This is a very good week for reflection—looking both backward and forward. We spend most of the year caught-up in activities and plans and the danger is that we box ourselves into a pattern of thinking that is trapped in our own paradigm. So take an hour sometime this week to reflect and recalibrate. Here are two prompts, one focused on improvement, the other on innovation:
- Improvement focus: First, reflect on 2013. Focus on two things: What you thought you and your organization did well and how you could improve in the new year. Dwelling on blame, regrets, and the like add no value. Neither does creating a lengthy list of improvements—what few key improvements will have the most impact on results?
- Breakthrough focus: Imagine your board or your boss has decided to replace you and bring in a new leader—what would that person do? Why don’t you do it yourself?
Bob Legge works with companies to improve individual and organizational performance. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies, mid-size companies, non-profits, education and government. To find out more, contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (585) 305-7853. Bob’s website is www.boblegge.com.
Like most leaders, you are probably concerned about attracting, cultivating, and retaining good talent. You want to be confident that the right capabilities are on hand now and in the future. And along with that you want to ensure that people are growing, that they will be prepared to take on greater responsibilities and to do it in a way that provides the organization with high value. So what’s the right approach? Best practices include:
- Defining expectations at each level of leadership
- Assessing potential using both objective and subjective tools
- And providing specific guidance on how to prepare for the special requirements for the next level of leadership.
For example, going from an individual contributor role to a first line supervisor is a big step, one that is very different from going from a functional manager to a division manager—each step up has uniquely different requirements. If you’re not differentiating these, then your leadership development is generic and won’t be nearly as productive. Also, generic leadership programs are heavy on theory. To make an impact, these programs need to be pragmatic and focused on delivering the business strategy. Develop an approach and tools that reflect your jobs, your leadership expectations at each level, and your business strategy.
When launching a new strategy or change, the last thing you want to do is announce it to the full organization. That’s why major capital fund-raising campaigns aren’t announced publicly until major donors are already on-board. And union organizing campaigns do not become public until they have secured privately the support of as much of the population as possible. You need to do the same—don’t go after the entire population with a big presentation, instead focus first on getting the buy-in of key leaders and showing them how they will benefit personally from the change. Those leaders include: Managers whose areas will be most affected by the change, managers of front-line employees, union leaders, and other respected people, opinion leaders, and experts in the organization. You have to have these groups actively engaged before implementation. So take the time to align these groups before rushing to launch. They will determine whether the change is successful or not, and if they are neutral, it’s just as bad as being negative.
This is so important to implementing a new strategy. It’s simply not enough to have an action plan for the senior group–if you’re going to redirect the organization, or change the culture, or implement a major change such as a new ERP system. For example, during the Adelphia Communications bankruptcy, the fundamental task was to keep the organization running efficiently and to retain five million customers, but first we needed to enlist the support of the 100 or so key managers and professionals before addressing the 14,000 employees. That work was incredibly important to managing through and emerging from bankruptcy. Similarly, the first step in improving a strategy and culture change in a 500 employee manufacturing company was to hold a series of workshops with management groups over a six-month period to set the direction, establish the milestones, and generate the needed energy and buy-in to make it successful–leading to 600% revenue growth in three years. The fact is, you need to develop a critical mass of support to be positive about the change.
Yesterday the Green Bay Packers, down 26-3 at halftime, came back to stun the Dallas Cowboys 37-36. It wasn’t a fluke—the New England Patriots have had similar comebacks this season. It was determination, persistence, great skill, and a bit of luck. Winners don’t give up and they seem to create their own luck.
Check out my new video series Navigating Corporate Strategy filmed on my boat: click here
My latest Forbes blog with Dorie Clark: click here
With three minutes to go in the game, and his team leading by 30 points, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is studying and discussing game pictures on the sideline. He’s a professional, and he has his head in the game. Having one’s head in the game means planning, thinking, knowing what you intend to do when you go out on the field. But most of all it means being fully present and ready for whatever happens. How many of your people have their heads in the game? What are you doing to make sure they know the game plan and the next immediate objective?