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Needs Analysis is Crucial to Leadership Development

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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.

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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.

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Questions to Ask

In the needs analysis questions are asked like:

    1. What leadership behaviors will support the strategy?
    2. What leadership habits hinder strategy execution?
    3. Where can the organization make the most progress in terms of leadership?
    4. What is the leadership quality of the senior leadership team? How do people perceive management support?
    5. What should be the biggest contribution of a leadership development approach?
    6. Which systems are in place that support or hinder leadership?
    7. What are critical leadership incidents?
    8. Who are the champions?
    9. 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.

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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.

Underinvesting in needs analysis is usually a mistake.

Building a Feedback Culture: the 2 Questions for HR

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The Idea of a Feedback Culture

Many organizations are looking for ways to build a feedback culture. They do this because the organization will benefit from more intensive and qualitative feedback. We know that feedback can be beneficial under specific circumstances. But we also know that in the majority of cases feedback does not work.Read More


When the Number Becomes the Target – On Motivation.


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The Story of the Priest

A catholic Priest prepared his sermon for the Sunday Mass. Every week he wrote a sermon which he ‘performed’ in three churches, spread across the city. In total about 30 people would hear his words.Read More


CEO Succession – The King is Dead. Long Live the King

The new CEO

 A company in the hospitality business hired a new CEO, who came from a different industry. As it goes, the CEO went through a short period of induction before he came on stage to address a group of employees. He was kind of nervous about what he could say to these people who worked in an industry he did not know. He thought he had to be inspirational. So what he did marked the end of his reign. He took a powerpoint deck on leadership and governance from his previous company, changed the layout and presented it to the audience.Read More


Does Working Smart Lead to a Better Life?


When Strategies Do not Work




10 signals to see if your company is (not) future proof.

This blog is about the 10 signals that can help you to determine whether or not the organisation you work for is in good shape and future proof.Read More


Trust is like a tree – 8 ways to build Trust.

Trust is essential

Trust is like a tree. Once axed, it takes a long time to have a new tree. That is why any leader should cherish trust within a team. Without trust coöperation becomes difficult, if not impossible. But sometimes you have to work in a situation where there is no trust because there is no relationship. So how do you do that?Read More


Bad Leadership Comes With a Cost

The cost of bad leadership is tremendous. So Should we invest in leadership education or is it just hopeless? @dducheyne argues that we should change our view on leadership.

Disappointment

Recently, I did a keynote with Leaders in Mind in Düsseldorf. I talked about sustainable leadership. I asked the audience what % of leaders actually met expectations. The % that I got from the people present was frighteningly low. Someone even said only one out of 100 were up to standard. There seems to be a lot of bad leadership around.
In VUCA times we need leadership  to respond quickly to changes. But we seem to have been unable to build lasting leadership. In a recent HR conference I attended, participants reported their fatigue, their disappointment and their fatalism. Pfeffer rightly says that most leaders do not display humanistic behaviour and are selfish. And indeed, to climb the corporate ladder you need to play the system and follow the unwritten rules of the political culture. To beat them, you need to become one of them.
This sounds like dispair. Should we then stop working to improve leadership? What is the point of leadership education? Or should we even replace leadership with something else? What could that be?

Let’s not be naive

Leaders have to do many things. First, they have to steer towards results. Second they have to support people so that they are able and willing to go for these results. Third, they have to make sure that the organisation is sustainable, future proof. And lastly, they need to survive the many political games, disruptions.
I mainly talk about two Ss, supporting people through sustainable leadership. But I know we should not neglect the steering and the surviving. Bad quality of leadership arises when the focus lies on only one of them, especially surviving. If that happens the objective of leadership becomes self-centred. And this is what often happens in politics. Politicians are tempted not to take the right decisions, but the decisions that get them re-elected.

bad leadership

4 functions for leadership (the colours have no meaning)


 
The message is: leaders should focus on all 4 and adapt their leadership actions according to the situation at hand. Someone who works in a highly political or even toxic environment can create optimal conditions in their own team (downwards) but might need to engage in survival mode when dealing with the board. The biggest challenge is then to make sure that the one behaviour (survival) does not jeopardise other behaviours. Leaders who find themselves under pressure might take short-cuts that are harmful.
That’s why sustainable leadership is important. Leaders should be aware of the effect that pressures, expectations, power, etc. have on the quality of their leadership and on their own character. Again, we should not be naïve about leadership in a volatile context, but we should not stop trying to move forward.
If leadership is not based on human characteristics such as empathy, fairness, kindness, reciprocity and the courage to be human in an unfortunately dehumanized world, it will not be sustainable. Someone made the remark that she experienced this kind of leadership in a start-up organisation, but not in the bigger corporation where she came from.

If leadership is not based on human characteristics such as empathy, fairness, kindness, reciprocity and the courage to be human in an unfortunately dehumanized world, it will not be sustainable.

The Cost of Bad Leadership is High

I have seen many bad examples of leadership behaviour. But I also have seen good ones. And when I talk about good or bad, I am not talking about morals. I am talking about the impact a leader has on their environment. Only a few leaders seem to reach a balanced kind of leadership. Nevertheless improving the overall quality of leadership Is important. Because the cost of bad leadership is very high.
The entire audience agreed to that. We cannot even imagine how much damage bad leaders cause. The cost in terms of demotivation, attrition, silent acts of sabotage … is tremendous. Bad leadership creates a toxic culture, hurts people, destroys trust and goodwill, and damages the reputation of the organisation.
Not all of this has a direct monetary value. But it’s clear that bad leadership is a big problem for the viability or sustainability of an organisation.

(Bad) Leadership in its Context

The surprising thing is that people who display bad leadership can be successful. They can thrive in a context that favours one element of leadership over the other. Some organisations do not mind a leadership approach that is less supportive, as long as results are achieved.
Sustainable leadership implies however that the results are future-oriented and that all stakeholders are served. Organisations that continue to favour results over people, and short-term over the long-term might get in trouble. People are looking for a context where they like to work. If that context is characterised by bad leadership, people will leave and will spread the world.
In times of talent scarcity there is practical interest of being human, next to a moral dimension. Bad leadership comes with a cost, and this might be enough to inspire organisations to invest (more) in the quality of leadership.
This will require a different way of dealing with leadership education. I will deal with this in a next blog.
 


 

Reading

sustainable leadership



In my book on “Sustainable Leadership” I explain what sustainable leadership is and how leaders could protect themselves from negative contextual influences. Leaders should base their leadership on sustainable sources, not on unsustainable sources like power, position, pressure or popularity.
 


Ecosystem Thinking: why is it so difficult?

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After Nike, Apple, Google, Amazon …

Ever since Nike, Apple, Google and Amazon started integrating their products and services into their ecosystems, companies want to copy the model and build their own. But it’s harder than they think. The companies that I mentioned have been building their ecosystem brick by brick, or should I say click-by-click since decades.
And not everything they’ve done was successful. Over the years they have discovered and perfected the way they “surround” their customers with their offer.

The Power of an Ecosystem

An ecosystem is a fully functionally integrated user experience. Devices and services combine into one incredibly relevant experience. And that experience is not pushed on them through intrusive and annoying advertising, but through experience. As the services are so embedded in the lives of the customers, using them feels natural.
And that’s the power of an ecosystem: customers do not want to leave it, because leaving it would diminish the value of the experience. Once you have started with Apple, you are likely to buy another Apple device to take advantage of the App Store, iTunes, IOS, iCloud. Why would you leave it and buy an Android Phone?
Ecosystems are also captive because they create value for their customers that goes beyond the simple usage of a device. They create contexts that allow customers to get access to services in various ways and to experience a seamless integration.
The key to ecosystem thinking is functional integration. Simply put, this is about adding new functions (devices) and integrating them into a customer experience.
Most companies do not own an ecosystem. They can be a part of it, but they have failed to integrate their own products into a captive system. Most companies have added services, without combining them. That strategy determines the customer experience: a series of interchangeable and commoditized product to which there is no emotional or functional adherence.

Mistakes

And when starting an ecosystem, there are no quick fixes. Many organisations underestimate the difficulty of designing, building and maintaining an ecosystem approach. Here’s why.
A first mistake that many companies make is mistaking an ecosystem with an organisation model. An ecosystem is not an organisation. It is not a structure.
The second mistake is that organisations want to introduce the ecosystem idea without thinking it through. Ecosystems are about customer experience. And that means that organisations need to change all bad habits, old ways, … and that the design of services and all that entails needs to breathe the customer.
The third mistake is that organisations are paralysed by the shit of yesterday (an expression I borrow from Peter Hinssen). Legacy systems are clouding the future of Banking, Payroll, Insurances, Tourism, … By holding on to the legacy for too long – maybe for good reasons that have nothing to do with the customer – the idea of fully integrated ecosystems becomes impossible. If this happens, organisations look at the customer through the lens of old technology and old ways of doing things. The customer has however other expectations. And other rights.
Then, a next mistake is that too many organisations do not think about customer experience in the first place. They have an introverted view of the purpose of the organisation, where the customer does not play the first fiddle.
The fifth mistake is that there is an incompatibility between the ecosystem idea and the organisational culture. Ecosystems can thrive when both innovation and agility go hand in hand. But to have this, organisations need to foster autonomy, creativity, trust. The prime directive is to think for the customer first. If every employee, freelancer or person who works with the company would be convinced  and empowered to act upon this conviction, the ecosystem idea can work.
And the last mistake is that organisations underestimate the urgency. The big players are increasingly integrating new functionality into their ecosystem (Apple Pay, Amazon buying WholeFoods, …). And new agile players are eating away the market of the established organisations . So there is no time to waste.
Looking at the agenda of most organisations, it seems that they are still thinking in old models and paradigms. How important is experience in contrast to efficiency? How often do boards talk about the customer? How much of the budget is given to customer relevant projects?

The Era of the Customer

2018 is the year of the customer, we might think. Well probably, it’s more like we are in the century of the customer. Let’s not forget that an organisation derives its relevance from the service it gives to its customers, patients, citizens, … Organisations who do not have this notion in their DNA are today’s dinosaurs. Tomorrow they will be extinct. Thinking of products and services as a part of a customer-oriented ecosystem can enable organisations to take a leap forward.
And I know that leadership, organisational design, people strategies should all be directed towards the purpose of the organisation: the customer. An organisation exists only because (and if) it enables someone to work, play, live, heal, succeed, survive, thrive, flourish, …
Let’s make this work in 2018.
David Ducheyne
 
 
 


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