“To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.”A�– DOUG CONANT, CAMPBELL SOUP
Culture trumps strategy every time. Most executives and leaders realize that it’s our responsibility to build and sustain organizational culture. Yet, many of us aren’t exactly sure how to go about doing that a�� or we become distracted by other priorities before we do it well.
As someone who has served as a CEO of both nonprofit and business organizations, I’ve come to realize that no matter what crisis you inherit when you step into leading an organization, CEOs have to focus on culture a�� first. This can be hard to manage when building a business, caring for family and putting out fires, but it has to be the first priority.
As a consultant and coach to government, nonprofit and corporate leaders, I’m delighted to have some great assessment instruments that help measure leaders’ effectiveness in this critical area of building culture. The Work of LeadersA� measures the elements that must be in place for CEOs and senior leaders to effectively build culture.
In order to build a strong culture, leaders must excel at all three components of leadership: Vision, Alignment and Execution. That means setting a solid vision for the company, doing the work it takes to bring people into alignment with that vision, and then having the tools and discipline to execute that vision. CEOs must remain engaged in all three components and not just trust that their senior team leaders can do these without them.
Let’s explore these three components in more detail.
CRAFTING A VISION – CEOs must develop a vision, in concert with senior team members, that provides purpose and drives the development of goals. The three drivers of crafting a vision are:
- Exploration – Remaining open to others’ input and prioritizing the big picture while not getting too far in the weeds.
- Boldness – Being adventurous to explore new ideas, speaking out to excite team members and creating a bold idea for the future.
- Testing Assumptions – Seeking counsel, recognizing obstacles, and exploring implications with the senior team members and trusted external advisers.
BUILDING ALIGNMENT – Buy-in is essential from those who will have a role in getting the company or its projects from concept to reality. Alignment is a dynamic, ongoing process that requires leaders to continually monitor and connect with employees as conditions shift. Effective leaders have to create consistency throughout the entire journey to keep employees’ alignment strong.
Alignment sets the stage and brings people together to generate excitement for the vision of where leaders are taking the organization. The three drivers of alignment are:
- Clarity – Explaining the rationale and providing structured messages so that people understand the reasoning of why the organization needs to approach change and how that will be done.
- Dialogue – Presenting information is important, as is exchanging perspectives, so leaders must be receptive to hearing concerns and ideas of others. Some employees operate with styles that make them intimidated by questions and fear being challenged. So, our style as leaders must flex to the style of employees to have true dialogue. Employees must trust that they are truly being heard and that there will be no retaliation for sharing their own perspectives.
- Inspiration – Be expressive and encouraging with employees. Demonstrating passion will help employees become more committed. Employees need to understand how their roles connect to the greater vision. Inspiring them means they will accept the challenges facing them with greater confidence and competence.
CHAMPIONING EXECUTION – Execution moves concept to reality by developing specific strategies that make the vision become actionable. The three drivers of execution are:
- Momentum – Being driven to achieve the goals and initiating specific actions to get there. People need to see their leaders actively involved in moving the organization forward with specific actions executed with passion.
- Structure – People need structure to execute. By providing a plan, which is built on analysis and a merger of fact and intuition, leaders can remain fluid to address external obstacles while providing structured approaches that reduce employees’ resistance.
- Feedback – Leaders must address problems constructively. There is really no such thing as too much praise. By offering more praise a�� in the manner that each individual needs to receive it based on their own individual style a�� leaders build trust and morale stays high.
When leaders understand the elements of leadership a�� Vision, Alignment, and Execution a�� and how we perform in each area, we can adjust our own performances to create the cultures our organizations really deserve.
DEBBIE MASON, is a business strategist and organizational consultant who works with The Work of LeadersA�, DiSCA�, Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Teama�?, and other assessments used in coaching leaders and organizations to greater performance.