Sunday, November 21, 2010

Winning During the Slog - Part 6 - Do You have the Leaders to Drive an Adaptive Culture?

(from issues for Growth Vol.19, No. 18)

This is the sixth of a series of articles about how companies and individuals are winning during the “The Long, Slow, Hard Economic Slog” that we are in (Issues for Growth Vol. 19, No.13). This article is written by Christy Pearson, PhD, of Opus Leadership Group , who works with The Mead Consulting Group. – DPM

Are your people spending more time talking about what to do and less time actually getting things done?

Does this scenario sound familiar? A CEO of a successful mid-market company began to worry more and more about his organization’s ability to keep up with expected growth and its ability to adapt to current economic uncertainties. His team was quite busy, almost to the point of being overwhelmed and he began to notice some disturbing signs:

· workgroups were duplicating responsibilities, often resulting in conflicts between his leaders

· Staff meetings involved more discussions about how to get it all the work done versus any planning for the future

· There were too many independent decisions being made, resulting in delayed product delivery, reduced collaboration between workgroups and an overall atmosphere of conflict and distrust

His instincts told him that the current rate of growth could not be maintained. And then, his fears began to be realized.

· Customer complaints were increasing and three important clients decided to go elsewhere.

· Employees started missing key deadlines and there was a lot of frenzied activity without the expected results.

He wondered if his organization could adapt to these new problems and he wondered if his leader team could as well.

Did he have the right men and women with the necessary leadership abilities to adapt and evolve with the business and its new challenges?

The above situation is common for companies experiencing growth or those trying to survive during economic uncertainties. The mistake they often make, however, is to think they need to make a few radical changes to resolve all the presenting problems. Many organizations overcome significant challenges by continuously planning for and adapting to the challenges presented. Successful companies maintain their success by adapting their organization and its leaders to the challenges inherent with growing and sustaining a successful business versus committing to a full-scale change. However, many companies attempting to survive during this current economic climate, fail to evolve the leadership of their key employees. As a result, they fail to have the right people with the right adaptive leadership attributes to address the many challenges so evident in today’s business world.

“Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

Does Leadership Really Matter?

In good times and bad, CEOs must not only focus on external drivers of the business but also focus on what is happening internally. The most effective CEOs continue to recognize the need to match their business strategy with a strategy of hiring, deploying and developing their people. They evolve their strategy and ensure their people evolve as well. CEOs spend countless hours determining the right strategy but without the right people to execute, failure is imminent. While most CEOs understand the need for the right people in key roles, many fail to adequately determine what type leadership and business skills are needed and most fail to adequately assess who has the right stuff.

Would you believe “leadership incompetency” rates of 65%? So does leadership really matter? Robert Hogan, a respected researcher of executive leaders continuously finds an incompetency rate among leaders to be around 65-70%. Would you value a commodity that only produced expected results 30-35% of the time? In a 2005 HBR article, the authors suggested that most companies only deliver on 63% of their expected financial performance as outlined in their organization’s strategy. The most commonly cited factors contributing to this poor performance were related to people and leadership (Turning Strategy into Great Performance by Michael C. Mankins and Richard Steele, 2005). Given the challenges and complexity of today’s business environment, does leadership matter? It sure does!

Signs You May Not Have The Right Leadership

· Leaders react to problems versus proactively predicting them.

· Discord and conflict within the leader’s team or functional area.

· Too many meetings with no outcomes.

· Inadequate or no contingency or strategic planning.

· Lack of alignment and collaboration between key leaders.

· Poor communication by both the leader and his/her employees.

· Leaders continuously address new problems with old solutions.

· Complacent leadership, believing that the status quo is good enough.

· High turnover, low morale.

Organizations that fail to adapt display many, if not all of the above characteristics. However, organizations can mitigate this risk by ensuring they have the right leaders in place to adapt to their current business challenges.

Next: Characteristics of Adaptive Leaders. Next article will deal with the characteristics of adaptive leaders.

Some companies are experiencing significant “new thinking” results. What are you doing to change how you think about your business and create a culture of adaptability? Email us your comments.

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