Top 4 Things Executives Told Us in 2019

“We’re focused on a healthier rhythm, balancing efficiency and effectiveness to become more flexible, adaptable and agile.”

There’s two things going on here, 1) the executive and his team has moved from self-absorbed to being more self aware of their lead, communication and their behaviors, 2)  since we began working together, our message of shaping culture was first realized when the organization delivered small wins. Not only did the leaders gain credibility by evolving their habits, but they witnessed deep in the organization how quickly momentum is built. Working with this mid-sized manufacturer of 350 employees was like watching a college team who only won one game last year to watching them win 8 in a row this year.

“We’re already doing a lot on strategy, vision and process, etc.”

When times are good, we often hear, ‘we don’t need you since things are so good.’ The converse is true also when times are tough. ‘Scott, we can’t afford to right now.’ Sadly, not for me, but for the short-sighted leaders who echo that tome. It shouts, ‘I really don’t have enough confidence in me or my team to get done what needs to be done.’ While I was on a return flight home from Chicago, the man next to me summed it up rather succinctly. He said, ‘you’re like the Fram Oil Filter guy.’ We laughed and my response was unfortunately, we have several generations who’ve never heard his tagline…you can pay me now or pay me later. Later always costs your customers more.

“We’ve invested millions in product development, process improvement, agile process, workforce/org design, internal communication campaigns, town halls, centers of excellence …and it’s still not happening fast enough!”

There’s a lot of good things in the above quote. What the team didn’t take into account is the environment – their organizational climate – and the norms and behaviors of the group didn’t change. It’s like going to a cookout and the only thing to eat were hot dog and hamburger buns without meat. All great things to invest in, well thought out and well executed. But when communications are strained across an organization, and leaders don’t do what they say they will do, when trust is lacking and respect is waning, then there’s no amount of investment in ‘hard skill’ assets that will deliver the results required for sustainable advantage. At some point, when you look at ALL your failed relationships and ALL your ‘less than expected’ results, there’s only ONE constant – you!

Let’s take it another step further, and say you’ve invested millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars or whatever that amount is and you’re not getting the results you want nor expect. Two questions for you:

How fast does it need to go? and What’s preventing a more rapid velocity and higher trajectory?

When you take a deeper dive and genuinely seek out where the obstacles are more times than not it’s a people issue. From fear of being found out, fear of losing their job, fear of failure, fear of giving up knowledge and more. Fear is rampant! Fear is what causes many people to behave in unnatural ways. Fear in an organization comes from two major pain points:  “I don’t trust you” AND “I don’t believe anything they say anymore.” No Trust and No Respect. You’ll have maringal success. You may one of the fortunate ones and may have good success, but at what cost?

“Our Board wants an earnings improvement of 20% or more.”

Forty years ago, the rampant discussions were centered around shareholder value. It’s 2019 and the model used then doesn’t deliver sustainable results anymore. But go ahead, continue leading while looking in the rear view mirror expecting the same ‘ole, same ‘ole; clinging to some bullet of the moment, buzzword-driven spin made to sound as if it’s “cutting-edge, state-of-the-art” BS. You’re not going to boost organizational health, or radically disrupt, inject new drivers with a cadence of productivity, cost effieicncies, and elevate or enhance a new customer experience with sales excellence superficially. What’s missing?

Courage – the courage to lead

Are you prepared for the realities of today filled with the uncertainties of tomrrow? How? What are you doing about it?

Where are you looking to anticipate the next change? Are you turning over the same tired stones you turned five, ten years ago or longer?

Do you have the courage enough to abandon the past results for a direction that may be foreign to you.

What we’ve found over the nearly two-and-a-half decades of work is everyone of our client’s Exec teams lack a shared language and understanding of a complex construct. They’re blithely unaware of how to shape culture and how they’re influencing it every day. Many people believe they do know as more and more practitioners of Culture enter the mainstream and more big shops adopt culture as a revenue source. It’s not solely improving behaviors, habits and shaping norms. Those are simplistic elements. Here’s the bone: Leaders are the limiting factor when you dig into root cause! There’s a dramatic difference between climate and culture.

Regarding climate, the overwhelming majority of our client engagements have demonstrated how senior leaders are not serious about changing their own ineffective habits and behaviors. They’ve been doing it for so long and don’t take ownership of the reason things fail is them. When you’re nose deaf it’s not a very welcome message for me to say, “Dave, I’m sory, but the reason it sucks is you!” I’ve been kicked out of ivory towers and board rooms before, and my peers all agree and have experienced similar situations. So who loses?

We can’t evolve your culture until we, together, establish a healthier climate.

So what will it take to know you’re ready to finally let it go? It comes when one day you, as the leader, realize you’ve suffered enough and things are not going to change YOUR WAY of doing it and YOUR WAY of being it. What gets in the way? They’re not blame-centric excuses.  And you cannot use legalism to justify your own shortcomings. Get your &%@# together as a team first before even considering changing the climate or culture. That’s a high-value engagement to work with a leadership team to work through the spoken and unspoken disconnects that exist amongst themselves. READ MORE…

Here’s Your Top 2 ‘stop doing’ list:

Stop avoiding trust issues

Stop deflecting your shortcomings onto others 

The opposite of courage isn’t cowardice, its conformtiy.” – Viktor Frankl

A courageous culture is a lifestyle choice, and it’s also a survival must-do. I’ll leave you with this question as a kicking off point: How will you move forward and lead your organization with the culture it must become that’s more courageous, agile and adaptable than before?

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