Today, chief learning officers must take a good, hard look at their organizations and ask, &quot;How does the performance of our executive leadership team impact the business's bottom line?&quot;
by Deanna Hartley
March 27, 2006
An expensive fact: profits suffer when businesses are buffeted by illegal and unethical behaviors, mergers and acquisitions, knowledge drain via early retirements and downsizing, reorganizations and cost cutting initiatives. Employee attitudes erode due to working longer hours for smaller salary increases and reduced benefits. More than ever staff members, faced with wave after wave of reorganization, must constantly build new relationships to get their work done. Business success stagnates because of these factors. Erroneously, executives too often ignore them and look only at actual employee performance to explain lagging ROI, increased costs and poor processes, which is not where the fix must be made.
Today, chief learning officers must ask, “how does the performance of our executive leadership team impact the bottom line?”
Ask yourself these questions about your team. Does my team exhibit:
- Long/stalled decision processes?
- Conflicting communications?
- Poor relationships?
- Lack of support?
- Withholding of information?
- Warring department heads?
- Dishonest behaviors?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your bottom line will suffer. The cost to your business? Most organizations find that any one of these symptoms cost 10 percent or more of their bottom line. One team we worked with estimated that the cost of dealing with the fallout from their poor relationships was in excess of $2.1 million per year, not including what they could have accomplished with the time and energy they wasted. We call this “lost opportunity cost.”
Importantly, behind these symptoms lie:
- Employees who are unclear about priorities.
- Initiatives that are not rolled out.
- Lack of follow through on commitments.
- Nagging inter-department issues.
- Intentionally withheld information.
- Customers who are not well served.
Each of these stalls progress.
Significant opportunities exist to save millions at the executive level based on:
- How decisions are made.
- Speaking constructively.
- Demonstrating core values.
- Raising the trust level among team members.
- The extent to which information is shared.
- The degree to which support is given.
Take Your Team to the Next Level
Today’s businesses have recognized that ROI can be impacted in many different ways, including:
- leadership style
- core values
- decision making capability
- environmental factors
- external factors
- engaging employees
- clear vision/direction
The actions of leaders must be beyond reproach if they want their organizations to sustain over the long term. They must reinstate a focus on the core values of honesty, trust and integrity in all dealings inside and outside the organization, for example with all stakeholders, employees, peers, customers, suppliers, Wall Street analysts and stockholders.
What if you could:
- Boost the trust level, honesty and support within the leadership team?
- Have each leader take personal accountability for the success of the team?
- Make key decisions faster with input from all members?
- Power up commitment to implement strategies?
- Sincerely walk the talk?
- Communicate consistently across departments?
- Gain competitive advantage?
- Positively impact the bottom line?
Where would you be then?
A new standard of values-based leadership is enabling executive teams to move to the next level of performance. It supplies strength in three key areas: relationships, process and results. Here are some considerations of how it can be applied to build positive momentum.
Relationships drive successful interactions with others. Productive relationships require open communications, in-depth feedback and accountability. Starting at the executive-peer level, constructive feedback can reveal which of the individual’s behaviors demonstrate core values and which don’t. With this accomplished each executive can choose the behaviors they want to change and create enabling team support to get there.
Process defines how executives champion and drive the required values-based behaviors. Application of a values-based leadership model will aid in aligning all organization processes to reflect the organization’s core values. Examples of this are human resources hiring, selection, pay, benefits, development, performance management and termination.
Results are measured on three levels: individual, team and organization. The executive team determines what success would look like at each of these levels and how it will be tracked, evaluated and improved and the impact it will have on the individual, team and organization.
Realigning these three areas to reflect core values strengthens the organization’s ability to perform. The net result is effective, sustainable, executive leadership that ‘walks the talk’ of core values. This is leadership that has demonstrated courage by being conscientious. It has identified the gaps between what the organization says it’s about and what its people actually do and say that actualize its values. This means demonstrated honesty, trust and integrity on a daily basis.
So, how can you apply a values-based leadership model and champion positive change? By implementing the following six steps.
Step 1: Develop Shared Vision
Many organizations have defined their vision and mission statement. Yet little effort has been made to ensure that these are understood and let alone shared by all employees. Achieving this congruity is hard work. It requires constant vision/mission reiteration and reinforcement, plus the opportunity for employees to input their thoughts and ideas into the development process through focus groups, town hall meetings, e-mail, T&D workshops, etc. For this development phase to succeed, it’s essential to maintain continuous input and dialogue. Even though not all their ideas will be used, employees feel valued because they have an opportunity to be heard. The dialogue inspires ownership of the vision and mission and their fundamental values.
Step 2: Incorporating Shared Core Values
When honesty, trust and integrity are clearly demonstrated in everything employees do during their daily conduct, the organization’s business success is long term. This can only be achieved by first defining what employees are expected to exemplify when they deliver the organization’s products and services, (for example safety standards, courtesy, focus on customer service, participation in what increases shareholder return, etc.) and then follow through with behaviors that demonstrate these values.
Step 3: Implementing Vision and Values
Here, focus is on bringing the vision and values of the organization to life. This requires the ongoing involvement of employees. Implementation is the process wherein all employees identify their own behaviors that demonstrate they are living each of the organization’s core values. Executives need to evaluate their own behaviors, become a role model for others and encourage others in the organization to do the same.
Step 4: Ensuring Mutual Accountability
It’s important that all employees, from the mail room to the board room, hold themselves and others accountable for living the values named as core to the culture, and that the culture is such that employees are not afraid to appropriately confront behaviors that do not demonstrate these values.
Step 5: Providing Reinforcement
A primary commitment of the executive team and HR department is to examine the systems and processes in place and ensure that they support the espoused values. Primary areas of application include hiring practices, orientation, performance management, pay, promotions and leadership practices
Step 6: Championing the Effort
Executive leaders in the organization must function as role models and champions for values-based leadership and continually ask the question, “Do our behaviors reflect our values?” Conscientious, productive leadership will always: Ensure that their behavior reflects the values.
Our experience has shown significant improvements on three key levels: individual, team and organization. Here are a just a few great examples of this.
Individual: A recurring theme among executive teams was that members who headed ancillary functions (HR, finance, legal, etc.) didn’t feel like full members of the team. Further, because they didn’t believe their opinions mattered as much as those heading operations functions, they withheld their views and stayed silent. The rest of the team was shocked that they were missing this vital input and took steps to ensure that all members were given the opportunity to input.
One team member, several years from retirement, was categorized as ‘dead on the job.’ Then came the 180-degree shift stimulated by productive feedback. His peers told him how disappointed they were that he was not mentoring younger employees and passing on his substantial knowledge and experience. He came alive. His whole demeanor dramatically changed from lethargic to energized. He became fully engaged with others. And he took on the mentoring role.
Team: Every team reported an increased level of trust among and support from their team members. This led to better, consistent communications, faster decision making and a deeper understanding and respect of peers and their contributions to the organization.
Organization: One team reported they saved the company $8.5 million a year by resolving an issue that required the consensus of three different functions in the organization where turf battles had been prevalent for years.
A CEO’s team created a new strategic intent for the organization, which continues to create millions of dollars every year.
Another team solved an issue they had been struggling with for more than a year and were able to go back to the organization, engage others and implement the solution.
Chief learning officers can enable their executive team to gain the significant competitive advantage through values-based leadership. All that’s needed is a willingness to invest the time and effort to implement this ground-breaking discipline. You will achieve results. When honesty, trust and integrity are reflected in the behavior of leaders, they champion the positive change that generates powerful outcomes. And they can look forward to their organization becoming newly energized and robustly goal focused.
Linda Alexander is president of Momentum Consulting and Coaching. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.