In my last post, I explored the five great pitfalls that derail organizations, cause them to under-perform, and create serious dysfunction.

In this post, I will describe 7 solutions to these pitfalls of leadership that have worked extraordinarily well in resolving many businesses’ issues.

1. Establish clear direction.

Establish-Clear-DirectionIn my previous post, I suggested that “absence of clear direction” is the number-one organizational pitfall.

Not only does the business disappoint key stakeholders when there is confusion about direction and strategy, but employees become disillusioned and disengaged when the organization lacks or fails to communicate clarity about where it’s going.

It never ceases to amaze me how many organizations expect people to make good decisions when the organization’s direction hasn’t been clearly articulated to its employees. The best solution we have found is one called “line of sight.” It begins at the top and consists of only a few key steps.

First, senior leaders schedule a carefully orchestrated retreat and use their time together to answer a few questions:

  • What does “winning” mean in our business?
  • Who are our key customers and what might they need in the future?
  • What are the initiatives that will enable us to grow the business in the future?

The second step in this process is the most critical. We call it “strategy in the middle.”

This principle comes to life when all the critical support functions, customers, teams, and operating teams within the business build their own function-specific strategies within the parameters of the business’ overarching strategy.

We have seen incredible improvements in Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) when organizations and their leaders become aligned at a deep level, synchronize their activities, and focus their collective efforts on executing the strategy.

2. Heal teams that are disjointed and out of sync.

Heal TeamsAchieving great results and executing strategy is a team sport, and the best way to get team members to support one another is to have them engage in a series of serious, hard-hitting alignment meetings.

We generally suggest that these one- to two-day meetings be held offsite each quarter. During these offsite retreats, we work with teams on two areas of focus.

We call the first a “results forum” in which the team is given an opportunity to talk about accountability and execution and review their progress on key initiatives and priorities. The second area of focus centers on collaboration across functions, what is working, and how to improve its efficacy.

3. Eliminate ineffective leadership tendencies.

Businessman and women look at a portfolio and discuss strategyThis requires creating serious development plans and providing a tailor-made curriculum for each member of the leadership team. One of our clients takes this very seriously and coined the term “grow or go,” and they mean it.

In this organization, team members who aren’t demonstrating continuous improvement on their key competencies, learning new aspects of the business, or becoming more-skillful leaders aren’t welcome to stay in the organization long term.

But this hard-line approach isn’t as harsh as it sounds: The organization provides the support its leaders need by arranging for each team member to have an executive coach; it then becomes the individual leaders’ responsibility to demonstrate improvement and bridge their gaps.

4. Improve communication and focus on accountability.

Develop Awareness and Emotional IntelligenceA huge majority of our clients (upwards of 80%) ask us how they can create a “coaching culture” in which people can give and receive candid feedback openly and without fear of retribution. I believe it takes three essential steps to create this kind of environment:

  • The first is training and skill development on effective coaching processes. This must be followed by teaching people how to open a deeper dialogue when traditional coaching methods aren’t working.
  • The second is a discussion called Alternate Possible Behavior (APB) that was designed for intact teams. This methodology uses the power of the group to deliver both positive and negative feedback to everyone using a formal, structured process. This is a phenomenal team-building exercise that helps people understand what the team values, what needs work, and how people can help the team perform better and grow the business.
  • The third is the creation of accountability teams or Opportunity for Improvement (OFI) teams. These teams are designed to drive organizational learning and change initiatives. The process is proven to deliver results and can be very effective in addressing organizational challenges.

5. Develop greater personal awareness or emotional intelligence.

TrapToday’s complex world needs leaders who can be both introspective and reflective. They need to be able to examine their own, as well as understand others’, motives, emotions, and reactions. Leaders need to have broad perspective, imagination, and the ability to anticipate coming changes.

To overcome this common pitfall, we suggest developing a “peer-consulting team” that comes together once a month over an extended lunch and discusses issues related to emotional intelligence. The conversation could revolve around personal issues or challenges with bosses, co-workers, customers, or vendors.

These peer-consulting teams discuss the situation in a general way, but they also talk about their own behavior and contribution to the problem or conflict, which is the most important aspect of this dialogue. The team works together to discover new solutions and consider new methods. They hold each other accountable for making changes and report on their progress at the next meeting. Although this process is fairly informal, there are a few working agreements about openness, authenticity, and willingness to consider alternative perspectives that make the process work.

6. Be thoughtful, not impulsive.

thoughtful manIt’s clear that leadership is a multifaceted responsibility, and each facet requires careful thought and consideration. Built into the pitfalls of leadership is a sense that urgency and impulsivity are crucial, even desired, traits. However, there is rarely wisdom in a knee-jerk reaction.

While speed and efficiency are necessary traits for successful leadership, impulsivity can hinder effective decision-making. Leaders can better navigate complex situations with clarity and wisdom by cultivating thoughtfulness and creating an environment conducive to well-rounded decisions.

How can a leader accomplish this? By taking the time to:

  • Gather relevant information
  • Analyze diverse perspectives
  • Consider potential outcomes
  • Engage in active listening
  • Seek input and feedback from team members

Truly thoughtful leaders engage with challenging situations rather than reacting to them for the sake of a timely decision. A thoughtful approach fosters a more inclusive environment where diverse viewpoints are valued and even prioritized before moving forward with decisions that impact a team and its members.

7. Learn your team’s strengths, interests, and weaknesses.

What helps team members to feel valued, understood, and empowered? Having a voice is critical, and employees with a high sense of belonging and engagement are more likely to be heard and understood by their employers.

Ultimately, the only way to achieve this is for a leader to invest time in building relationships and fostering open communication channels with each team member. It’s important to regularly engage in conversations to identify individual strengths, interests, and areas for improvement.

This engagement may include the following:gears representing team work

  • Conducting individual check-ins to identify opportunities for skill development
  • Tailoring coaching sessions to foster growth
  • Creating connections to understand employee interests
  • Personalizing positive reinforcement to celebrate successes
  • Distributing regular surveys or assessments to gather data about satisfaction

Every member of your team has a set of strengths and weaknesses, as does the team as a whole. I’ve found that leaders with insight into their team’s capabilities can assign tasks strategically, delegate responsibilities appropriately, and offer targeted support for individual growth and the team’s success.

Even brief moments during the week can create a culture of continuous learning where team members feel valued and motivated as their strengths and skills are recognized and appreciated.

If you have questions or would like to discuss any of these pitfalls of leadership or their solutions in greater detail, I welcome your questions and comments. Please contact me about this or any of my posts, or make comments in the section below. I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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About the Author
Steven Stowell, Ph.D.
Dr. Steven J. Stowell is the Founder and President of the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, Inc. CMOE was created in 1978 for the purpose of helping individuals and teams maximize their effectiveness and create strategic competitiveness. Steve’s special interests lie in helping leaders and organizations transform into high-performance cultures that are focused on long-term, sustained growth.

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