Leadership: When the Long-term Jeopardizes the Short-term

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Today’s corporations have heeded the message of decades ago from organizational experts that no company should exist without the following long-term guidelines:

    • Vision: picture of what the organization hopes to become

 

    • Mission: the fundamental purpose of why your company exists and for whom

 

  • Plan and goals: how specifically you are going to achieve your goals and measure progress

This is well and good. But beware of looking too far ahead and not focusing on the near-term execution. If you are not successful here and now, there will be no need for a future vision.

Here is how you can achieve the ideal balance between long- and short-term. Be sure you have clear-cut answers to the following questions as a leader:

    1. Positioning: Are you in the right business (es)?

 

    1. Target Market: Can you clearly identify your ideal customer/market?

 

    1. Differentiation: Are you adding enough value so that you have a competitive edge in your target markets?

 

    1. Branding and Marketing: Do your target customers know about and appreciate the value you add?

 

  1. Sales, Service and Delivery: Do you have all the resources you need to deliver on your value proposition?

As a leader, you have done your homework, communicated the long-term strategy to your employees, and gained their buy-in. They can articulate the vision and mission clearly. But if you have taken your eyes off the road ahead to focus only on the far horizon, you risk getting side-tracked or never reaching your destination. In other words, you have plugged your final goal into MapQuest but have ignored the step-by-step directions to get there. 

It is the road map after all that should guide all your decisions along the route.

For example, here are vision and purpose statements from the Kellogg Company: 

Our Vision: To enrich and delight the world through foods and brands that matter.

Our Purpose: Nourishing families so they can flourish and thrive.

In general, these are laudable goals. But they are so comprehensive and overarching that they do not direct the day-to-day operations where the rubber meets the road. Kellogg must ask the five questions above for each of their businesses and then use the answers to determine how to execute on their plan.

It is a question of translating the ideal vision into smaller goals that allow for flexibility as the situation changes. Play by play, your team needs to advance toward the goal and shift according to what is happening on the field.

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Where to Lead – The Valley or the Mountain Top?

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The best leaders understand that they need to inhabit both environments… the valley where they get to know their employees as they work side by side and the mountain top where they share their vision and inspire their team.

Here are tips about how and why to shift from one level to the other.

The Valley – Leaders that Care

Your employees want to feel that you understand them and that you care about their job satisfaction. Surveys alone won’t tell you this. You need to get to know them personally…what motivates them and what keeps them engaged. They want to sense that you, as their leader, are emotionally connected. This is not to say that you need heart-to-heart conversations—not reasonable or possible with the schedule you keep—but it does suggest that you be accessible and available when needed.

The Valley – Leaders that Develop

Another way for leaders to effectively “live in the valley” is to foster employee growth and development. Provide opportunities for employees to learn, build their skills, and enhance their careers. On the flip side, care enough to let them know when they are not performing as they could or should. By giving feedback in a constructive way, you demonstrate belief in your employees’ ability to grow and, with effort and support, shine. And if you understand what drives individual employees, you can encourage them with appropriate carrots. Some will want only recognition of a job well done; others will strive for higher performance with more tangible rewards such as a bonus or promotion.

So when do you, as a leader, climb to the mountain top?

  • When you need to resolve conflict. As a leader, it is up to you to address key conflicts in the ranks and achieve resolution so the team can move forward in alignment toward common goals.
  • When you need to drive organizational change. As a leader, it is up to you to introduce and implement change so the organization stays competitive. How you communicate the reasons and goals for change and how well you model the new reality will determine to a large extent how cooperative your employees will be.
  • When you need to take risks. As a leader, you can role model how and when to take risks. Little is accomplished without some degree of risk. Challenge your employees to take positive risks and give them the latitude to step out of the safety zone of the status quo to experiment now and then. This will foster innovation and keep the organization from getting stagnant.
  • When you need to inspire. As a leader, you are charged with bringing out the best in people. Paint the picture of what success will look like and their role in achieving it.

From the valley to the mountain top and back again many times a day…this is what effective leaders do and this is why their organizations thrive.

Visit our Leadership Training Best Practices blog here.

True Leadership – Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Leadership TrainingTrue Leadership.

Much has been written about what it takes to be a true leader. In these treatises, the behavior of successful leaders is often described in terms of leading teams. But teams are not a homogenous entity…they are made up of individuals with different strengths and weaknesses. A far more effective way to learn how to lead is to focus not on leading a team but on leading individuals. That’s where the rubber meets the road.

Take a close look at the individual members of your team. The better you understand how they think, the better you can uncover and take advantage of their talents. Hopefully you have a mix of types…some who are detail-, task-oriented thinkers and others who think more strategically; some who are extroverted and others who prefer working on their own; some who are good at problem solving and making decisions while others are better at implementation. A diverse team allows for flexibility in meeting challenges but it also requires flexibility in the way you as a leader treat each member.

As a leader, your job is to transform the talents of your team members into performance.

Depending upon their goals and interests, each member will respond to different motivators. Some will work harder with simple verbal encouragement; others may need something more tangible, such as company-wide recognition or a performance-based bonus.

Another important component to bringing out the best in people is giving them assignments they love and, simply by nature, do well. Just as an employee who enjoys working with people would hate to be strapped to a computer all day, an introverted worker would not like to be given the task of presenting to a group of strangers.

The best way to get to know your team members individually is to spend time with them, one-on-one. Find out what drives them. Ask what they like to do and observe how they operate. Your goal is to coax the highest performance out of each. Play to their strengths rather than trying to overcome their weaknesses so each member is doing what they do best.

By recognizing each individual for who they fundamentally are, you can build a team that works happily and effectively together. Celebrate the differences on your team by recognizing where each individual fits and, as a group, appreciate what each member can contribute to the overall team effort and results.

Leadership Goals – Do They Pass the Pressure Test?

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Have you pressure-tested your goals lately?

While every leader needs to set a clear direction for their company and their teams to succeed, few ensure that the goals are ready for implementation. Most leaders create a vision, mission and values.  They typically include strategies, goals, imperatives, and budgets.  The plans are most often encapsulated in glistening PowerPoint decks that take months to complete and almost as long to truly read.  Yet, few manage to clearly articulate the simple and potent targets required to motivate their employees to outperform their competition.

If you are setting company or team goals for the upcoming year, make sure that they pass the following 5 tests before moving to implementation:

  1. Clear and Simple: When defining what you are going for, keep it simple.  Think in terms of what you would put on a billboard versus what you would include in an article.  In our experience, anything more than 2-3 critical goals is too many.  If you find yourself with more, keep asking yourself which ones carry at least 50% of the weight in terms of importance until you whittle down your list.
  2. Understood by the Team: It is one thing to create clear and simple goals with your executive team.  It is another to have your employees be able to articulate the goals and how their day-to-day tasks align with achieving them.  Until the masses can explain your goals in a few simple sentences, you have work to do.
  3. Perceived as “Just Possible”: For achievements to be meaningful enough to change behavior, they must be perceived as just possible by both leadership and their teams.  Goals that stretch probabilities too far are as demotivating as targets that are too easy to attain.  It is worth it to spend the time to find the right balance.
  4. Inspirational: Putting a man on the moon certainly moved a generation.  For a leader to inspire teams to engage in the inevitable struggles associated with achieving stretch goals, the direction and potential results need to be meaningful and relevant enough to promote high performance.
  5. Measurable: For a goal to be effective, you must know when you have succeeded or failed.  The metric must be clear, simple, and unarguable.  It must be for a specific time period and be perceived as a fair and accurate reflection of where you stand.

To improve performance, effective leaders know that they must set clear and meaningful goals that inspire the troops before asking for results.

Five Lenses of Change Leadership™

While successful corporate change often seems impossible, it can be and has been done.

The Five Lenses of Change Leadership™ provide a proven framework for designing and implementing successful corporate change efforts.  The lenses enable leaders who are pursuing large scale corporate change to expand beyond their preferred lens to increase the likelihood for success.  To put the five lenses in perspective, let’s start by examining why most corporate change efforts fail.

Top 5 Reasons Corporate Change Efforts Fail

    1. Not supporting people during change.  This creates resistance, fear of the unknown and is often exacerbated by a lack of change skills in employees and leaders.

 

    1. Confusion about the purpose of change.  When leaders are not clear and forceful about the need to change, people create an overly limited sense of what is possible and are confused by the mandates.

 

    1. Lack of commitment by established powers.  Whether caused by conflicting interests or leaders being closed to new ideas, a perception of anything less than 100% alignment between key stakeholders is a recipe for disaster.

 

    1. Structures not included in the change.  To be successful, behaviors and structures must be congruent with the proposed change.  If people perceive that you are trying new things in “the same old ways,” you will struggle.

 

  1. Lack of understanding of how they are supposed to change. People want to know specifically what they need to do differently.  If they are not learning new skills or not being rewarded for changing, you do not have enough reinforcement or feedback built into your change process.

We created the Five Lenses of Change Leadership™ to provide a proven framework overcoming these five challenges.

Five Lenses of Change Leadership™

003A lens is a way of looking at one important aspect of change.

Using all the lenses together ensures a complete picture of the change.

By using different lenses separately, you can bring various aspects of the change into greater focus.

Successful Change Leaders understand and utilize each of these lenses.

To start, we define each lens as follows:

I.  THE RELATIONSHIP LENS encompasses the way people relate to tasks, processes and other people as they accomplish their work. This lens examines human needs, relationships, teamwork, attitudes, skills, motivation and satisfaction in the work environment.

II. THE CULTURE LENS is the meaning, purpose, norms and values people associate with their work.  This lens examines meaning, purpose and values expressed by organizations through written and spoken communications, activities, events and ceremonies common in the work environment.

III. THE STAKEHOLDER LENS represents the interests and politics of key parties who have a vested interest in the work effort.  This lens examines power, conflict, and coalitions among those who have stakes to protect and interests to advance. 

IV. THE STRUCTURE LENS comprises the goals, roles, tasks and processes used to organize the flow of work.  This lens examines the goals, roles, formal relationships, job designs, work processes and rules that are used to organize and accomplish work.

V. THE INFORMATION LENS refers to the data and tools available to people who make decisions and take action.  This lens uses reliable benchmarks, information, tools and data to diagnose problems, measure results and calibrate actions to support desired outcomes.

Preferred Lens Assessment

Now that you understand the various lenses, your first task as a leader is to understand strengths and weaknesses.

This understanding allows you to pinpoint areas where you already demonstrate a high level of skill as well as those areas where opportunities exist to strengthen your skills as a Change Leader.  The same process should be used to indicate which lens is most and least used within your organization.

Many of our clients find it helpful to writing the name of the lens or lenses in the appropriate quadrant on the chart below to create a common starting point.  In working with our clients, we use a 50-question assessment to identify lens preferences.

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Once you understand where you fit on the lens assessment, your next step is to support others in the areas where you are strong and get help in the areas in which you are weak so you can create a more balanced and successful change effort.

For example, an introverted or domineering leader should seek help with the Relationship lens to understand others’ experience of change and to help the team move through the phases of transition. Specifically this means getting help with: (1) announcing a change, (2) facilitating change meetings to explore concerns about a change, and (3) overcoming individuals’ natural resistance to change.

Alternatively, a leader (or an organization) more focused on tactics and execution should pursue help with the Culture lens to create a compelling Road Map for change and give people a purpose and vision that they can believe in.  This includes steps such as (1) identifying key drivers of change, (2) creating a shared group vision (building on corporate vision), and (3) identifying key obstacles to the change.

In Conclusion 

Change is hard.  Successful large scale corporate change is rare.  We know that a balanced approach to change offers the greatest chance for success.  If you are a leader pursuing change, do not underestimate the power of embracing relationships, culture, stakeholders, structure, and information to get the job done.

The chart below provides an initial framework to help leaders balance focus, actions, and approach to increase the odds for success.

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