I Tried and It Didn’t Work

Two years after launching a change program to counter competitive threats, a bank CEO realized his effort had produced…no change. Surprising to them, since he and his top executives had reviewed the company’s purpose and culture, published a mission statement, and launched programs (e.g., pay-for-performance compensation) designed to push change throughout the organization. But revitalization doesn’t come from the top. It starts at an organization’s periphery, led by unit managers creating ad hoc arrangements to solve concrete problems. Hmmm ‘push change’, yeah that’s going to work…NOT!

Through task alignment —directing employees’ responsibilities and relationships toward the company’s central competitive task—these managers focused energy on work, not abstractions like “empowerment” or “culture.” Senior managers’ role in this process? Specify the company’s desired general direction, without dictating solutions. Then spread the lessons of revitalized units throughout the company. You supposedly hired good people for a reason. Get out of their way, remove obstacles that prevent/prohibit excellence and avoid stifling them.

Another typical failed attempt at improving culture and engagement. The central theme in most of these situations is the one who’s leading the team, the department, the division, the company, the enterprise is YOU – you are the reason it’s not successful. Three simple letters that destroy people, families, companies and countries – EGO.

The Leadership Problem

Would you agree a person could be very knowledgeable yet be unchanged by that acquisition of knowledge? All, yes all, of us know certain things we must do to be successful, yet we fail to do them. We know what foods are good for us, yet we choose to ignore that knowledge and give in to our emotions, our feelings. The ‘I want’s’ of food, life, recreation, work and so on.

Every decision, favorable and not, comes with a consequence – a price to pay

We know overspending is bad and will lead to serious consequences, yet we overextend ourselves at home, at work, in recreation and so on because of the ‘I want’s’. We also know, because we are intelligent and have knowledge, to become great or successful, we must humble ourselves and serve others. Too often, leaders and managers use power and position to lord it over others to manipulate them to satisfy our egos. #Truth

Knowledge is useless without action and application

You must choose to decide and act instead of feeling what you want to do or because some other tactic is easier or simpler or avoids conflict and confrontation. As an Elegant Leader the idea in practice requires commitment, coordination and competency.

Want some stats? Sure…there are over 20,000 leadership development resources available, yet despite the magnitude, they have failed to produce good leaders. One potential client told me the other day, “…guys like you are a dime a dozen…”. And it’s egos like that who’ll keep my practice thriving. According to the Bama Group, 90% of Americans believe the nation is facing a crisis of leadership. 61% say they work for a bad boss. 33% say poor leadership at work is the most stressful part of their workday. It’s no wonder over 70% of workers are highly disengaged, according to Gallup.

You’re willing to bitch about it, yet do nothing about it to better yourself?

You’re willing to deal with the day-in, day-out mess of your disengaged people as a ‘cost of doing business’ – no wonder your results are ‘less than favorable’ (that’s weaselspeak for ‘suck’). My apologies if I’ve offended you. Get over it.

Follow the Money

Nearsighted leaders believe it’s all about the money. You don’t invest in change, because the ROI B/E runway is longer that you’re willing to wait. Why? You’ve waited until gangrene set in or the dam’s about to break, what will we do now? What else?

Many LD programs focus on techniques, ‘tricks’n traps’, building competencies, skills and tactics. While those elements can be important, and much of those skills can be led internally as part of your talent development initiatives. Keep building the pipeline – there’s great value there. However, development programs fail miserably on the most important part of leadership – the LEADER!  The leader and his or her character, integrity and emotional intelligence are at the root and where the buck stops to invite change that sticks.

No sales pitch just truth. We get you the results you must have to be successful and your relationships will become much stronger and healthier than they’ve ever been – guaranteed. How? Because in order to be successful, we both must work hard at it; there’s no chance of failure unless you quit – pretty damn simple.

When I looked back at all of my failed relationships, there was one constant…me

Sadly, there’s a perception among the executive leadership ranks that focusing on the character of a leader rather than skills and tactics is ‘too soft and fluffy’ or ‘it’s too ethereal’; thus many continue to bypass, ignore and brush it aside. How’s that working for you? At what point, will you say ‘enough is enough’?

The results are clear:  continued struggles, dissatisfied employees and customers, frustrated managers and chaotic or poor-performing teams and organizations. Every tactical problem doesn’t require a tactical solution! Ultimately, solutions are traced back to people – damn near always. The Elegant Leader with Voltage systems is root cause analysis, LEAN Six Sigma of people. Put it in a context that resonates for your environment.

No more weak character from characters, leading and managing out of fear, leading out of pride and arrogance, unable to distinguish right from wrong – no moral center let alone code. The great challenge for us at Brookestone Associates is the people who need the most help aren’t reading this or spending anytime looking to get better, because many aren’t interested in improving themselves either. “It’s ‘their’ issue not mine,” is what I hear often…”change them.”

Here’s a quick hit for those of you who prefer a condensed ‘version’.

Case study from a client in the Navigation Device space:  they had never made a profit or high-quality, cost-competitive product – because top-down decisions ignored cross-functional coordination. As we worked through the 7 Steps, the 7th was what “unlocked it” for the GM. Recognize Assumptions – Evaluate Arguments – Develop a Solution – our RED model of critical thinking is a small part of Step 7 in the 7 Steps to Become an Elegant Leader with Voltage.

Mobilize commitment to change through joint diagnosis of problems.  To change this result, a new general manager had his entire team broadly assess the business.  His task force of engineers, production workers, managers, and union officials visited successful manufacturing organizations to identify improvement ideas. One plant’s team approach impressed them, illuminated their own problem, and suggested a solution. Commitment to change intensified.

Develop a shared vision of how to organize for competitiveness. Remove functional and hierarchical barriers to information sharing and problem solving—by changing roles and responsibilities, not titles or compensation.

The task force proposed developing products through cross-functional teams. A larger team refined this model and presented it to all employees—who supported it because it stemmed from their own analysis of their business problems.

Foster consensus for the new vision, competence to enact it, and cohesion to advance
it. This requires the general manager’s strong leadership. The general manager fostered  consensus by supporting those who were committed to change and offering outplacement to those who weren’t; competence by providing requested training, and cohesion by redeploying managers who couldn’t function in the new organization. Change accelerated.

Spread revitalization to all departments – without pushing from the top.

The new team structure required engineers to collaborate with production workers. Encouraged to develop their own approach to teamwork and coordination, the engineers selected matrix management. People willingly learned needed skills and attitudes, because the new structure was their choice.

Institutionalize revitalization through formal policies, systems, and structures —only after
your new approach is up and running.

The results: They boosted profits—without changing reporting relationships, valuation
procedures, or compensation. Only then did the general manager alter formal structures; e.g., eliminating a VP so that engineering and manufacturing reported directly to him.

Monitor the revitalization process, adjusting in response to problems.

An oversight team of managers, a union leader, an engineer, and a financial analyst kept watch over the change process—continually learning, adapting, and strengthening the commitment to change.

This is just one example of how having straightforward honest communicaiton about ourselves as leaders with a desire and a commitment to submit the ego to become better wins. If you’d like to have wins like this one for your team, division or organization, then having a no strings conversation may help you uncover what’s missing from your change initiative. Schedule a call today by going here…

The secret is there’s no secret no blue pill no hocus-pocus. We don’t sell what we do – a novel approach yes. At some point there will come a day when the risk to remain tight in a bud is more painful that the risk it takes to bloom. If you’d like to kick the tires a bit, please do by going here.

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