I consulted recently with a group of leaders weighed down by events of the past 18 months—a failed product launch, lost funding, and the resignation of three key leaders. Company officers dissected what happened. They diagnosed possible causes. Then they got stuck. This team had a strategy in place, and members were being held accountable to certain results. But what sits between every organization’s strategy and its results are its people. And the people out of alignment in this story were the leaders.
They were misaligned on which approach would lead to the greatest success, and some were misaligned with the behaviors that would drive the intended results altogether.
At best, this type of misalignment leads to confusion, frustration, and decreased productivity. At worst, this group faced the prospect of even more turnover, lower engagement, and lost time and money.
Having just met them, I encouraged: “It’s not what happened. It’s what happens next.”
Leadership Isn’t About Perfection
This phrase comes to mind for me when tackling problems of all sizes: spiriting my children through their math quizzes, mending hurt feelings, recovering from an injury, or dealing with a missed deadline or a missed opportunity.
By now, we know that great leadership isn’t about perfection. It’s about self-awareness. And we know objective human data is the gateway to developing that awareness—the No. 1 most critical competency among leaders.
Just like people, businesses need self-awareness, too.
And they need objective tools to access it. This means measuring your leaders against your strategy before you commit to its results. Paramount to your success is ensuring your leaders are aligned on what the strategy is, in agreement on their confidence level before execution, and understand how they are hardwired as humans ton individually gravitate toward and reject particular strategies.
Choosing Your Strategy
Organizations can employ four unique types of strategies: cultivating, exploring, producing, and stabilizing. These methodologies each have different constructs and constraints that challenge execution.
Think about your business. Which of these strategies describes yours?
A cultivating strategy focuses on the commitment, loyalty, and morale of the employees. Structure and processes are accommodating and predictable for the team. The goal focuses on team cohesion and engagement, internal culture, and employee opinion define success.
If this sounds like you, ask yourself: Are we supportive, transparent, and empathetic to the needs of our people?
An exploring strategy focuses on innovation and new opportunities. It’s nimble, flexible, and able to drive many directions at once. Structures and processes are decentralized and easily adaptable with lots of entrepreneurial goals. The products and services unique to the market measure success.
If this sounds like you, ask yourself: Are we visionary, innovative, and comfortable with taking risks? Do our leaders inspire action and cultivate creativity?
A producing strategy focuses on finding new clients and building a reputation. It’s competitive and often uses pricing, quality, and delivery tactics to win. Structures and processes help maintain control and consistency across teams and outputs. Market share and penetration define success.
If this sounds like you, ask yourself: Are we driving, competitive, and disciplined with rules? Are leaders clearly articulating expectations of employees and coaching them to success?
A stabilizing strategy focuses on continual improvement, efficiency, and predictability of services. It’s always looking at ways to simplify and improve. Structures and processes are standardized and automated to minimize risk, improve scalability, and decrease costs. Success is defined by higher performance to ensure customer loyalty.
If this sounds like you, ask yourself: Are we organized, coordinated, and efficient, following rules and processes to mitigate risk? Have our leaders created an environment of fairness and stability?
Pivot Your Strategy
After briefly explaining each type, light bulbs began to illuminate for my client. They had joined the team a decade ago to cultivate and stabilize. Each person was socially oriented, methodical, and hardwired to make decisions carefully and cautiously.
Now leaders in the business, these same individuals saw the need to lead the company in an exploring direction. But the risk-seeking, fast-paced behavior this approach requires didn’t feel in line with who they were as people or as a culture. And with no data to illuminate the problem, they experienced the backfire.
Fueling this phenomenon is the truism that we humans will all behave in ways to get our own inherent motivating needs met. And that means we will all eventually turn our jobs into ourselves—doing the things that give us energy and procrastinating the things that don’t meet our needs.
Use Data to Assess the Situation
Using a tool like the PI Strategy Assessment would have saved my client 18 months of “learning the hard way.”
Reflect on your own business again. How do you know your leaders will carry out your strategy? And what will happen next?
Would you like to learn more about talent strategy and the best way to design your organization? Check out “Form Follows Function” from ADVISA President, Heather Haas, where she dives into the human architecture of organizations.
This article originally appeared in the Indianapolis Business Journal on November 1, 2019.