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!"