Do I have your attention?
The title of this piece is not hyperbole; it can be fact. I’ll demonstrate it here in a moment. Companies often tout BHAG (big hairy audacious goals) or high and mighty core values like persistence, integrity, creativity. But most fall painfully short of delivering on any. Why do you think this happens?
In most cases the ‘facts,’ as leadership sees them, show a clear direction. They begin to plan with positive intent, and likely ‘feel’ strongly about what they are doing. Sounds good so far right? This is the point at which the quitting begins.
Leaders plan goals and core values with seemingly utter neglect for the reality of cultural inertia. In other words, they feel that a well-organized event, speech, or even email will do the hard work for them. They are simply wrong. They are simply wrong, over and over again.
Here is how this works. The goal or core value in question faces internal adversity in the form of complacency or outright push back. At that moment, the confidence of leadership becomes wounded, maybe subconsciously at this point. The leader, at this early stage, may write this set back off as temporary and continue on as if the ‘grand plan’ is still effective. Remember, this is simply where the quitting begins.
Let’s follow the quitting trail even further: we are six months past when we ‘rolled out’ our core values or goal. The objective metrics show that things are not improving, that morale is low and middle management is beginning to retrench into old norms and habits. This is part of Step Two in the process of quitting at your company. There was no plan for a long, drawn out, battle! Instead, leadership chooses tired phrases like ‘think about the team’, ‘focus on the goal’, and ‘change your attitude…’ Then leadership defers the blame for lack of follow through on the values and goals to the frontline employees. Sound familiar?
This is where the great leader differentiates herself from the good or plain weak. She simply does not quit reinforcing the values or goals from the moment they are ‘rolled out.’ She has a one-month plan of active reinforcement, a three-month plan, a six-month plan and on and on. The great leader cannot see the future, and she knows that. Therefore, the plan must have all the bases covered for ‘as long as it takes.’ I feel Peter Drucker states this best from his timeless work The Effective Executive:
“For every organization needs performance in three major areas: it needs direct results; building of values and their reaffirmation; and building and developing people for tomorrow. If deprived of performance in any one of these areas, it will decay and die.” – Peter Drucker (underscores added)
For all the shallow preaching about what should be, leaders have a strategy of quitting on the real work it takes to turn a core value into something real, or breaking a goal down to its component parts to make it real in the lives of employees whose efforts will ultimately decide if it becomes reality.
Now, do you see this proof in the leaders within your company? If you do, you are part of the majority. If you see the reinforcement, reaffirmation and consistent follow-through that defines greatness in this critical area, then your company is one of the few. I am fortunate enough to work with several organizations that exemplify this type of long-term follow-through on the values and goals that truly matter to them. My role is played out in each of the areas Drucker shares as critical within an organization. It is in this seemingly repetitive week-to-week work that culture is forged, new habits are built to last and a confident organization emerges.
If you wish to learn more about topics like this, or schedule BJ McKay to speak, or to visit and evaluate your organization, please reach out via the contact form in the right-side column of this page referencing: MEET WITH MCKAY.