This is the first in a series of leadership posts in our Get A CLUE series. CLUE stands for Conscious Leadership Uncovering Excellence. The series covers fundamental areas in leadership such as Personal Resourcefulness, Presence, Building Trust, and Collaboration. Our aim is to support leaders in developing their capacity to create engaged, collaborative, and thriving workforces.
We were hired once by a budding technology company with a promising product and a management team of bright, committed individuals. The company needed to shift from developing their now proven software to selling it. That required silos to come down and for teams to really pull together. It called for transparency and collaboration. Unfortunately the CEO was not ready for that level of openness. Although he said he had an open-door policy and you could come to him with anything, no one could challenge him without serious repercussions. As a result, most of his best talent left, our engagement concluded early, and we doubt to this day that he understands his leadership gaps or the true reasons for their under-performance.
Forbes quotes a recent Accenture study that provides evidence to the axiom "most employees don’t leave their jobs; they leave their bosses". Of employees surveyed,
- 31% don’t like their boss
- 31% experience a lack of empowerment
- 35% are affected by internal politics
- 43% experience a lack of recognition
A similar survey conducted by the Gallup Organization reveals that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged — 29% in North America. However, we know that engaged employees are the lifeblood of their organizations. Companies with high employee engagement report significantly higher productivity, profitability, and customer ratings. They also have less turnover and absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents. These companies outperform the rest on virtually all measures of success!
Regardless of the approach to address these concerns, the foundation for success begins with the leader. Our anecdote above describes leaders we encounter who move up the ranks using a 20th century command & control model, where promotions go to the rock star, knowledge is hoarded, and internal competition rules. This style of leadership is insufficient for the innovation and agility needed in the 21st century.
Part 1 of this series begins with a focus on leader self-awareness, the first critical step in the process of creating a thriving, engaged, high performing workforce. We therefore propose these five action-steps for leaders:
- Identify your strengths and leverage them while accounting for your relative weaknesses. In today’s environment, it’s more effective to assemble and develop a great leadership team than to find a gifted leader with all of the requisite strengths.
- Be open to discovering your blind spots. We all have them (if you don’t – that’s a blind spot!). But to discover them we need to rely on others. That requires humility and vulnerability. If you’re not ready to get honest feedback from others, work with a coach who will create a safe space for you to grow.
- Remember, “you’re not the teacher, you’re the lesson.” Regardless of what you say, it’s your actions, or inactions, that will speak volumes and generate the assumptions within your culture about what is and isn’t possible.
- Be clear on the whys. Why do you want to lead? Why does your company exist? What is your organization’s purpose? Why do you believe what you believe? As author and speaker Simon Sinek has said, “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it. What you do simply proves what you believe.”
- Know and live your core values. Values-based decisions create clarity from complexity. When an organization knows and lives its core values, employees are empowered and act congruently. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
In our next post we’ll discuss moving from leader to leadership team. As the boomer generation grays out and the millennials step in, distributed leadership becomes a necessity, not an option. Meanwhile, we’d love to hear what these insights triggered for you. And if you can’t wait and want to take a deeper dive, or discuss the implications in your organizations, contact us and have a conversation. We’re passionate about creating new perspectives for breakthrough results!