Is your organisation operating in a leadership void?
Before I can help executives refine their organization’s culture, I need to know as much as I can about the executive team before I even learn about the company. Why? Because the leaders of the organizations are the ones that maintain the culture, no matter what it’s condition. Senior leaders have authority to change norms, policies, and procedures. This totally affects the organization’s culture.
In my discovery process, I learn who these leaders are, how they lead, their form of communication, what they validate (i.e. through recognition), what they value, and what they hope the culture will be. I study data such as employee satisfaction survey results, strategic plans, newsletters, mission statements and more. I spend hours looking at information like this before I even begin interviewing the executives.
Where is the value?
I remember one client that was so proud of some documents they shared with me. It was a new vision statement and strategic plan. They told me “We worked for two weeks on the vision statement. The strategic plan didn’t take that long–we already had pieces of it formalized.”
Sounds promising, right? Except that the vision statement was full of buzzwords without staying what the company actually did for customers or why customers should even care. The language? “We create value for shareholders, employees, and customers.” Nice sentiment, but value where? How?
In addition, the strategic plan didn’t really have any clear strategies at all. There was no approach to discovering what a new customer needed or how to explore new market opportunities. Instead, it just presented percentage growth targets for existing products and services.
I asked the CEO what the employee’s thought of this new vision and strategic plan. I wasn’t surprised to hear that the reaction was lukewarm and that employee’s admitted they still didn’t know what their strategy was even after reading the documents.
The leadership void
This organization was operating in a leadership void. The documents they came up with were not helpful. They didn’t provide clarity, vision, or strategy in an actionable way. When a leadership void like this exists, what tends to happen is that the stronger personalities fill the void, sometimes with success for the team, but sadly often, for their own benefit. Sometimes an “I win, you lose” mentality gets embedded, creating a norm that pits people against each other rather than in alignment with each other.
Left to our own devices, we humans are typically self-serving. A bland vision and unclear strategic plan feed into that. The executives I worked with were initially frustrated to learn that they’d spent lots of time and energy creating a mediocre vision statement and strategic plan. But we worked together to create a more actionable, present day servant purpose and strategic plan that set the direction for branding, marketing, and operations for the next three years. The team is embracing their purpose, values, strategies, and goals – working cooperatively to align with the company’s organizational constitution. They’re not done yet, but the politics, power plays, and self-centered behaviors are diminishing and the entire team is optimistic about what affect this will have over time on their culture.
How clear is your team or company’s present day servant purpose? Do team members understand your strategies and goals well enough to articulate them to others?