Last week we introduced you to the Virtuous Circle of Healthy Leadership – our model that helps explain how top performing organisations align leadership up, down and across the enterprise.
This week, we start to explore what the challenge is in implementing what is intuitively an obvious part of that model – aligning leadership throughout the organisation.
To demonstrate the challenge organisations face, we can relay an experience from last year. Red Emu was working at an operational site of one of our clients. We were brought in to help the Site Leadership Team address what was seen as poor employee morale at the location which was getting in the way of delivering against some challenging targets that had been set for the operation.
We weren’t surprised by what we found. Employees that wanted to come to work and do their best work, also wanted to achieve something worthwhile collectively and be part of a cohesive, tight knit group. Unfortunately, they, and the local leadership, were frustrated – as were the leadership team in Head Office. In fact, no one was happy with the way things were going.
So, what was getting in the way – a lot of things but they all boiled down to a lack of alignment of leadership throughout the organisation. Front line leaders weren’t clear on what was really important right now to the senior leadership team. Those same front-line leaders were the people that interact daily with the largest number of employees responsible for delivering performance. Without clarity on what good performance looks like, it is impossible for those employees to deliver on it. Senior leaders can be flying blind about the operational decisions they need to make if they are not receiving real time feedback from the front-line on the opportunities they see and the challenges they face.
Pleasingly, this situation was able to be rectified through ensuring that there was clarity throughout the organisation on what the operational priorities are, and what the constraints were at the front line – simple alignment perhaps, but something that seems to be a gap in more organisations than it should be.
So, if you are a senior leader, what are you doing to bring everyone on board? Have you explained the priorities of the leadership team to your direct reports, and have they explained them to front-line leaders – with an emphasis on what it means for them. Have you prepped the team on messages that will be important for all employees? Have you solicited feedback on any competing priorities and provided clarity on how they should be dealt with? And once you have done that, have you reinforced clarity until you are blue in the face! At that point, you may have achieved organisational leadership alignment and you may have everyone on board.
Next week we will take the topic of clarity further – are you clear on what you are creating clarity about?