Leadership consists of many things. Google will give you 1.7 billion points of view. Where I sit on this, is that the primary tool of a leader is her ability to communicate. Because if she can’t communicate followers don’t know what to do.
Where I see things break down is that leaders often think that their communications are heard and understood for all time by their people. It is just not so. They often think “one and done”.
I have been to countless corporate retreats where the leadership gathers, sharing their, values, and goals for the year. Everyone in the room says “Yes”. Then they all go back to the offices, departments and regions. And within two or three months it is back to business as usual.
The leaders, when they get back from these retreats, are busy so they draft a memo to the team summarizing the goals. (This does not provide an opportunity for discussion, clarification, or buy in). These organizations often have inertia to overcome.
Or consider the over-arching goal of the retreat: “We will become the dominant force in our industry by growing our income by 20% this year, while maintaining the margins of 25%”. Everyone comes back and gets to work. The sales organization starts looking at where they can get new growth. And operations starts to look for efficiencies and finance is determined to get the margin. It sounds like everyone is aligned, right? Maybe not.
Sales determines that they need to open a new geographic market. They are looking for sales channels. Do they hire distributors, or do they create a new regional team? They decide they need three new sales execs in the west at a cost of $350,000.
Operations determines that they should consolidate operations to control costs and that means closing the facility in Kansas and consolidating in Ohio. This will add two days to deliveries in the west and will be a competitive disadvantage to the sales organization.
Finance determines that there is no way they can absorb the severance cost of consolidation and the hiring of three new sales executives and keep the margins at 25%.
Is everybody still aligned?
And while this is easy to see at the organizational level, it happens also in teams. The message comes out of the staff meeting and everyone hears it through their filters and they approach the goals from their own point of view. Consider the Hospital Admissions department that wants to reduce wait times as patients arrive. So, the goal is a 30-minute reduction in wait times.
Sally hears that as, “We have to move these patients right along”. So, in her queue it is, “give me your data, your insurance and financial information, who is the referring physician etc.”. Quick efficient and she is cutting time.
Mary, on the other hand, heard that message and the organizational goal of patient satisfaction. So, she too is gathering all of the information required from the patient AND she is engaging them in conversation to make them feel welcomed and that they are safe.
There is always going to be tension in organizations and teams as we pursue goals. In order to keep everyone on the path towards the overall goals and NOT just their own, requires regular, structured conversations. These conversations monitor individual, team and department progress towards their goals AND how they are each contributing to the organizational goal. This allows the everyone to make adjustments to keep everyone focused and aligned on the organization NOT just themselves or their department.
There are three conversations that you must master for managerial and leadership success. To get your details on these three conversations, click here. If you would like to schedule a conversation to discover how you can turbo-charge your team, click here.