There is a sequence that must be followed in order to transform an organization. It is straightforward: leaders must go first.
Leadership transformation is the precursor for organizational change. Leaders must take accountability for their blind spots, demonstrate how to work in committed partnerships, and build an environment where people are passionately focused on
the enterprise mission.
Leadership transformation is the precursor to organizational transformation.
Changing the organization does not guarantee a change in behavior. Changing behavior,
however, decisively alters the organization. All eyes are on leaders, and when they change their behavior, everyone notices.
You cannot alter the direction of your organization without strong leadership. People are counting on you. They need you to take the first step and demonstrate your unshakable resolve to transform yourself and the organization. Even the most
skeptical are receptive to a courageous leader who takes a stand, acts decisively, and engages with others in an extraordinary way.
There are two factors that are instrumental to understanding transformation:
1) the importance of clear and explicit behavioral standards and
2) the distinction between gaining commitment versus unleashing commitment.
Interestingly, most leaders provide clear and explicit business expectations but fail to provide the same when it comes to behavior.
I have two questions for you:
1. Do you clearly articulate explicit behavioral expectations?
2. Do you provide individuals and teams with the resources and tools to learn, standardize, and integrate new behaviors?
I am not referring to a list of competencies, strengths, or values. I am referring to a precise and clear list of behaviors that individuals and teams can learn. Most organizations do not have uniform, consistent, and standard behaviors, and they do
not provide people with a means to learn new skills. When stress and uncertainty are high, people need a stable set of rules that define how they engage. Shared behaviors unite and inspire people. They allow everyone to be powerful and resourceful in addressing and resolving issues and in advancing the business agenda. In this dynamic culture, people are committed to the success of each other and do not allow unproductive behaviors to undermine business results.
The following are common, but inaccurate, assumptions that leaders make:
“Our company values describe our behavioral expectations.” Wrong. Company values provide important guiding concepts and principles; however, they do not delineate behavior. People need shared behavioral standards to translate your company’s values into action that can be applied in day-to-day business interactions— and you need to lead the way by telling them explicitly what those standards are.
“Good behavior only requires common sense.” Wrong. Interacting effectively with others, especially where cultural differences are involved, is a learned behavior. And you, as a great leader, need to teach that behavior by your actions. For example, people need to see how you and senior leaders recover from mistakes, so they know they can do the same. They need you to model the behavior you expect of them.
“Telling people I expect them to work together is enough.” Wrong. Top-down messages about teamwork and collaboration do not, by themselves, change behavior. People need explicit behavioral expectations—what each company calls good or acceptable behavior. They need to learn, experience, and practice the new behaviors and make them part of the fabric of the organization.
“According to internal surveys, my team already has trust and alignment.” Wrong. Without third-party confidential surveys, do not trust the data. Regardless of how effective you are as a leader, people tell you only what you want to hear. They will not risk their job, career, or good standing with you and others to give you candid and honest feedback—especially when the feedback is on how you need to improve your leadership.
People need a safe environment and process for talking about blind spots and other tough issues. They need you to foster an open and constructive environment.
Establishing clear behavioral expectations is only the first step in providing a framework for organizational effectiveness.