Resources - Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young. -Henry Ford
A New Leaf

January 2019: In This Issue

I hope you’ve enjoyed a healthy and prosperous 2018!

See Change Management has now had the privilege to work closely for over a decade with entrepreneurial owners, second generation leaders, business executives and their teams through challenging situations. Surprisingly, while the nature of each challenge has varied, the causal elements proved to be more similar than not.  Following are ten advisory observations arising from this decade of opportunity.  While many of these concepts have been espoused by the most prominent business thought leaders, all have been validated through my own experience.

What has proven most enlightening is how consistent these concepts have been across organizations of differing sizes, industries, maturities and profitability.  The most humbling revelation during this time (impacting many of the items below) is that my role as an advisor/coach is inconsequential without the commitment of the leader to personal transformation. It is the leader who is ultimately responsible for their own success, assisted in some small way by a resource such as my own.  I feel fortunate to have been able to partner with so many executives who have committed to and successfully realized positive change in their own performance and organizations.

Feedback as to whether these key observations resonate with your own experience is always welcome.  Good luck being the best you can be in 2019!  



Ten Enduring Advisory Observations

1. Organizational success rises and falls with the quality of Leadership
The success or failure of any organization is directly correlated with the competency, attitude and commitment of its leader(s). As an organization grows, the skill set needed from its leader naturally will evolve. Absent a founder or executive committing to keeping up with this evolution requiring personal change, they will effectively become the “lid” limiting the organization’s success. Growth at the top is a prerequisite to team and organizational progress.

2. Effective leaders are made, not born (e.g. the best leaders are the best learners....and listeners)
Leadership is a skill set that is built over a number of years and requires constant development and attention. Those leaders who are committed to self improvement ultimately contribute positively to transforming their organizations. These are leaders who annually challenge themselves to become better in all aspects of their performance, including being the best listener they can be. Those that rely on “positional authority” rather than “developed influence” ultimately become a roadblock to organizational success. Assuming a role of learning and listening is a conscious decision every leader has the opportunity to make. It is these and other key developmental decisions that ultimately determine whether a leader has the growth capabilities sufficient to continue to lead their organization.

3. EQ (emotional intelligence) is just as (if not more) important as IQ
As effective leaders are directly responsible for motivating and managing their teams, much of their success will be driven by softer “people skills” vs. technical skills that likely propelled them early in their career.  Making this transition from technical to people management is critical to a leader’s success. Absent a concerted effort to develop their own self awareness and other important EQ skills, leaders will continue to be challenged in maximizing their own results and those of their team. Relying on the skills that got them to their current role rarely is good enough to take them to where they need to be going.

4. Establishment of accountability, credibility and trust are three of the biggest challenges for leaders
Organizational dysfunction exists in all companies. Three of the largest dysfunctions relate to the lack of trust, credibility and accountability amongst the leadership / managerial team. Many leaders find it difficult to exhibit the requisite vulnerability required to develop necessary levels of trust. Such a lack of trust leads to a dysfunctional and destructive leadership credibility gap. This gap will translate to shortfalls in accountability which requires the upfront setting of high expectations and the constant providing of candid feedback to ensure those expectations are met. Entrepreneurs are by their nature optimistic and conflict averse. These traits oftentimes hinder their ability to address the trust, credibility and accountability challenges inherent in all organizations.

5. There is always a gap between the leader’s perception of the organization and the perceptions of its team (e.g. you only get answers to the questions you ask)
Such gaps arise from managerial filtering, poor goal alignment or lack of credibility and/or relevant information rising to the top. Breaking down these barriers requires proactive engagement of leaders asking the difficult questions and dealing with the candid feedback that is necessary to move an organization forward.  Those who fail to acknowledge the existence of such a gap or fail to drill deep with their questioning ultimately become as much of the problem as the gap itself, thus limiting overall organizational performance.

6. Organizational structure drives success. (e.g. Bad structure will kill good people)
As a company grows and/or experiences marketplace changes, entrepreneurial owners are often reticent to acknowledge the need for structural changes which may include talent complementing their own skill set. Instead of viewing this needed talent as liberating and necessary, they often believe that they, or their resource constrained team, can continue to do more of what they have already been doing.  Such beliefs ultimately prove to be self limiting and result in the leader failing to create the structure and team needed to meet the marketplace challenges. In such environments, the good people are asked to do more and more, thereby limiting their success to the point they will oftentimes leave. Lacking a proper structure, organizations become mired in accepting the status quo as the best they can be, thereby missing the true opportunities existing in the marketplace and worse, creating an environment where the best have no alternative but to seek alternative opportunities.

7. Hope is not a strategy, as strategic planning is rarely given the attention it deserves
The pace of external change is greater than ever. If the internal rate of change does not exceed the rate of external change, an organization is falling behind. Strategic planning is the key to an organization staying ahead of the rate of change curve. In most organizations, if this exercise occurs, it normally takes the form of some annual retreat (at best) giving rise to a handful of objectives or financial targets that fail to address the organization’s real strategic needs.

Today’s marketplace requires strategy being a continuous process providing for constant re-evaluation of internal and external alternatives as the need arises (which rarely coincides with annual planning activities). This process requires constantly bringing the “outside in” vs. the usual “insular” focus on how the organization can do what it has been doing “better”. Rarely does this inward driven process provide the strategic clarification of competitive advantage, value proposition and definition for all team members of when to say no, all of which are integral elements of an effective strategic planning process.

8. The importance of corporate mission and values is often understated
Employees are interested in being part of something much bigger and more exciting than themselves. A properly stated mission statement provides clear direction as to where the organization is going and offers team members a vision to sign up to. Tightly defined values clarify the conduct that is expected in fulfilling that mission. Leader’s often fail to understand how important these foundational elements are to motivating and improving performance.

The use of a company’s mission and values daily is a critical means of driving behavior and decision making. While a number of companies have invested time in identifying these foundational elements, it is a small minority that effectively keeps them visible and relies upon them in their daily activities. On many occasions, leadership’s actions prove to be inconsistent with these important elements, thereby reducing the overall credibility of management and rendering these foundational elements of minimal value to the company.   

9. People leave people, not companies
More than ever, employees have choices. Significant decades of research indicate that the single most influential factor impacting an employee’s level of engagement and job satisfaction is the relationship they have with their direct supervisor. Accordingly, leaders today need to assume responsibility for a culture of high employee engagement and satisfaction. This includes modeling the way for all team members and never asking employees to go where you are not prepared to go yourself. Absent a proactive approach to inspiring their team, leaders will be faced with a continuing exodus of talented employees who will likely move elsewhere where their contribution is (at least initially perceived as more) acknowledged and valued.

10. Leadership is a labor of love
There is nothing more fulfilling than a leader taking their team to levels greater than anyone believed possible. This takes extraordinary commitment, vision and energy. Only a leader who is thrilled to engage in this role will be successful. There is nothing part time about being an effective leader. Those that try to be successful by doing anything less than modeling, inspiring, challenging, enabling and encouraging rarely create willing followers. You must love what you do to be the best you can be. If you’re not the best, it’s unlikely your team will be.  



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