It was a busy meeting and there was a lot to cover in the allotted time. I was meeting with the CEO, and two SVPs. The CEO was constantly working two cell phones and the SVPs were equally distracted. I asked the Core Four Questions to discern what was going on, and why they were having problems with organizational change. Those questions were the following:
1. Who will lead?
2. Where is the vision and who has it?
3. At what pace do you want to go?
4. What should not be lost during the journey?
My analysis to the CEO close to the end of our time was that they suffered from a weak vision, a lack of a clear strategic direction, and not much sense of what is operational excellence. In particular, they had many operational silos, and not a very clear understanding of the difference between operational leadership and strategic leadership. This led us into an important discussion revolving around the following question: What is it that only a leader can do?
When I teach this subject in the From Vision to Action Leadership Training, I focus on the following elements. First, leaders need to be people who care, believe, and are faithful. This is a disciplined act, not just a random action taken to fill time between important meetings. This is a genuine act and is part of the work of leadership that revolves around continuous relationship building and relationship maintaining. This is not an interruption to work, but, in reality, it is the work.
Second, leaders need to be architects of meaning. Given they routinely confront paradoxes and wrestle with deep questions about organizational direction, they need to build an understanding of the macro and the micro so all involved know where they fit into the process and the plan. As Simon Sinek wrote in his book, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action. Portfolio, 2009, it begins with clarity of WHY: “You have to know WHY you do WHAT you do.” Second, it requires the discipline of HOW: “Once you know WHY you do what you do, the question is HOW will you do it? …. HOW we do things manifests in the systems and process within an organization and the culture.” Third, it continues with the consistency of WHAT: “Everything you say and everything you do has to prove what you believe. A WHY is just a belief. That’s all it is. HOWs are the actions you take to realize that belief. And WHATs are the results of those action…”
This week work on being a better architect of meaning, and make sure you and your team are all clear about WHY, HOW, and WHAT. It will make a world of difference as you move forward through these complex times.