Within any organization, there are individual lessons being learned every day. Unfortunately, most of them are not captured and institutionalized. This is a problem because the same mistakes can be made over and over again at different places in a company, without any knowledge of the consequences that developed when others took those actions.
Remember how Lucy pulls the football out from under Charlie Brown time after time. He never learned and he kept making the same mistake and ending up on his back on the ground. Think about the Charlie Browns in your company- the ones who keep repeating the same behavior expecting a different outcome.
It is incumbent upon leadership to encourage knowledge management so that there are reference points to look to so that positive actions can be repeated and negative actions avoided the next time around. Institutional memory can be short- knowledge management and sharing makes up for that.
Leadership is not a position- it is a trait. It should be found at every level of an organization, from the C-Suite to the assembly line. Every employee has the potential to be a leader, and the more leaders in an organization, aligned with the vision, values and desired behaviors, the stronger the culture, the higher the employee engagement and the greater the productivity. Those that are looking to others to lead will rally around positive role models.
Every organization needs a critical mass- enough leaders at every level to get people pointed in the right direction and doing the right things for the right reasons. When this happens, companies can take a great leap forward.
Leaders come in different shapes and forms. Some rebel against injustice to get management to “see the light”; others inspire their co-workers to collaborate and work hard to help the company succeed; and still others just lead by example- showing innovation, doing the work nobody else is willing to do, or stepping outside of process to make things easier.
Does your organization have the critical mass leadership necessary to propel towards success?
Landing a big client is both exciting and daunting, especially for a young company. It can be a defining moment, pushing the company into the credibility zone, where other clients will follow because of that first big one. It can also be a point where all of the organization’s resources are sucked into the servicing of that big client’s needs and nothing else can get done. There is both high reward and high risk here.
Every business needs to perform certain functions on an ongoing basis. Structure needs to be created and operationalized. Reporting and accountability need to be standardized. Marketing, business development and sales need to be ongoing. If everyone is spending all of their time on the big fish, then what?
And in a worst case scenario, what if the big fish walks? The company is in a deep hole. It’s a terrible time to have to focus on non-income producing activities that have been pushed into the background for a while.
If you land a big one, don’t stop- keep fishing. Then if the big fish gets away you can still survive. Somebody on the team should always be asking the question, “What if we lose Mr Big?” And everyone should be responding by focusing part of the time on keeping that loss from being fatal. Can you survive the loss of your big client?
It is rare for a talented group of people to come together and have their talents mesh exactly so that there is an ideal team created. Many times there is either overlap of competencies or gaps. The best leaders focus on what the mission of the organization is and how the talents of the employees can be utilized to achieve success. That may mean using the talents of individuals in ways that are different from what they expect. Successful team members complement each other. Finding ways to get the best out of employees is a key and defining function of a leader. It makes the organization stronger and it makes each employee more engaged and productive.
We hear so much about talent management, and about the efficient and effective use of human capital assets. That sounds great in an annual report for the investors to read. But in the trenches, it is about doing right by the people who are committing their time to make the organization great, while at the same time deriving satisfaction in their work. Two people whose talents appear to be exactly the same can use those talents in totally different ways for the benefit of all. Nobody wants to be redundant. Everybody wants to be valued and to value what they do.
Getting great talent is a wonderful first step. Getting the most out of talented individuals brings far greater results. Great basketball players make the rest of their team better. Great leaders find a way to bring out the best in everybody. What would Michael Jordan say about your company?
Sometimes momentum carries a team along like a fast moving river. Speed picks up and everyone is either hanging on for dear life or paddling fast to keep control. There is little time to pause and examine whether the team is traveling in the right direction at a safe speed. Communication is more about getting to the end rather than strategizing about the path being followed.
This is a picture of a team racing to complete a perceived objective without communicating about whether it is the right objective. This may or may not lead to an appropriate conclusion. But, it is helpful for someone on that team to raise an oar in the air and say “hold on a minute. Let’s take some time to think this through before we end up over the rapids.”
A plan conceived when riding into the rapids, without appropriate forethought and discussion, runs the risk of pulling the team under water. We never recommend talking a subject to death, however a quick review of “Why this? Why now? What are the potential risks and consequences? only makes sense. It insures every voice is heard, and the opportunities and negative consequences are considered.
Putting your raft into a fast moving river guarantees flow, but is it the right kind? The flow of communication should outpace the speed of the raft. In a healthy culture, there is good communication before the raft even goes into the river, but there is also an opportunity to “raise an oar” after things get moving quickly? Does your culture allow for either or both?