Strong Point’s Leadership Rule #5: It Matters Who. It Matters How.

We can all bring to mind a boss or a leader who’s said to us: “I don’t care how you get it done…just Get It Done!” or given us the guidance that “None of Us is Indispensable.“ The guidance translated: “We Can Do Just Fine without You.”

As a Leader or an Emerging Leader yourself, you may have also studied process control so completely that you understand how important it is to define a role or codify a process above and beyond the people performing it. Systematizing and strengthening core roles and processes can lead us down the slippery slope, though, that touts: “Everyone is Replaceable.” The positive intent of role and process definition, of course, is to work toward controlling and realizing predictable results. The negative inference of this small silhouette is “It’s Not Really All That Important Who” is performing any of the tasks or processes you’ve worked so hard to clearly define.

If you picked five people with the same qualifications on paper, and hired them to perform the same role beginning at the same start-date, and then studied their performance and results for an entire year; something in the results would startle you and challenge the hidden biases you hold about performance. Similarly, if you reviewed the qualifications of the current employee-base to define a core competency model for a specific role in the same industry, at the same grade-level, for two different competitors; the competency models derived from the two companies would paint two unique pictures of the same scene. A wide range of contributing factors such as: core values, hiring practices, talent diversity and cultural norms in the operating environment would produce two very different, yet meaningful, definitions of competence. I can say this with confidence. These are lessons learned from past Strong Point engagements.

In terms of “How” we get things done, we can all point to a time in a project, or our work lives, when we’ve been ”in the ditch.” During the time when the project or a mission-critical deliverable is in jeopardy, the “gloves of humanity” come off the people with whom we work. In these moments, bosses brashly take work from one individual and give it to another to finish, without a dignified transition. Peers talk about each other with reckless indignation and without the discipline to pause and reflect and to think through the impact of their actions. When expected results are not realized and success seems unlikely; the operating environment can feel like a war zone, and decency becomes the first fatality. In these situations, frustration reigns, and lack of leadership can make the workplace feel more like a school-yard than an office. Good, talented people often leave the company under these circumstances. The professionals who stay, have a hard time regaining trust in their leaders and peers, to carry on and complete the work at hand. Tough times often make us all feel like we can, and should, do better.

Strong Point’s Leadership Rule #5: It Matters Who. It Matters How.

Of course, it Matters Who does the work and How it gets done. Yet, we so quickly forget Leadership Rule #5, when things go off the rail at work. In my mind, I can hear the advice of a psychologist and team-building advisor, “Under Stress, We All Digress.”

Strong Point works to strengthen companies. We do our work using two of our own distinct methodologies: Business Development and Leadership Development. Using an automobile metaphor, we help to navigate the drive, with our client partners, to move a business forward. Strong Point’s Business Development methods would be the left wheels of the car; Leadership Development methods would be the right. We use derived and vetted Strategic Plans and Roadmaps to lead us down the road toward a desired future state. We make forward progress through disciplined execution using our combined skills and capabilities. We fuel acceleration using the engine of our technology infrastructure, applications, and tools.

If I were a mechanic assessing the health of the vehicle most businesses use to drive progress, I would say that the car almost always “pulls to the right”, and that the imbalance of corporate investments in Leadership Skills, or the “right wheels,” vs. Investments in Business Capability and Technology Advancements make the drive to fuel and sustain growth harder than it needs to be. Companies simply do not make investments in Leadership Development necessary to raise Leadership Effectiveness to the same level of expectation and strength given to technology or business capability.

To illustrate this point, Gartner’s IT Budget Report for 2017, written by Jamie Guevara on March 14th, 2017; shows that companies make investments in Technology, between 2.5% and 5% of reported revenue. CIO Magazine conducts an annual State of the CIO survey and gathers data to compile an average spending budget across numerous companies. For 2013, it found that the average IT spending as a percentage of revenue is 5.2%. This is a slight increase from the 2012 average, which was 4.7%. Overall, businesses polled by CIO Magazine seem to spend between 4-6% of their revenue on IT.

An article in Training Industry.Com in 2014, by contrast, highlights research that suggests that companies make significantly smaller investments in training. The Training report showed Training Investments amounted to only 1% of revenue, and Leadership Development training is included in that 1%.

One of the reasons for the imbalanced and less than sustaining investments in Leadership Capability, compared to Business Capability, is that intended results from Leadership Development initiatives are varied at best, and not even recognizable, at worst.

In a 2014 McKinsey Quarterly White Paper written by Pierre Gurdjian, Thomas Halbeisen and Kevin Lane, entitled Why Leadership-Development Programs Fail, the authors share a few key thoughts that I think are relevant to Rule #5:

“The Ability to push participants to reflect, while also giving them real work experiences to apply new approaches and hone their skills is a valuable combination…”

“Becoming a more effective leader often requires changing behavior. Most companies recognize that this also means adjusting underlying mind-sets. Too often, these organizations are reluctant to address the root causes of why leaders act the way they do. Doing so can be uncomfortable for participants, trainers, mentors, and bosses. If there isn’t a significant level of discomfort, the chances are the behavior(s) won’t change.“

Identifying some of the deepest “below the surface” thoughts, feelings, assumptions, and beliefs is usually a precondition for behavioral change.”

Since Leadership Development is so hard to define and implement in any operating environment, Strong Point’s developed a fairly adaptable, just-in-time, approach to leadership skill-building to right-side the drive forward. It’s called Team Setting and if it’s implemented properly, has immediate, impactful and sustainable results. Team Setting focuses on building and continuously strengthening effective teams as a means to control “the who and the how” for accomplishing work and driving toward the end of advancing overall Leadership Capability.

In a 2014, Human Resource Management Whitepaper called Understanding and Improving Teamwork in Organizations: A Scientifically Based Practical Guide; the authors: Eduardo Salas, Marissa L. Shuffler, Amanda L Thayer, Wendy L. Bedwell and Elizabeth H. Lazzara; define three higher-order processes that make teams more effective. They are Action, Transition, and Interpersonal processes.

Strong Point’s Team Setting uses a similar heuristic to help teams operate with leadership strength and capability. The premise is this: If a team defines its own Actions, Transitions, and Relations (Interpersonal Skills), for itself, and has time to develop, practice and enforce its own team strength; then Leadership Capability, Project Success and the Realization of intended business results are significantly improved.

The first goal of Team Setting uses Phase 1 of Strong Point’s Leadership Methodology: Personal Awareness to bolster each team member’s understanding and respect for the other team members (the Who’s). Simple assessments in Personality Style, Communication Style, Leadership Style as well as high-level previews into each other’s Core Values and Limiting beliefs provide some of the “below the surface” thoughts, feelings and assumptions” explained in McKinsey’s quarterly, that are needed to advance leadership capability.

Additionally, regularly scheduled Interpersonal Skill Development sessions that first assess and then standardize “How” the team negotiates, resolves conflicts and collaborates with others; unleash the unique strengths of the team and allow individual team members to personalize and authentically execute core business processes. Once the team knows itself well, the level of comfort to confront and correct perceived weaknesses of individuals on the team and the team itself increases. Team members can then provide each other the solidarity and strength to successfully perform and deliver results. They can begin and continue to develop specific ways to best Set Goals, Make Decisions, Communicate to the Organization and Escalate Issues to Company Leadership.

Strong Point’s Team Setting gives professionals and up and coming leaders of the organization the ability to develop Leadership Skills while performing goal-based work that enables them to test and apply new behaviors and approaches. They soon learn to realize Strong Point’s Leadership Rule #5: It Matters Who. It Matters How.