Tag Archives: Organization

Stiffness is Death

Organizational leadership takes place in one of two contexts.

Either…

The organization is heading to new heights – it’s a start-up, or an existing organization that’s reached a plateau.  It needs a Visionary to take it to new and uncharted territory.

Or…

The organization is sinking in the depths; in the shit, as it were.  It needs a strong and resolute leader with experience and courage to save it.  It needs a Savior.

The expertise required may be different, and the motivation for each may vary, but each role still requires the same fundamental leadership attributes:   independence (to judge and make decisions); people skills (to engage, delegate, and motivate); expertise (to know what to do and how to do it); and passion (to care enough to make the effort and stay the course).

Some would argue that there is a third context, the organization that’s just humming along, neither growing, nor under threat.  I would counter that if an organization is not growing, it’s stagnating.  And if its stagnating, it’s dying.   It’s competitors will soon take its position.  If there are none, there soon will be.  Such an organization better be lead by a Visionary soon, or it will need a Savior soon.

Here’s the thing… it’s occurring to me now, as of course it would, that those two contexts, let’s call them “fighting to survive” and “scaling new heights” are mirrored in our own individual lives.  The vicissitudes of life are such that we are either overcoming challenges, emotional and/existential, that is, we’re working to save or preserve some value or values that we already possess, or; we’re working to create for ourselves and those we love some new values.  The in-between, the drifting along without significant challenge (time for R&R notwithstanding), is as dangerous for an individual as it is for an organization.  Don’t move and you’ll get stiff. And, as my Sifu is fond of saying, “stiffness is death”.

Where is your organization at?  And how about you?  Struggling to remain a going concern or pursuing exciting new challenges?

Remember, the status-quo is dangerous, because the Universe never stands still.  So, neither should you, and neither should the organization(s) you’re a part of.

Why lead?

WHAT motivates people to lead others; to take on the role of organizational leader, whether in corporate, non-profit, government, military, sports, or a myriad of other organizational settings?

Enjoyment?

Money?

Power?

Prestige?

Because no one else can?

I’m sure for most it’s a combination of many factors, and equally sure that reasons vary from leader to leader.

I’m very curious about this, because I believe leadership as we know it is rapidly changing, as the modus operandi of successful organizations evolves away from the command & control model of last century towards individual empowerment and more collaborative business models.

That means that what makes a leader successful is changing, and as a corollary, what motivates people to lead must also be changing.

If you have thoughts on this; if you are in a leadership role; if you’re an observer or thought-leader in the field, I’d like to hear from you.

I’ll have more to write on this in coming weeks, and hopefully will have a more formal survey in place soon.  For now I’d like to gather some anecdotal evidence.  Can you help?  Why do you or the leaders you know choose to lead?

The Six Essential Responsibilities of Organizational Leaders

WHAT do leaders do?  Better stated, what should they do?  It’s a question oft asked and with a multitude of answers.  Here’s a definitive list that briefly outlines the essentials.

If any of these things is not done, or not done well, your venture risks failure. They are not done in isolation, they are dynamic, and often require collaborative effort, but their buck stops with the top leader, be it GM, CEO, President, Chairperson, Coach, or Grand Pubah.

1. Envisioning – What we do; establishing Vision and Positioning.

Envisioning means creating, establishing and communicating a clear, concise, and compelling vision of what value the organization provides to its customers and to its other stakeholders, and delineates the organizations position, or intended position, in the market.

Note that this is not about what the company makes, or the service it provides. The best organizations frame their vision and position in terms of the needs that will be fulfilled.

2. Strategizing – How we’ll do it; establishing mission and strategic plans.

Every facet of the organization needs to be planned for, from production to marketing to finance to logistics to human resources, to R&D, and a whole host more besides. The best planners understand that no plan survives contact with reality for long, so good plans have dynamic revision protocols built in.

3. Delegating – Who will do what; assigning roles and responsibilities.

From a start-up entrepreneur, to a CEO, engaging and deploying human resources effectively & efficiently, and establishing accountability, is essential.  And proper delegation includes performance management.  See here for the when how and why of delegation.

4. Scanning – internally and externally.

Externally; for threats to be defended against and opportunities to be exploited; and, internally for strengths to be leveraged and weaknesses to be negated.

The organizational leader needs to know what’s going on; to have a clear line of sight to the front-lines, as it were.

Internally, that means monitoring performance, for which the two key indicators are quality and efficiency.  How good is our product, (that is, how well are we meeting the need we’ve envisioned we’d fulfill?), and how good are we at delivering it?  Falls in either of these indicators signal a breakdown somewhere, be it in processes, teamwork, morale, cost-control, etc.;

And,

Ensuring the integrity of the organization and all its members. The buck of ethical and legally compliant conduct stops at the top.

Externally, it means knowing the organization’s customers (from every conceivable angle); having a feel for existing and potential markets; knowing what competitors (and potential competitors) are doing and planning; staying in touch with industry trends; and monitoring the environment in general, (which these days is global for just about everybody), for broader opportunities and threats.

5. Networking – Broadening and strengthening the organization’s sources of resources.

Networking at the highest level is important in providing a fresh current of resource inputs for the organization, be it talent, ideas, material inputs, customers, information, markets, and more.  Networking is not just for, actually, not even primarily for, making sales.  [More on networking here]

6. Codifying – Establishing, communicating, and demonstrating the ethical framework (values and principles) by which the organization and all of its members operate.

The organizational leader sets the moral tone.  Period.

That’s it, in brief.  These essential responsibilities are prerequisite for organizational success, but they don’t guarantee it.  Success is never guaranteed.  Mistakes of judgment can still be made, and luck, good and bad, sometimes come into play.

Each of these subjects deserves a post, if not a book, of its own, so in future posts we’ll look into each in more detail. The Method Leadership eLearning courses, on the way for release later this year, will offer in-depth how-to instruction, on these, and many more, topics.

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Create a Culture of Accountability? Here’s the ONE thing you must do.

SO, what’s the one thing you need to do to create a culture of accountability?  Are you sitting down?  It’s heavy.  Ready.  Okay.  Here it is:

The one thing you absolutely must do in order to create a culture of accountability is…

Hold people accountable.

Doh.

Seriously though, this really is all you need to do.

But, while it’s not complicated, it does require planning and effort, and some prerequisites. 

Here are a few things to note.

First, let’s be clear on what we’re talking about.  To hold someone accountable means to make them responsible, that is, answerable, for their behavior and the outcomes that their role  requires.

That presupposes a few things:

1.  That they know exactly what outcome(s) are expected of them, and when;

2.  That they are empowered to deliver the expected outcome(s), that is, they have the necessary skills, resources, time, authority, and network support;

3.  That there are known repercussions for failure to deliver, and consistent precedent has been set;

4.  That the behavioral standards of the organization are known, and, most importantly, displayed by the leadership group.  Managers have to walk the talk.

If this sounds stern and serious, it needn’t.  All of this can and should take place in an atmosphere of trust and enjoyment.

The keystone most often missing in organizations with poor accountability is empowerment (#2, above).  Inexperience, over-work, lack of tools or input resources, no decision making authority on the line, poor processes and/or lack of cooperation between departments, all provide ready-made excuses for under-performance.  if you have a valid excuse, you can’t be held accountable.

It’s hard, and indeed would be unfair, for leaders to hold an individual or a team accountable if they’ve given 100% honest effort, but have been hampered by any or all of the aforementioned shortcomings.  Even a lack of experience or skill is no grounds to blame someone for poor performance.  As the saying goes, don’t send a boy to do a man’s job… or at least if you do, don’t chastise him when he fails.

If, as a leader, you’ve made expectations clear, ensured that all responsibilities are assigned to individuals capable of handling them, made sure all required resources are at hand, and set a proper example, you can and should hold everyone in the organization accountable.

Now, a word of caution.  A good leader knows that even good people screw up.  In fact, you want them to.  If they never do, then chances are high they’re working within themselves, not pushing the boundaries of what’s possible for themselves or the organization.

Holding good people accountable does not mean every little misstep is highlighted and punished.  As long as people are on the team, they are on the team, and should be treated as teammates.  No finger-pointing, but no making excuses either.  Mistakes are acknowledged as a team.  Together we stand, divided we fall, and all that.

So, if you want to create a culture of accountability, you have to hold people accountable, but you can only do that if it’s just to do so.  That is, if someone is to be held responsible, it has to be fair that they are.

Thoughts?

Engagement. What’s the critical factor?

ENGAGEMENT has become somewhat of a buzz-word.  Getting employees to “engage” means a happier, more productive, more committed, and, hopefully, a more innovative workforce.  So goes the mantra, and it’s true.

Here’s the thing though: engagement is the default setting for humans.  Human’s have evolved a phenomenal capacity to know reality; to focus, to think, to reason, to make choices, to act.  In short, humans are made to engage.

Many of us though, unfortunately, are switched off, or, at best, on auto pilot.  We’re disengaged.  Coasting.  Drifting.

It starts with a truly awful education “system” compelling conformity, favoring rote over critical thinking, and rife with peer pressure and social politics.  Going with the flow is the path of least resistance.

challengeAdd the constant drumming of mass media entertainment, and, it must be said, the “spoiling” that comes with the physical ease of western civilization, which is wholly taken for granted, and it’s no wonder people motor-down.  If you don’t need it, you don’t use it.  If you don’t use it, you lose it.

All this points to a critical fact that needs to be considered in any initiative or effort to engage employees.

Any ideas?

UPDATE:  See here.

Are you building your expertise?

EXPERTISE is one of the four essential attributes of good leadership.

It is rare to find a good organizational leader who has not built up a wealth of knowledge and skills within his or her industry that is directly relevant to the organization, as well as considerable “general knowledge” and a suite of transferable skills.

And for those not in a titled-leader role, building your expertise is just as important, whether you aspire to lead others or not.  Continuously building on your knowledge and skill-sets is one of the privileges of being human.

In broad terms, expertise can be categorized in four ways (the examples are by no means exhaustive):

Expertise-Matrix

To some degree, the range and depth of expertise required for any specific role is contextual, that is, it depends on the role and the organization’s pursuit.  Many a CEO has switched field with little or no Industry-specific skills, relying only on their generic knowledge and transferable skills.  In such cases, said leader leverages the organization and industry-specific knowledge and skills of their team, crams for specific knowledge at the outset, and then learns as they go.  This is the exception though, not the rule.

Continuously building on your knowledge and skill-sets is one of the privileges of being human.

If you can spare a couple minutes, try mapping out your own knowledge and skills using the matrix above.  In which areas could you deepen your knowledge and skills?  Add them to your personal development plan.  You do have a personal development plan, right?

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