I used to be CHRO for 1700 HR specialists. Each of those 1700 people was expert in something, and they knew more than me. In my team I had experts who new more about Comp & Ben, Talent, Facilities, Communication, Safety and Prevention, Customer experience, … than I did.Read More
This blog is the first in a series of blogs about psychological safety and trust.
A True Story about Psychological Safety
Imagine you’re in the operating room of a hospital. You have to undergo a complex life-threatening surgery. There’s a team of two surgeons, assistants and a medical student standing around you. They are working on your case. Suddenly one surgeon, known for his explosive temper, notices that there’s blood on the handle of the overhead light. When no one of the team accepts responsibility, the surgeon starts swearing loudly at each member. Then the surgeon finishes the operation in silence. Read More
Leadership and Strategy Execution
Strategy execution depends on many things. But one of the most important levers for strategy execution is the quality of leadership. Without a leadership team that is able to align objectives, coordinate across boundaries and adapt to changing situations a strategy is bound to fail. But to do all that, leaders must make sure that people are willing and able to go along. And that is often the tricky part.
Leaders are often selected for the wrong reasons. Sometimes they were the best experts. And sometimes they were the only ones available. And sometimes they were the ones who complied the most to the reigning culture.
Every leader inherits a leadership team that is composed of people who are unable, mediocre or up to standards. And this is the leadership team that has to pull or push through strategic initiatives.
And that is why leadership development is often part of strategic plans. Developing leadership is crucial for any strategy. But when the start of the leadership development initiative coincides with the start of the strategic plan, it’s actually too late.
A Kind of Investment
It takes time to develop leadership. It’s a matter of unlearning bad habits, strengthening existing good habits, detecting future leaders, and needs analysis.
Sometimes organizations reduce leadership to training. But skills training is in most cases not the solution. Moreover, focusing on skills training might be counterproductive. Training leaders for skills that are not supported by the culture, the senior leadership or the systems in place is pointless.
And it’s a missed opportunity. Leadership development is always a matter of cultural change. The impact of leadership development on culture cannot be underestimated.
Therefore, the needs analysis is crucial.
Questions to Ask
In the needs analysis questions are asked like:
- What leadership behaviors will support the strategy?
- What leadership habits hinder strategy execution?
- Where can the organization make the most progress in terms of leadership?
- What is the leadership quality of the senior leadership team? How do people perceive management support?
- What should be the biggest contribution of a leadership development approach?
- Which systems are in place that support or hinder leadership?
- What are critical leadership incidents?
- Who are the champions?
- Where are the so called red spots?
There are multiple sources of information to answer these questions. Often there is a lot of information in employee engagement and satisfaction surveys, performance reviews, 360° feedback, … But next to that it’s necessary to involve leaders in the needs analysis through interviews and focus groups. Finally, a Leadership Impact Analysis can provide a lot if input.
A Lot of Work?
This could sound like a lot of work. And it is. But the leadership development starts already during the needs analysis. The debate creates awareness, interest, … It changes perspectives. It uncovers both productive and unproductive situations in the organization.
Often organizations want to skip the thorough needs analysis and jump to a rapid deployment of a leadership training. How difficult can it be? We just take an off-the-shelf training to cover the problem and that’s it.
This approach is not appropriate for several reasons:
- Training has a limited effect on behavior change. Under specific conditions training will have an impact, but generic training does not comply to these conditions.
- Generic training misses the opportunity to integrate culture-specific aspects.
- This approach does not involve key people in the definition of needs, the design of solutions and the implementation of a more holistic approach.
The more a leadership approach is tailored to the situation of your organization, the more it will have impact. The more a leadership development approach has impact the more it will support strategy execution.
Punk or New Wave?
Cubicle Thinking. We like it. We like to put people and objects in categories, typologies, … We like to say that this is this and that is that. Putting people, objects and events in categories gives us the illusion that we understand and that we can take control.
We do not like fuzziness, a blurry state of ambiguity.
Alas, the world is fuzzy. We cannot say that the one explanation for what is happening, is the only explanation. We cannot afford to attribute certainty to predictions. Experts can only say that “it depends”. Expertise is the art of formulating and testing hypotheses.
This is the new normal. Gone are the days that we could engage in binary thinking. We can no longer say that this is right and that is wrong. This is weak and this is strong. This is masculine. This is feminine. That is good, and this is bad. Generation X, Y, Z.Read More
Organisations need to reconsider the way they shape the strategic process. The time that this process is linear has gone. In the past strategy was a logic sequence of definition, execution and evaluation. It was enough to define targets and cascade them downwards.Read More
As many organisations are heading for heavy waters, we should not forget the question of moral leadership. Never forget your values, David Ducheyne argues in a plea for a human approach of difficult decisions.Read More
Today 100 years ago, the first world war ended. A conflict with hundreds of thousands of casualties. The Great War, as it was known before there was a second conflict, still fascinates us. Apart from all the historical analyses I have a question about motivation. Why did soldiers fight during World War 1? What was their motivation to leave the trenches across the front and be maimed and slaughtered?Read More
The First Year
A year has gone by since I have left the company I had worked for for 11 years. Many people thought I had married that company as I felt and behaved like an ambassador, representing it with passion in the outside world. And in many ways this organisation defined who I was, or who I had become.Read More