There isn’t an organization out there that isn’t implementing some type of change, some more transformative than others. However, very few it seems have cracked the code on making the change real.
Lately, the common malady that I am coming across in most of the organizations that I am working with – is the “It’s not me it’s them” leadership ailment. You know the old – “if everybody around here would just do their job” and “the Sales/Engineering/ IT organization (you fill in the blank) just don’t get it,” and so on, and so forth.
So, why is leadership alignment, collaboration and partnership just so darn difficult? If only everybody could get along …
It goes back to some of the basic theory I learned when I was a graduate student … power and control are really powerful.
You don’t make your way to a senior leadership position by being meek and unassertive, you likely have a take charge attitude and been able to make good things happen.
So when you put a bunch of type A personalities (male or female) together – it is no surprise that there is often a lot of jockeying for power and control. How they demonstrate this will look different but don’t kid yourself – there is not one senior leader out there who isn’t convinced that he/she has what it takes to get things done.
So how do you harness all this power and control and direct it towards Good… the change you are trying to implement?
Well, for a start you need a strong leader at the pinnacle who explicitly articulates what he/she expects from each leadership team member, and from them as a collective. AND, even more important holds all leadership team members accountable for demonstrating the behaviors that are required (not optional). By the way, this top job is not for the faint hearted or for those who prefer to avoid conflict.
Also, you select for collaborative / team work like behaviors in addition to strong performance results before placing anyone into a leadership role. You do this by asking behaviorally oriented questions during the selection process, have them complete a behavioral assessment, and get specific examples from their references (if external) or if in internal from a representative sample of their peers (who really know if the person is collaborative).
Third, you create an environment of direct and candid dialogue and feedback – that is constructive (not confrontational). You make sure to engage the leadership team in designing the change – where all opinions, views and perspectives are considered. But once you land on a decision/path forward – all leadership team members are required to act in alignment even if their view was not where the team landed. Now, it is up to the team members to hold each other accountable and provide direct and candid feedback to their colleague/s if they aren’t holding their part of the bargain.
These tips may seem rather rudimentary but yet so many organizations struggle with leadership alignment. We will know that this prominent leadership ailment is cured when the first instinct is to say “It is me, it’s ALL of us.”