I’ve worked with a number of organizational leaders who create really good strategies. Their BHAGS are exciting to pursue, their Statements of Purpose are compelling, and their Winning Moves have incredible potential to produce excellent revenue streams. From a Strategic Planning perspective, all is well. But the often neglected conversation in many strategic sessions is organizational health. An interesting analogy here is our own personal health. The script could possibly go something like this:
Doctor: You have cancer.
Patient: No…I don’t.
Doctor: Yes, you do. Here’s the proof.
Patient: I feel fine!
Doctor: I know you feel fine…now. But this is serious stuff. But we’ve caught it in time, which has been a gift. We have to operate within the week. If we get to this now, your survival rate is high…like 96%.
Patient: No. I don’t want to be opened up. I’ll fix it myself.
Doctor: How do you intend to do that?
Patient: By changing my diet. And maybe meditating.
Doctor: It won’t work. If you don’t deal with this soon, your chances of survival diminish rapidly. I mean, at a point in the very near future, your survival odds drop to only 4%. You need surgery now.
Patient: No. I don’t have a problem that constitutes drastic measures. I’ll fix it myself.
Doctor: You’re ignoring reality.
Patient: I don’t want to have this discussion with you anymore. I don’t have a health problem. And if I do, then eating healthier and more organically will make it all ok.
Sometimes we deny the truth even when we have the data to support it. To use an example we’re all familiar with: When a former colleague and friend of Steve Jobs later told Jobs that he, too, had a form of cancer, Jobs’ advice was not to ignore it. Instead, Jobs is noted as telling his friend to have the uncomfortable conversation and to work with his medical team in deciding what to do next and how to go about navigating his new reality.
This same rhetoric happens every day in organizations. It’s a discussion (or lack of a discussion) that can create an organizational epidemic, and it’s an epidemic that begins at the leadership level.
So how do you heal a Leadership Team that’s ill?
- Stop ignoring the truth. Instead, have the conversations that you need to have.
- Having trouble ‘having the conversation’? Hire a seasoned consultative facilitator.
- Update your standards for how you engage with each other and abide by those standards.
- Re-seat any leader that doesn’t understand the new rules of engagement.
- Focus on both sides of the coin: Talk about strategy and your company’s strategic intent (which are separate from personality). Flip the coin, then, and talk about how to increase productivity. Talk about your definition of leadership and set expectations around how your core leaders are expected to lead their people.
- Establish KPIs around key accountabilities, recognizing that “what” gets done matters.
- Establish KPIs around leadership competencies and expectations.
- Recognize that “how” things get done is a more powerful indicator of overall productivity; to that end, create KPIs around your leadership impact.
Many leaders think that organizational health is all about revenue generation. But in reality, revenue generation is an outcome. It’s the result of having made great decisions around what to do (and you can generate a great deal of money by identifying what to do.) But you increase your long-term sustainability as well as your potential to make even more money by not neglecting how your leaders go about achieving the results you say you want them to achieve.
To measure the true aspect of your organization’s health, create KPIs around your stated Winning Moves and Strategic Goals while also creating KPIs around the degree to which you have a high-performance culture. Nurture your organization toward a healthy culture and you’ll increase productivity. Increase productivity…and you’ll increase bottom-line results.