(If you missed Part One of Sue CEO, check here.)
The next evening over dinner . . . Sue CEO unfolded her napkin and looked at her dinner companion. “I’m glad you were free this evening. I’ve been meaning to call you ever since I heard you lead that discussion on corporate culture and business execution a few weeks back at the conference, but I’ve just been up to my neck in problems.”
“So what changed? The problems gone away and you now have lots of free time?”
“Hardly. I still have the same issues with my company’s performance and with my management team, but I now realize I might be a big part of the problem, and hopefully the solution as well.” She shared the story of the dog-walker and also the in-fighting and lack of teamwork among her management team, as well as her company’s declining performance. Her guest nodded and replied.
“Most companies are organized and work like yours, in silos, and they experience the same issues: turf battles, budget fights, lack of accountability and poor overall performance. As W. Edwards Deming, the father of the modern Quality Movement was fond of saying:
It’s the processes, not the people.”
Sue looked puzzled. “I’m not certain I understand. I have 10 direct reports, all of whom lead an important business function. We need excellence in all these functions to perform well as a company. Don’t we?”
“Let me guess”, her guest replied. “Each one of your direct reports meets their budgets and functional objectives every year yet overall your company is falling behind on its strategic objectives.”
“Absolutely right. And they work hard and long hours. It’s not like they are goofing off.
“I didn’t imply they weren’t working hard. What I was saying is that their goals and objectives are probably not linked nor are they fully aligned with the overall strategic goals. I’ll bet people also complain of initiative overload. Too many ‘important’ projects to work on and not enough staff or resources.”
Sue took a spoonful of soup and sighed. “I hear it everyday. The complaints about too many new projects, then the bickering starts for larger budgets. And it seems like each one believes their projects are the most critical. To be honest, it’s getting me down. I really don’t look forward to going into work anymore. I know that sounds awful, but it’s true.”
Her guest put down his spoon. “Did you ever think your staff probably feels the same way? When there’s no obvious solution and working harder doesn’t seem to make any difference; that’s when dejection and even cynicism sets in.”
He paused, looked around at the other tables then leaned forward. “Einstein once said:
“I guess I have been a little insane these past few months,” laughed Sue.
Her dinner companion continued. “And cynicism kills company momentum. Remember, organizations are shadows of their leaders, so if the leadership team is frustrated it magnifies downwards into your company. You’re creating a culture of hopelessness!”
“So, is there any good news?” Sue was working to keep her spirits up. She knew these issues could be overcome; she just wasn’t certain how.
“There’s lots of good news, and the biggest one is YOU. You realize two important things: first, it’s a common problem and second the solution begins with you setting rules, boundaries and limitations on your team’s behaviour. With those two ingredients I believe I can add the third: a structured leadership process to help your senior team better manage the company by aligning strategy, objectives, metrics, projects and accountabilities to create a culture of discipline, innovation and execution.
With your disciplined leadership and these new tools your team will soon be leading the industry. You’ll become the pack-leader in more ways than one.” He grinned and Sue felt reassured by his confidence and certainty.
“I can see the potential of my team and I know I must set clear rules, boundaries and limitations. But tell me a little bit more about this joined-up leadership process. And just what is a leadership process?” Sue leaned forward, her curiosity peaked.
(Catch up with Sue CEO in Part Three to find out more.)
Tight Lines . . .