The business is going well, growing year on year and you may even be the market leader. But things are changing, competition is near, disruption is a real threat and internally there is a feeling that you are not quite where you need to be to fully realise the market opportunity and counter any threats. What would point to potential leadership barriers?
1. A silo mentality with functional emphasis and concern vs the overall business need and collaboration opportunity
2. Staff engagement feedback that leadership communication is not nearly as high as other factors
3. Evidence that failure, risk taking, and mistakes are not tolerated stifling Innovation and Creativity
4. Conflict arising in meetings and continual challenges with accountability and decision making
5. Insufficient leadership diversity and lack of succession planning potentials to step up to the next level
The question looms: Do you have a management team or a leadership team? So what can you do about it? I outline 6 factors that will guide your senior group from management to leadership.
1. Most International businesses in today’s world have matrix structures with regional functional reporting and local geographical leadership. The latter is not sufficiently empowered, so you have a group of Individuals rather than a team. The first step is to make create an explicit identity for the Leadership Team and highlight why it is important that the team be a team. In my experience a low level of leadership team satisfaction seriously erodes executive effectiveness and business performance.
2. One of my first questions to lead team members is; what is the common goal and purpose for your leadership team? Addressing this specifically is a quick fix, creates motivation, clarity, purpose and importantly generates alignment and a collective mindset rather than just a functional concern. This needs to be the primary focus.
3. You won’t get what you want without clarity on what is expected for leadership behaviour. There are often values espoused within an organisation but usually one or two that are not being demonstrated within the team or by leadership generally. To provide the new direction and framework of operating, it is very helpful to generate a charter of leadership behaviours that the team creates and signs up to. Positively demonstrated this will create some tangible team engagement and boost staff engagement through more visible behaviour. This process should also unearth the required leadership enablers for Innovation and Creativity.
4. It’s all well and good to have agreed behaviours; however most miss the crucial next step of holding each other accountable to behaviour through having the difficult conversations. Without this, a passivity and avoidance can permeate in the team which leads to the “team being stuck”. As a result frustration and resentment can build and jump out in meetings when potential conflict situations emerge. Left unresolved this can fester for years and result in staff attrition and entrenched positions.
5. To feel like a team, understand each other’s style and intricacies and build respect through shared successes and contributions, we need some shared areas to “play”. Unlike sport or theatre where the team’s performance clearly demonstrates its effectiveness, corporate performance is a perception built through time and in key moments under stress, where it’s typically I not WE. Paired
leadership assignments, team projects and core collaboration priorities can help to form the “glue”.
6. Lastly, everyone needs to be on the bus. There needs to be an individual commitment to change, to be open, vulnerable, willing to enable the team to move forward. Ultimately, the bus is always moving to the next stop and leaders need to find and develop others to join the bus. If they are not prepared to move with the bus, they need to alight and allow other people to get on. This is not easy but does change the situation, provides “freshness” in thinking, challenges assumptions and signifies action and accountability.
A great exercise is to ask each people manager or leader in your business to draw three columns: Technical/Manager/Leader and then write the activities they do in each and the time allocation to each. Technical is everything we do in our functional roles: marketing/finance/ supply chain. Two key learnings should arise: There will be confusion between what is management and leadership and insufficient time directed at leadership. Business transformation requires leader transformation. Shifting time allocations, lifting core capabilities and developing and empowering next level people will be key areas of transition. That way you will build leadership, not just management!