You’ve made the changes. You have your business imperative in hand to keep you focused. You’ve aligned and coordinated your executive team around this business imperative. You’ve had some tough conversations to clear the air (and the plates), and you’ve identified the leadership behaviors necessary to support your team in making this happen.
But your team is scared. Or worse, they are at a point where they don’t trust this will work.
Michael, a well-respected CEO, had just led his executive team through these same steps. He was sick and tired of being in the weeds, feeling as though the company wasn’t meeting its business potential.
But his team was scared.
Sandra, his VP of marketing, spoke up. “We’ve gone through the exercise one too many times, and the changes sound great. We start out strong, then fizzle out. The changes we try to make don’t stick. I can’t even muster up the courage to try, this time.”
“Frankly, I’m skeptical, too” said Max, the COO. “We’ve tried and died quite a bit.”
“Patti,” Michael turned to me, “I may as well pack it up. If the team won’t commit, we aren’t going to make any progress.”
“Team,” I said, “Hold tight. There’s a last critical step in the process that ensures that you stay on the path. Most companies miss this step – and it makes all the difference.”
“I’m all ears,” said Candace, the CFO. “Because if this doesn’t work, I’m not sure I can retrieve any muster to move forward. At all.”
The room was quiet for a moment.
“I understand,” I said. “Change is hard. And unless we approach it in a way that supports its success, the discouragement is overwhelming. But hang on, please. Your track record is about to change.”
What did we do?
We created a system of accountability to hold the changes firmly in place. Because a change, no matter how big or small, requires a supportive system to allow it to become the norm.
And here’s how we did it for Michael’s team.
“Team,” I said, “You have taken the first 4 of 5 steps to make this work. Michael has created the company’s business imperative to set the direction (see Article 1 in this series). He has worked with you all to create and align your own business imperatives to support the larger one (see Article 2 in this series). You’ve surfaced some critical conversations that needed to be addressed in order to move forward (see Article 3 in this series). And you have identified how you need to work as a team in order to reach these goals (see Article 4 in this series). Now, it’s time for step 5: putting a system in place to keep you all on the path as you move into greater excellence.”
“I’m all ears, Patti,” said Candace. The others nodded.
“We are going to ask ourselves five questions as we review your goals and the changes you have identified that you need to make,” I said. “This will help us to create a system to hold the process – and ourselves – accountable. It will help us stay on track.”
Question 1: What are we measuring?
We worked to identify what we needed to measure in order to know that we were on the right path and moving at the right pace. What would we look for that measured success? We broke it down by quarter, and then by month, so we could course-correct in a timely manner if something was not working.
Question 2: Who needs to know?
We then identified key stakeholders for each initiative. Even though the team knew who was in charge of what, they did not always communicate to others who might be affected by the work. The team also identified how and when the stakeholders would communicate with each other and built this into their regular meeting agendas. Michael would review each team member’s progress for their area during their 1:1 meetings.
Question 3: How do we check on progress?
Michael took charge of this and built into the executive team’s monthly agenda discussion time to review the team’s alignment and coordination as they worked on goals. What was working? What needed refining or redirecting? The team looked at other feedback loop opportunities to make sure they could tap into needed information at any time.
Question 4: How do we support upgraded leadership behaviors?
The team recognized that working together at a higher level required higher skill-building. They asked me to work with them individually to break through any roadblocks holding them back, and to help them step into more effective leadership behaviors.
Question 5: What are the conversations we need to have now?
We agreed that I would also meet once quarterly with the team to work with them on any trust issues, as well as critical conversations and needed relational skill-building. Without this fifth step, a team does well at best, but never reaches its peak performance.
I’m happy to report that Michael and his team made incredible progress company- and team-wise in that first 12 months. And so, we decided to repeat this for Year 2, knowing that things would only continue to reach new and exciting heights. It is Year 3 for them, and they have established themselves as a leader in their industry.
Where in the process I have described above do you and your team excel? Where do you need to put a system in place, or to strengthen this so that it works well for you?
© Patti Cotton and patticotton.com. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that attribution is made to Patti Cotton and patticotton.com, with links thereto.
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.
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