Do you have a leadership strategy for 2011? I don’t mean a business strategy, marketing strategy or financial strategy, but a true leadership strategy…one which will focus on developing the people in your company and your culture around a common leadership trait which will differentiate you from the masses?
I have been coaching leaders since 1999, and I have not had one single CEO tell me that they have a true “leadership strategy”. They usually have some type of strategic plan, business strategy or marketing strategy that is sitting on a shelf collecting dust. Or, they may have a leadership training or week-end retreat in hopes that the team will “rally” and “get motivated“. But this has absolutely nothing to do with designing a true leadership strategy for your company. By designing a true leadership strategy, your entire company agrees to invest a good amount of time designing a company wide goal to focus on mastering no more than 1-2 leadership skills each year…skills that can have tremendous impact on your company’s bottom line.
Let me give you an example: Company gossip. Just think and sit for one moment and consider approximately how much time your employees spend on gossiping about their co-workers. If you have 500 employees, my guess is about 50 hours a day total (10 minutes per person…some people gossip, some spend their whole day doing it and some just “dabble” in gossip…that is over 15,000 non-productive hours each year. I don’t have ANY research to back this up, so you researchers out there who study this stuff, send me along some solid research and I’ll be happy to post it. I will just tell you that research on gossip is going to have holes in it…people just guess or they don’t “man up” around their gossip. So, my “approximations” are probably going to be similar to yours.
Okay, so you take company gossip, and you and your company flip it on its head and say “We know that company gossip is going to happen, but let’s see if we can improve or get as close as possible to eliminating it.”
To reverse the company gossip and get people back to productive hours, you commit as a company to work on what Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler call mastering Crucial Conversations.
Their premise is so simple but often so difficult to implement. The premise is this: Behind the problems that routinely break teams companies are people who either cannot or will not deal with failed promises, broken rules, missed deadlines or bad behavior. If they do step up, they often step up in anger or say something that just makes the problem worse and then gets shot by the messenger or fired by the boss. The authors’ research demonstrates that these problems aren’t just irritating, they are costly both in revenue, in performance and in the cost of having to replace top talent.
In teaching the people in your company how to conduct a crucial conversation, you teach them the most effective ways of holding a face-to-face accountability discussion with someone who has disappointed you, missed a deadline or behaved badly…in this case…gossip.
So, you are sitting in your office and Bob comes in from a long week-end and starts complaining about the way Carole ran the meeting on Friday. Rather than listening, chiming in and saying “Yeah…I know what you mean”, you call Bob on his s— and say “You know Bob, our commitment this year is to having crucial conversations, and this is your time. I am not going to participate in the conversation. This is between you and Carole. If you would like to role play, I can do that, but I won’t talk about the problems you are having with Carole.
Now, you are probably thinking…you know…this is really going to tick off Bob. But not if this is the company agreement. If you don’t keep the company leadership strategy forefront in your mind and stick to it, then you are breaking a promise to your company.
There are literally over 100 leadership strategies to address, and you cannot tackle them all at once. To be honest, you can really only work on one at one time. Once it is close to mastery, you can move on to the next behavior. But I do recommend that you look very closely at designing a true leadership strategy for 2011 and just see if it works. Here are the main questions you will need to ask AND answer before choosing the leadership behaviors to address:
1. What are your core values, mission and vision?
2. Who is your customer, and what leadership skills do you need to improve to address their needs?
3. What performance metrics will you track?
4. What will both the guidelines and the boundaries be for this initiative?
5. How are you creating and handling the tension that will arise from the initiative? (There will be tension, which is good thing, because when there is tension, growth follows).
6. What are your biggest challenges in your company right now, and what is keeping you awake at night?
7. How willing is your top leadership team (CEO, COO, CFO) to fully participate in this initiative? Are they willing to hear from their assistants that they let them down?
Here are a few of the big behaviors that keep coming to me every day that you may want to consider:
- Being True Team Players
- Boss Relationships
- Command Skills
- Conflict Management
- Customer Focus
- Decision Making
- Follow Through
- Organizational Skills
- Peer Relationships
- Project Management
- Strategic Thinking
- Time Management
If you are considering designing a leadership strategy for 2011, please contact me today. I would so enjoy working with you.