. They can also support us when things get tough.
- These are the future leaders: since every leadership position is temporary it’s good to identify future leaders early. Having a Key 3 provides an extended transition period, and can make the actual event seamless.
Why not 1, or 100?
Three isn’t a magic number but it’s a good number. A range of 3-5 might be a better rule of thumb.
Many more than that and it dilutes the whole purpose. We can’t possibly spend enough time with each to achieve great results.
Fewer than three takes away from the diversity in thought and it limits our options. If you can only identify one and you’re in an organization with a decent number of people (20 or more), you may want to evaluate your talent.
The important thing is to pick who you should be leading and spend time with them. Help them develop into the leaders they’re meant to be.