Over many years, we have developed a broad suite of leadership tools and models, which we use with all clients and in all programs. Content creation is a key component of our work, and our standard for usability and impact is high. We design from our experience and we test widely. The mantra is simplicity on the far side of complexity. Here is a small sample…
creating a culture of accountability
A culture of accountability is not created by the boss (although every leader has a role to play) and it is not created by the senior team (although they have a role to play too). A culture of accountability is the creation, and the responsibility, of every enterprise contributor.
All contributors must create space for meaningful dialogue, with peers, project colleagues, direct reports, and leaders. Accountability requires the common context and mutual understanding which do not arise from reading the same memo. All contributors must seek and offer feedback. All contributors must have difficult conversations when needed (or their absence will be the black hole into which accountability disappears).
Task by task, all contributors must clarify expectations, negotiate priorities and process, and measure outcomes. Exactly what is to be done? Exactly who will do which pieces, how, when, and with what support? Exactly what was and was not yet accomplished? This is the due diligence of accountability. Success is at stake, for individuals and the enterprise.
moments of performance
For any individual in any enterprise, the key learning opportunity is the Moment of Performance. The greatest learning in these moments is facilitated by a leader who is present, who sets up the opportunity well, and who provides meaningful feedback on the result. At every level, mastering these leadership skills will have a powerful impact on individual performance and enterprise results.
Feedback is often the missing link. In business – unlike sports or the performing arts – leaders often use blunt criticism or simplistic praise as a substitute for feedback. But neither praise nor criticism will facilitate real learning or lasting change. Feedback is the crucial leadership skill, to be rigorously practiced in response to Moments of Performance.
The cycle is a Mobius Loop: continuous and unending. Identify Moments of Performance, prepare, observe, debrief, bring the learning forward. Make it a habit. Raise human performance.
The choice to step into a difficult conversation relies on the presence of two drivers: 1) you want a constructive outcome on the issue, and/or 2) you care enough about the relationship. In a difficult situation, when one or both of these drivers is present, this is the recommended process.
Typically, paralysis trumps action. The outcome and/or the relationship may be deeply important, but the leaders involved lack tools and confidence. The difficult situation continues to build, becoming both magnified and destructive. Individual and enterprise results suffer. Eventually, someone leaves (or gets moved or promoted).
The ability to have a significant, constructive conversation in a difficult situation is a leadership skill that can be learned. To be courageous, timely, and effective in difficult conversations is to powerfully shift the culture and results of any enterprise.
continuous value creation™
Creative and sustainable enterprises are built on the habit of deliberate, continuous value creation. The chosen enterprise future may be distinctly different from the current course. Past and present experience need to be mined, without being allowed to set limits. Creativity is crucial. There is a new story to be crafted, champions to be cultivated, accountability to be embraced.
The process is divided into the four stages of Envisioning, which are primarily conceptual (futuring, sensing, creating, designing) and the four stages of Executing, which are more tactical (animating, aligning, accountability, action). The focus throughout is neither planning nor strategy, but rather new value creation.
The significance of key players in the room, creating and designing together, cannot be overstated. What future do we choose? How will we create maximum value in the marketplace? How will we align the enterprise to deliver that value? The whole-brain integration of creative process and linear analytics drives unexpected and meaningful results. The high degree of ownership that arises from co-creation generates a whole new level of accountability to action.
coach/ teach/ advise
To be a powerful leader one-on-one, you need to be exceptionally good at coach/ teach/ advise. You also need to be exceptionally good at making the best choice for the moment at hand. This takes presence, discernment, practice, and some comfort with improvisation.
In a coaching moment, leaders bring forward great questions and the patience to wait for an answer: “what’s next?” In a teaching moment, leaders bring forward relevant expertise: “this is how you do it.” In an advising moment, leaders bring forward insight and wisdom: “here is what I’ve learned.”
Most leaders have a natural preference for one or two of these. Teaching and advising tend to be well-developed muscles. For many, coaching is the muscle that needs to be worked, through deliberate drills and practice. In a 2-minute exchange or a 60-minute dialogue, all three might be needed. Choose based on what the other person needs, not based on what you most like to do.
Dialogue is designed to bring three or more people to a deeper level of mutual understanding. A leadership team needing to focus on what’s important, clear the air, move into alignment, or accelerate decision-making is well served by the repeated use of this tool.
Listening: be present, clear your mind, listen for understanding. Respecting: be open to other points of view, practice empathy. Suspending: set aside judgment, self-interest, and your point of view. Questioning: explore and inquire, look for surprising perspectives and new information, practice curiosity. Voicing: say what you want to say, be specific and courageous. Emerging: allow new thinking, or a better idea, to arise.
A break-away enterprise seeks to master the art and science of collaboration. An enterprise is vastly stronger when its subject matter experts can meaningfully engage together. Without collaboration, the enterprise will be weakened by complex challenges which lie outside the scope of individual talent and initiative.
Collaboration is about mutual benefit; each participant comes away with something. It contains a result that will not be achieved alone. This is guaranteed by the application of diverse experience, expertise, perspective, and temperament.
The individual capacity to collaborate meets the intentional process for collaborating. In a break-away enterprise, both people and process are nurtured in an ecosystem that supports collaboration. The complex problem to be solved, or the new value to be created, is fed into the middle. The result may well be extraordinary.