As everyone knows, the economy has not been great, especially for middle market and small business. Leaders are constantly looking for ways to fix what they perceive as broken in order to get over the next hurdle. Rather than doing that, it will serve organizations much more if everyone takes a step back, pauses, and reflects on what they are doing well. Appreciating the positive, encouraging even small successes while identifying and building on strengths could reap better results than constant attempts at “fixes.”
People don’t want to be “fixed”, they would prefer to grow and develop. Displaying core values through behaviors that support them make the culture and the brand strong, The employees that exemplify those values through their behaviors are the heroes who need to be emulated and replicated. Let those who are the cultural champions lead the charge, and watch what gets “fixed” along the way.
We have lived through the age of process improvement as Nirvana. We have discovered that checklists are great but they are not the whole answer. Efficiency and productivity are very important, but not to the point where they totally stifle innovation and the individual desire to search for ways to do things differently because they are better, not just different.
A culture is not- or at least should not be – a cage. It should be a set of values with behaviors attached to them, that create space for employees to do what they do best, feel good about what they are doing and to develop their skills and abilities so that they can continue to improve themselves and add value to the company. Cultures do have boundaries, as does any larger culture within which we may reside. But employees need room to make decisions, to experiment, to try out new ideas in the right places in the right way and at the right time. If those opportunities are built into the culture, then employees will have an allowed way to stretch themselves, to bring new ideas out that can help the company in ways that are beneficial.
Nobody wants to feel as if they are just checking boxes. It might be easy, but it is not fulfilling. People do want to make a difference. A culture should give everyone room to be a hero in some way. Has your company put up obstacles to this type of success? If so, how can you remove them and still remain productive and efficient?
Does your leadership share the Vision of the company with the employees? Does everybody get it? Because, if not, there may be trouble ahead. Most cars now have GPS that directs drivers to the fastest route to their destinations. Most companies do not have anything like a GPS and if they do they don’t employ it.
Picture this – The owner or the C -Suite doesn’t share, They jump into their Porsche Panamera (big enough to hold four) and zoom off, yelling behind them “Follow us!” But they are gone before anybody else can get to their vehicles so it is all guesswork in trying to catch up. Some don’t even try, they just stay where they are. Others make a valiant effort but after a while just do their own thing or worse yet – give up.
We now have a situation where nobody is really on the same page. Some have given up trying to follow leadership. Some are guessing at what to do. Others follow their own rules or conscience. Does this sound like an efficient and effective way to do business? Hell no!! It sounds like chaos reigns. And this is a sound heard the world round in many organizations. Leadership does not step up and create and communicate with clarity a vision for all to believe in and follow. Great companies hire those who share the vision and keep and promote those who live and breathe it. Other companies might as well be reading Alice in Wonderland to their employees out loud, leading with the line “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”
What does it mean to move to the next level? It is a phrase often spouted without clarifying how it is being used. It could be the next level in gross sales, moving from $5 million to $10 million. It could mean moving to the next level in product development, moving from a single product or service line to more than one. It could also mean that the organization is becoming more diverse in the way it is structured with more individuals fulfilling individual functions rather than a few wearing several hats.
Next level thinking requires a strategy and a lot of planning. It doesn’t just occur. Growth can be organic or by acquisition- both require forethought. Innovation to create new products or services is a process, and the better the process the more likely the success.
One of the big questions to be answered – What will the organization gain by moving to the next level? If top line sales growth wreaks havoc with sales strategies and lowers margins substantially, is it worth it? If unmanaged and miscommunicated innovation destroys process and dilutes the company’s brand, what was gained?
The next level is about construction. We have all played with blocks or played jenga. It’s working collaboratively to move the business vision to the next stage. Construction takes a strong foundation insuring that each layer above is stable as well as strong. Trying to build on a weak foundation leads to disaster.
Your strategy in thinking about the “next level” should start with a good hard look at the present state. Is your desire to move to the next level blinding you to a need to address the present state first?
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?