There are many facets of leadership and individuals within the world of leadership and development will spend many hours of their time cascading key theories and principles in order that people can become better managers, increase their emotional intelligence if needed and empower their teams through the use of coaching, in order that teams can all perform at their level best, or even at a level above.
Many principles that can be applied to an individual can also be true of the organisation. For example, if an individual has quite a directing style then so too can an organisation feel as though their culture also has a ‘directing feel’ to it. In other words by its nature the culture is more transactional, which maintains current performance, rather than transformational, which enhances current performance.
One area that can be used in reverse, that applies to the organisation but should also be applied to the individual teams is the idea of a ‘Vision’. All organisations should have a vision, to give directional clarity around direction, a sense of purpose to all employees. Often the team ‘vision’ will align directly to the vision of the organisation but just on a more local level. It can also be slightly personalised with an emphasis on the department in question.
During organisational cascades the vision is talked about significantly by the board or the executive team, which at least means the organisation has one! As we know many organisations still do not provide absolutely clarity about what their purpose or vision is and we all need to know that what we do matters, that it fits somehow into a bigger picture. However, presuming there is an organisational vision how many individual teams actively talk about it, so it does not remain remote, some lofty concept that seems irrelevant to them. Everyone should know how the Vision relates to them.
So, if a team wants to address this issue how they should do it? Many leaders take up almost an individual journey when leading a team, they focus on what they do or don’t know in order to be the best leader possible. This is admirable but sometimes misguided in the sense that this journey should be shared. The leaders do not ‘own’ the vision; everyone does. This journey should be shared, should not be personal but focus on all moving in the same direction together. Having open and honest discussions at the very beginning about the stuff that matters is important. It is not just about ‘what’ we do but most importantly ‘how’ we do it. Sometimes, the ‘how’ is seen as a nice to have, rather than a necessity. However, it is the ‘how’ that will make the difference in the long-term; that will ensure strategic success. It also takes the weight from the shoulder of the leader.
One approach can be to start the conversation by relating the vision to the team and what it means for them. What can be so powerful here is that this conversation can start to examine the ‘way we work together’, the agreed ‘contract’ between each other that identifies the best way to achieve the strategic goal. This invariably leads to the ‘how’ being discussed at length and then we can get into the great conversation of culture, values and behaviours.
Some questions to consider are:
What does the strategic objectives mean for us?
How will we get there?
What challenges do we face?
How do we get in our way?
What do we need to happen?
If we do not agree amongst ourselves how will we overcome that?
What is the ‘culture’ of our team now?
What is it now?
Where does it need to be?
How will we get there?
How do we specifically live our values?
What is unacceptable behaviour for us?
What needs to be addressed?
Very often their might be an ‘issue’ between one and more of the team. If this is the case, this needs to be addressed. It is always a judgement call by the leader when this might take place. Unlikely if they have just taken over and only when the atmosphere is right to do so, but avoidance will only allow issues to escalate and build over time. It can be false economy. To leave it for later will only make the challenge more difficult to overcome. What this can do, however, is also inform the ‘contract’ agreed between people. If this should happen again how can we nip it in the bud? What should we do first? How will we approach each other to make sure we maintain our relationships? A positive can emerge from conflict.
It can also provide a framework. The leaders will now doubt have talked about the benefits of working well together, what can be achieved and how the team can be perceived in a positive way by the rest of the organisation as a high performing team. But it is also worth having a discussion around what happens when things do not go well. Particularly if the poor behaviour is as a result of a ‘won’t’ do rather than a ‘can’t’ do issue. The team needs a framework and rewards, as well as clearly defined consequences are a part of that. Acceptable attitudes and behaviours should be discussed as early as possible, addressed and adhered to. Often it is not what people say that will be the issue, but how it is said. This can also reassure the many who have noticed that the one who is a troublemaker seems to get away with their poor behaviour, which can be demotivating for the majority. They feel reassured this will no longer continue and whilst poor performance will be faced into, ultimately the focus of the attention will predominantly look at positive behaviour so creating a reward culture.
Sometimes the leader can set the goal, derived from the organisational vision, but involve the team deciding how to get there. They can be the decision makers; they can decide the ways of working. More often than not they will come up with the same thoughts the leader had but because they came up with the solutions means they own them to. The ‘buy-in’ will increase significantly, as will the accountability. The role of a Leader is to set direction, with full clarity. But the rest can be a combined effort where everyone can come to the party and join in.