Goal Attainment – Justifiably, a leader’s success is largely measured by a company’s productivity. Are sales quotas being reached? Are company profits growing and costs being contained? Are growth projections trending in the right direction?
As long as these determinants are strong, all appears well. Stakeholders generally have little reason to look deeper. However, although these are success indicators, they may be insufficient to predict what lies ahead.
Future success should also consider factors that look past ledgers and graphs to understand those things that foster discovery, promote commitment, and stimulate creativity. Qualities such as these fueled employee passion to enable the company to get to where it has and will be the qualities to take the company to where it needs to go.
To better understand the future, it is important to consider the organizational culture operating under the current leadership structure. For that you need to focus on the employee.
Employee Engagement – Are employees actively engaged in the workplace or are they simply fulfilling tasks? One study examining employee motivation discovered of prime importance was workers’ perception of being valued. Alarmingly, what employees ranked most important for employee motivation were ranked least important by the staff they supervised. Talk about a disconnect!
Does the workplace environment communicate that employees’ contributions are considered important? Is this value communicated in a way that makes sense to the individual or is it assumed that they know? (re value – www.robinrig.com – When Returns Far Exceed Investments) This isn’t to suggest that companies increase the number of employee of the month plaques or schedule more ‘feel good’, back slapping rallies. In truth, these formulaic approaches often have opposite than intended effects. Nonetheless, acknowledgement of contribution that adds to a person’s internal motivation is important.
Are employees operating from their strengths, engaged in activities that bring passion to their work? Obviously the requisites of work involve tasks where this is not possible but if the totality of the workday doesn’t satisfy some of this need (ie. workplace/worktask ‘fit’), you will have disillusioned and disengaged employees. This is felt most profoundly by gifted staff that a company can ill afford to lose.
Where possible, do employees have a measure of autonomy in determining how tasks at hand can be achieved that meets the needs of the company while freeing the employee from robotic adherence to unnecessary systems?
Employee Retention – High employee turnover is usually a strong signal that all is not well. Likewise, a company that has a track record of retaining valued staff, is usually a sign of strong corporate health and an empowering workplace culture. Usually such an environment is characterized by positive relationships, definable outcomes, genuine acknowledgement, and opportunities for growth and advancement. All people perform better with a sense of a future and a hope. Although employee retention tends to less of a concern during times of economic uncertainty when people are just grateful to have a job, trouble does await if allegiance stems from self-preservation rather than employer earned loyalty.
Leadership Following – The Chinese proverb says it well, “One who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk.” Successful leadership results in positive impact. When employees feel enriched by opportunities the leader provides, the organization benefits. When leadership opportunities are judiciously shared with others, benefits multiply. People grow. A sense of meaningful contribution permeates the organizational culture. Relinquishing some areas of leadership can be risky because outcomes are less guaranteed but the contributions of many will usually result in greater benefit that can be achieved by a select few. Confident leaders don’t seize and hold control rather they gain influence as they distribute some areas of responsibility to others.
The leader who gathers followers is usually one who inspires, brings hope, and calls others to a vision that is collectively owned. When this happens, the foundation of leadership success is established.
Clear Sense of Vision – Ambiguity kills. In the early days, a new leader may win people over with inspirational speeches, an entertaining personality, or impressive promises but leaders are mandated to lead, not merely manage. Leadership is also more than someone who makes necessary course corrections. As important as those changes may be in addressing immediate concerns, such action can address past issues without necessarily creating a culture that is required for a healthy future. This is akin to a physician stopping the bleed, administering sutures but not providing the antibiotic needed for healing. Although immediately appreciative, the intervention has done nothing to halt the infection endangering the patient.
Leaders are to determine direction and promote and resource that vision. This isn’t to suggest that they are responsible for every component of the vision. In truth some in a leadership team will have a much better skill set to put in motion those things required to accomplish that.
Successful leaders need to find ways to make the vision clear and then constantly serve as its champion. Effectively done, others will be motivated and inspired to own the vision. The absence of an actively pursued vision will cripple some who are energized by an environment of direction and action. When this is missing, they will become frustrated and soon leave or will re-direct energies into siloed activity that shortchanges the impact they could have in the organization. These natural leaders want to run but are hobbled by leadership’s indecision, inability or both.
by Rob Inrig
Copyright © 2012 www.RobInrig.com. All Rights Reserved.
I welcome your feedback as well as your ‘leadership stories’, their impact, and the lessons you took from these. Submissions are made with the understanding that they may be freely and without obligation be used in any future publications by Rob Inrig.