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The 3 challenges leaders face when seeking outcomes at pace

Discover insights from industry leaders on achieving outcomes while maintaining integrity and fostering a ‘one team’ culture.

Outcomes matter, as does the way they are achieved. Robert Iervasi, former Group CEO of Asahi Beverages Oceania Region, notes ‘you might achieve your KPI or goal, but if the way you achieved it was to not take people on the journey, burn people along the way or cause disruption to the organisation, then the achievement of the outcome is acknowledged, but it doesn’t mean it’s a success.’

This is where earlier work on alignment and building a ‘one team’ culture pay off. Andrew McConville, Chief Executive of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, states, ‘When you’re aligned and unified by shared values and purpose, pressure brings a tighter bond. Trust each other, and together you’ll weather the storm.’

It is also important to pinpoint and address three challenges facing leaders when seeking pace, agility and ‘one team’ behaviours:

Challenge 1: Delivering Sky to Ground

Organisations are complex and, as a result, they often create unhelpful tensions between functions that can directly inhibit pace and agility.

Challenge 2: Making tough calls on people

Time and again from leaders, we have heard the sentiment: ‘I wish I’d made the decision earlier to move them on’, or ‘I’m still struggling to make the call’.

It can be reassuring to know that even the most experienced senior leaders find these people decisions particularly difficult. It can offer a false sense of comfort to delay what you know is the right thing to do. Research shows that while we experience regret for the decision in the short term, it is the inaction, the ‘error of omission’, that actually generates more regret in the long run.

The word ‘decision’ derives from the Latin word caedere meaning ‘to cut off’, which is a reminder that when you do make that tough call, you cut off potential futures irrespective of whether the person leaves or stays. If they leave, you’ve cut them off from the team; if they stay, you’ve cut off other possible futures.

There are many ways to assess the performance potential of your team members, and no doubt you will have data from sources such as performance agreements, 360-degree feedback and regular observations.

To supplement that data, here’s a straightforward, honest reflection exercise. Jot down the names of each member of your team and consider the following questions about each of them:

  • Are you 100 per cent confident they will be a top performer over the next 6-18 months? If yes, refer to your coaching tools to support and stretch them.
  • If no, what precisely is the gap you see between their current performance and what is needed from a top performer? Is it more about task or people issues?
  • Are you certain they can be coached or developed to bridge the gap at pace so there will be minimal negative business impact?
  • If no, would you recruit this person now if the position was open, and if so, why?
  • If these questions lead you to seriously question whether it makes sense to continue with them, then what is stopping you from making that call now? Will the short-term regret be worth the longer-term benefits?

When you apply this assessment and reach the conclusion that one or more members of your team are no longer fit for purpose, then you do them and your organisation no favours by avoiding the decision. Remember, making the tough call doesn’t mean you can’t be respectful, caring and empathetic. It’s what advantage leadership is all about.

Challenge 3: Saying no to pet projects

People naturally develop preferences for projects or initiatives based on personal interest, expertise, strategic alignment, or the investment of time and effort.

This can be problematic in a world that is changing fast and in unpredictable ways, which is why we believe this leadership edict – ‘Just because it was strategic yesterday does not mean it is today’ – should be stamped on the strategic and operational plans of every team, no matter when they are authored.

Everything needs to be regularly reviewed and challenged to ensure it remains relevant in the changing conditions. This includes your own pet projects!

There’s no doubt this exercise requires ‘embracing the squirm’. However, we close with a thought from Marie Kondo:

‘To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. And if you no longer need them, then that is neither wasteful nor shameful.’

Guidance based on the Sky to Ground model* created by Graham Winter & Martin Bean – Amplifying Cognition

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