Leading for Results

The most important reason to be an effective leader is to help the group achieves its goals.  Not for the status, or the power, but the results. 

So today, find ten minutes to review what those results are and identify the relatively few actions that will have the greatest affect on the group achieving those results with minimal time and resources. 

Then focus your time on just one of those activities each day this week.  Each day ask key people a few simple questions: “What is going well with Activity A?”  “What’s getting in the way of getting it done?” and “How can we best focus on getting it done faster and better?”

Remember that your role is to lead, to set the direction, and ask key questions that keep the organization focused.  It’s your organization’s role to answer the questions and implement solutions.  That’s why it’s so important to develop your organization.

Learning from Facebook executive departures

The departures of key executives from Facebook last week are the latest over the past 18 months.  They highlight a number of key lessons in strategy and strategy implementation:

  1. Leaders must make the key decisions.  While leaders will look for input from others on decisions, it is the leader who has ultimate accountability for corporate direction and success. Leaders make tough decisions.  The leader who leads by consensus isn’t leading at all.  The Facebook executives who left disagreed with Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook’s strategic turn.
  2. Companies can outgrow key people.  I see this regularly in all size organizations.  The person who is the franchise player for years, eventually becomes an impediment to the organization’s evolution, innovation, and growth.  This presents a difficult decision — one that is often ignored or deferred.  In Facebook’s case, these senior executives no doubt walked away with significant packages.  For a smaller company, the transition is far more difficult, but no less necessary.
  3. Sometimes a company needs to make a very significant change in their strategy to survive and grow.  Facebook is under enormous pressure to change its business model.  For many other companies, the pressure to change is not so intense, but the need to change course is important.

A capable leader, a distinctive strategy and an organization intensely focused on the strategy are the three hallmarks of success. 

Where do you need to make improvements?

The Key to Large-Scale Change

I’ve been road bicycling in Aiken, South Carolina over the past week and have been amazed at the amount of litter along the backroads.  I remember as a kid in New York when litter was a big problem, and I recall the anti-littering campaign complete with litter bags available at every gas station, pervasive TV and radio commercials encouraging people not to be “a litterbug,” and penalties for littering.  That campaign worked pretty well. 

Large-scale change efforts can be successful as with littering and smoking, but they can also fail.  When I graduated from college and marched off to Sears for a set of Craftsman wrenches, it was the metric wrenches I bought.  It was at the same time that the signs on the New York State Thruway showed distances in both miles and kilometers.  That change campaign didn’t work.  I bought a second set of wrenches, this time they were SAE.  And the Thruway signs today only show miles.

The key to any sort of change, particularly large-scale change in organizations is to have it legitimized at the top, align it with both the culture and with individual self-interest, and to persevere through the natural resistance that always arises.

How change is led and managed makes an enormous difference in its success.

Avoid Accountability Gaps and Overlaps

I saw a professional soccer game on the big screen at a Mexican restaurant last night.   I always admire how really good soccer players know their positions and how adept they are at passing the ball.

When we played soccer in high school, we all ran after the ball in a mass.  I had a friend then who would yell, “You’re bunching!!!” 

Sometime the top people in an organization are “bunching.”  And you wonder whether everything is getting done, or if everyone is doing the same thing. 

Be more like a professional soccer team:  Everyone knows their role and there are no accountability gaps or overlaps.