Listed below are areas (strategies) for us to address. They are not necessarily in a particular ‘must’ sequence of importance.
The Organizational Leader
The success of any real endeavor to improve the business’s leadership, environment and culture must be led by ‘The Organizational Leader.’ The President, Plant Manager, CEO, General Manager, etc. His/her commitment and involvement will be absolutely critical to real change. The style, philosophy, beliefs, communication skills, etc of the one ‘at the top’ strongly influence the organization’s culture and climate. To lead this kind of change in an organization takes a strong, secure leader, open to self-assessment, awareness and personal change!
Establishment of Leadership Competencies
It is critical to really achieve sustainable leadership change and organizational culture improvement in leadership, that the traits/qualities for leadership get established. This is recommended to be done by Organizational Leader and Senior Leadership Team (with input and communication with all levels of leadership). We must determine those dynamics that we want in leaders, that will become part of hiring, mentoring, training, promoting, etc. These same traits and competencies are to become part of the makeup of people throughout the organization, at all levels.
Establishment of Leadership Competencies
The management team should emulate teamwork that is the model for the rest of the organization. Power, territories and empires at the top often exist and create decisiveness downward - affecting all other subordinate leadership / team efforts; and necessary working-relationships downward. Interestingly, ELMTs tend to exhibit less than satisfactory teamwork for a very understandable and logical reason. Consider this: ELMTs are filled with aggressive, hard-charging, get-it-done-no-matter-what individuals that have reached those levels for precisely those reasons! Their individual performance and leadership may be effective, but they never developed the skills required to function horizontally, as a team-member. Egos and individualism must be realized, understood and improved upon for this team to achieve higher levels of success.
Supervisor Team / Frontline Leaders (FLL)
Most would agree that FLLs are in the most important leadership roles within the entire organization due to their immediate impact on productivity and culture. Rarely, however do they get any developmental training for the skills that they now need. Once again, we have people in places for ‘what they know’ and experience. The skill-set that is now needed is obviously very different now (leadership skills and techniques).
Communication Systems and Processes
This is always the number one need identified by people w/in organizations upon initial contact: “We need to be able to communicate more effectively”. Once again, I look at leadership as the primary answer to this challenge. How does the Leadership Team - Chain of Command verbally communicate information in all directions? Do we rely on Human Resources (personnel office) to distribute information? Is it possible that we have become reliant on bulletin boards, memos, email, virtual messaging, etc ...vs the verbal word? What are our communication processes and systems for information flow? Do we know where the barriers exist?
Question: Is it a COMMUNICATION challenge you are facing, or actually a RELATIONSHIP issue?
Evaluation and Feedback System
Evaluate now, not in December. Companies need a routine feedback system on established competencies for everyone, including leaders. Routine, targeted conversation based upon job description and competencies ‘every month, making End of the Year Assessing - real, not surprising, fair and meaningful.
Organizational Trust and Relationships
This receives its own category of focus due to the importance it plays in how well we function and operate as a business family. Trust is a much deeper subject than most people even realize. It is so much more than just ‘lying to people’. We are all in working relationships that allow for constant opportunities to break promises with each other. Trust and relations among the leaders and chain-of-command need to be an initial focus, since we exhibit and demonstrate trust-levels to the rest of the organization. From top-down, this is where we will make the biggest difference if we are willing and committed to change. We have to understand the impact that we have on each other and how we can break trust. Real change comes through much work in these areas. Once again, this is not so much a matter of character and integrity as it is about our ‘communication practices’, feedback and follow-through by leaders.
The Leadership Chain of Command
Chain of command is a term typically attributed to the military and has negative connotations with most civilian workplaces. However, it is a lack of emphasis and discipline in how the chain-of –command functions that ironically works against us. It determines how effective and consistent our leadership really is. When we skip levels of leadership (each other!) for reasons of urgency, convenience etc we circumvent the C of C and each other. Subsequently, this grinds and degrades working relationships among members of the Leader team. This occurs in all directions: the boss skipping you and going to one of your reports, or people jumping the chain of command and going another level or two up to get resolution on some issue. We allow this so routinely; we become numb as to how much effect it really has on us; as well as its impact on communications. Respect and relationships are damaged every time we allow and reinforce these ‘everyday’ occurrences. Thus, discipline in our practices can be a good thing.
Our Leadership Practices
The meaning of ‘practices’ here is how we conduct business within our People System. Some of these are: Chain of command practices (as mentioned above), Open door policy (a killer to morale among leaders), Decision-making and Problem-Solving at the lowest levels, Consensus and Buy-in as a way of life. Communication practices (verbal, email, bulletin boards, memos, etc.). Disagreement is OK and encouraged. Systems-thinking vs Firefighting. Role of leaders as facilitators vs dictators. Freedom to fail and risk taking. Feedback, conflict and confrontation are necessary for improvement, change and progress.
Leaders as coaches, teachers and mentors - need to identify practices/principles and openly communicate and teach them.
Organizational (and Individual) History and Culture
It is imperative that we understand where our culture has been and what has made it the way it is. Past management and leadership practices determine where we (individuals and organizations) are today in our culture’s morale and attitudes. This will also play into the difficulty of improving our culture. Poor leadership-practices and ‘unskilled’ leaders/managers in the past can have a very lasting effect on people. To regain the trust is not an easy thing and we will have to gain it among the leaders and managers first. Individuals and teams must understand each other and attitudes typically exist for very valid reasons!
Problem Solving, Decision-Making and Handling Ideas
Where are we as an organization? Are decisions and ideas generated from the top or are we an organization of consensus and buy-in at the lowest levels? Successful leaders and organizations are realizing how critical it is to change this direction of leadership. Competition demands that we no longer waste our most important resource and asset (people’s thoughts)… or are those just words that sound good? This is a critical mindset to develop in leaders at all levels that begins with the simple but constant question: “What do YOU think? What would YOU do?” Organizations that successfully develop this mindset and culture will give people a sense of belonging and will ultimately make people want to work there!
“Give a man a fish and he eats for today; Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime!"
Only through a commitment from leadership at the top, carrying down into the workforce, can real behavioral change sustain itself in any organization.
A small percentage of corporations, companies and organizations of all types are finally facing the reality that talk must become action, and real behavioral change had better happen sooner rather than later, in order to survive or to just remain competitive. The workforce, facilitated by effective leadership must become perceptive, flexible, and collaborative - 'ahead of the game' regarding impending change (for all industries). More and more, organizational leadership teams (and not just some short-lived consultant effort) need to understand concepts such as OD, Change Management, Culture, and without a doubt, LEADERSHIP!
Organizations will have to commit resources to develop a different definition of 'what leadership means', and identify the kind of culture that is desired…and then lay out plans to get there. Visioning regarding the ‘People System’ is rarely done – and that’s our Most Valuable Resource supposedly!
We (the leadership) must finally understand and become true critical-thinkers regarding just how to make 'people our most valuable resource.' It takes a big picture long-term strategy to address all of the ‘people’ factors like teamwork, leadership, culture, climate, productivity, etc… It takes a discontinuation of 'programs-of-the-month, fads or jumping on the bandwagon of the latest Quality initiative. It is not just about a disciplined and accountable workforce; led, encouraged and facilitated to think, problem-solve and implement new innovative ideas and solutions - to not just match, but overwhelm the competition out there.
This is stuff that has been talked (and books have been written) about for many years, and then forgotten or disbanded when it comes to making it happen! There is no mistake about it, the winners of tomorrow are those organizations that see this coming, are willing to personally change and subsequently commit to educating and addressing individual / organizational behavior. This is clearly not about a couple of rah-rah meetings, a speech or any other short-lived initiative! This is a never-ending process of work to finally become practitioners of Continuous Improvement, Lean business and Leading Teams of people….in order to 'stop talking and begin walking', …and become the best of the best in our worlds!
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more and become more, you are a leader.” ~ J. Quincy Adams
“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it” ~ Simon Sinek
However, if being a good leader was easy, anyone could do it. People would love Mondays and would run off to their offices to work on the next exciting project. Sadly, this is often not the case and people hate their jobs (and some even hate their bosses).
My 25 years of experience in leadership coaching tells me that this situation can be significantly improved in each organization (if it takes its growth seriously).
Many little facets, professional and personal, put together correctly make a good leader. There is not one set formula or style that makes a great leader – which is why organizations continue to struggle with Leadership Development. However, all of them can boil down to these ten pillars of leadership:
If you want to lead your team to success then you have no other choice but to become a good communicator. There are many dynamics to successfully communicating – orally, written, inspirationally, presentations, etc. Realize this as well, the vast majority of communication issues are actually relationship issues.
Relationship and Accountability may just indeed be the primary pillars to really focus on as a leader. If you want them more involved and actually to take ownership over the things that should be done, the first step is to start leading by example. A culture of accountability means a personal investment of each employee as they see the bigger picture and the way their work impacts the company’s growth; so the leader must make sure he/she is fostering it.
Relationships, vertically, horizontally and indeed within one’s entire sphere are the ultimate keys to leadership effectiveness. Without all relations being solid, we are wasting productivity-potential. Leaders cannot afford to have those ‘couple of bad apples’ among their relationships. The process of improving relationships begins with awareness and assessing one’s self first.
4. Process-Improvement / Change
Have you ever tried to change something within your organization? How did it go even you had the valid arguments that your idea will work? Some people just didn’t get it, right?! A good leadership means being able to implement changes even if the things were “just fine”. This is all about concepts such as ownership, buy-in, consensus, etc. It is also about mastering the dynamic of continuous-improvement of self and others, as well as operational pieces.
5. Business/Job Knowledge
You obviously need to know your job so you can most effectively make better business decisions. Some argue that the particular business skills are more important than leadership. While knowledge and wisdom are important keys to success, think about my favorite quote and how it applies here: ‘People don’t care how much you know until first they know how much you care.”
6. Results / Influence
What really counts at the end of the day are results; the bottom line. For results you need a good idea, a leader to facilitate the journey and then a good team of people who will work to achieve it. Realization of the good idea is the hardest part actually and here we recognize good leaders who are able to motivate their team toward the goal.
7. Planning & Organizing
Not everyone’s favorite part of the job, but it is an essential part of the leadership role –for self as well as others and indeed the entire organizational entity. With good planning and organizing a good leader demonstrates that (s)he is able to think ahead and will achieve the envisioned idea; additionally it gives people confidence in their leader.
8. Growing Others / Team-builder
Maybe one of the best known and quoted aspects of leadership is growing others. A good leader should use every opportunity to coach, evaluate and build self-esteem of his team. If all are not changing and growing, we are going nowhere; but merely maintaining.
There are many dynamics to what professionalism is; it is about how one carries himself, what she models, values, presence, consistency, trust, habits and behaviors… It is about standards of behavior. It is also about the treatment of others, respect, treating people equally, no matter the skin color, diversities involved, religion, and gender. The traits, definitions and interpretations of professionalism are varied; what are yours?
10.Integrity / Ethics
Integrity means doing the right thing, for the right reason, no matter the circumstances. It is one of the crucial traits of a good leader. This there is no doubt – it is about the individual, the leader and the culture.
If you are like most in leadership/management roles, you likely do not have a set of these leadership defining pillars. These are mine which I believe encapsulate all aspects of Leadership growth. Many of the best companies have at least something like this within the halls of HR; but rarely are they really used as a serious developmental tool. At best, they likely only show up during Annual Performance Appraisal end-of-the-year ‘drills’.
If you are in any position of leadership or maybe you are the Top Dog at the Top – you might need such a target for growing you, others and future leadership sustainability.
As I work with helping leaders grow themselves and others, this is one of the first steps – creating a target for the purpose of development, growth, accountability, culture-creation and organizational success long term.
At Booker LEADERSHIP this is the starting point; where we begin creating awareness, focusing and then doing the intentional work with you of changing behavior and practices within leaders and leadership.
Within these 10 dimensions are all the skills, traits, characteristics and practices that make any leader what he/she is.
‘WITHOUT DIRECTION, WE WANDER’