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Leadership Turbulence

It’s a statement of the obvious ….. We live in turbulent times… I got to thinking what are the challenges of leadership in the times we are living in. Some years ago I noted this quote:

Business is now so complex and difficult, the survival of the firm is so hazardous, in an environment increasingly unpredictable, competitive and fraught with danger, that their continued existence depends on the day-to-day mobilization of everyone’s intelligence” (Konosuke Matushita, founder of Matsushita Electric)

It struck a chord…to mobilize everyone’s intelligence… for regular readers you will recognize a theme in our work at PDS…releasing and focusing people is still a crucial ingredient to survival and sustained sucess

So, my focus this month is the Leadership Challenges in Turbulent Times

What’s the core to these challenges that leaders face….it’s Bravery…

Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death.
(Omar N Bradley)

The first step “walk and talk – – – the same talk” constantlyAlignment between attitude, philosophy and actions is key!  Such consistency is hard to find, particularly since producing a payoff in change is often more about emotion and intuition than it is about analysis and logic.  Where’s the bravery you ask? Try making emotional and intuitive decisions which may or may not be born out by analysis and logic!

Yet I like, Peter Senge’s viewpoint:

“high levels of mastery….leaders cannot afford to choose between reason and intuition, any more than they would choose to walk on one leg and see with one eye”

It’s that outward calm of seeing a swan glide across the water, yet below the water line…furious paddling..


It’s about not losing your head while those around you are running around like chickens with their heads cut off…..what are we going to d!….what are we going to do!

The bravery comes to challenge how your company operates, its implicit beliefs and philosophies (e.g., The unspoken creed…once in automotive always in automotive).  Your culture can create its own distractions which interfere with what seems right, intuitive and obvious.   Many times, discussing this tension is repressed so that “we don’t take our eye off-the-ball,” or so we don’t offend others.  Consequently, leaders often focus on the seemingly “urgent” and let the critical issues slide.   They take refuge in “safe” financial performance targets that can’t be easily disputed.  These targets rarely support desired behaviors or intuitive outcomes.

Yet there are automotive dependent manufacturers in West Michigan that are wondering how to “keep it shiny side up!”

So in this fog of war, where do leaders look to  survival?

If you look at successful companies, they have varied strategies, structures and systems.  However, their leaders do have something in common.  They share surprisingly consistent philosophies.

These successful leaders have moved away from over reliance on very formal ways of running their organizations (like articulating strategies, building structures and developing systems).  They have moved toward using more organic ways of managing (like engaging people in defining a purpose, implementing through necessary and defined processes and developing people).

So what does this point out?  It goes to the root of why so many change initiatives fail (60% +) even after overdosing on business re-engineering and other scientific management techniques.  Many Leaders manage what is easy to manage (like managing numbers and not people).  They’ve been trained in the scientific disciplines.  They forget they are managing an “organism.”  They dismiss the small and gradual steps associated with real change for grandiose strategies

So, let’s put this into perspective.  Successful leaders recognize that an organization’s purpose is more important than short-term outcomes.  Why?  Outcomes change – their purpose does not!  Their focus is on how they can create committed members of a purposeful organization.  Putting purpose above outcomes, allowing new improved outcomes to take precedence and promoting different things to be done takes bravery.

Why is bravery so important?

It takes bravery for leaders and executives to address seven critical challenges.  Without question, addressing them is about not acquiescing to “legacy tendencies” but about incorporating “what now works” into the development of “tomorrow’s legacies”!  Bravery is about doing “different things,” not about making excuses as to why you can’t do different things.

Getting above the white noise of excuses is not for the faint hearted….getting up with clamor of resistances and fear

Where do we start with these challenges? Is there a sequence or are they inter-related?

They are interelated but a logical place to start is:

1. Embedding Purpose

Is your purpose Ill-defined or Conceptual Clear, well articulated & translated?

So, you’ve written and articulated the corporate purpose!  But, do the troops actually understand what this means to their everyday behavior and actions?  So often the organization states its purpose without regard as to whether or not it has created any ownership in that purpose.

Essential Questions:

  • How will you gain widespread organizational support for your purpose?
  • How will you ensure new activities, actions and behaviors invigorate your purpose?
  • How will you ensure your expectations are aligned with what people assume is expected of them?

2:  Removing Distractions

Are your distractions unidentified or well identified and managed?

There are always distractions that deflect an organization from its “appointed” tasks.  If these distractions go unidentified, they grow stronger. Distractions don’t just miraculously disappear. The longer they last the more they clog corporate arteries. Executives need to lead the “charge” in identifying and eliminating distractions.

Essential Questions:

  • How will you convince people to dismiss actions, operations and processes which stimulate doing old things?
  • How can you eliminate duplicate processes and reports that slow the organization down?
  • Who will oversee the distraction-elimination process; and, what authority will they have?

I can see how that would help but does this really get over the fog of war that we face today?

Not unless you integrate it with the next challenge…

3:  Aligning Organizational Expectations

Are you expectations unstated or defused or well focused & aligned?

Over and over again, employees say, “I wish someone had told me exactly what was expected.” Have you ever considered that others’ assumptions of “what is expected” might be counter productive to your purpose or outcomes? Are people doing what you expect or what they think you expect?

Essential Questions:

  • What are the key components that reveal your organization’s direction and success?
  • How will you translate these words into actions, competencies and behaviors that can be managed?
  • How will you measure the degree of alignment with your purpose, and what evidence of alignment are you looking for?

Doesn’t this demand more from a leader than just stating the facts?

Yes. It’s about lt’s making clearer emotional connections. It’s alarming how one individual can undermine a change simply by being out of touch with intuition and empathy.  One of the most overlooked yet common ways leaders fail, albeit unintentionally, is not to express appropriately, candidly and consistently what we feel as well as what we think. This is known as unintentionally ambiguous behavior. It gives mixed messages and next to aggressive behavior, ambiguous behavior can cause the most tension between leaders and others. (Adapted from Robert Cooper’s book, Executive EQ).

What is the context for well focused & aligned exepectations?

4  Creating Differentiation

How vulnerable are you to being seen as “same-o,same-o” or clearly differentiated from your competition?

If you feel like you’re the same in the marketplace, odds are that’s how the customer sees you.  As a leader, you are responsible for creating a climate of differentiation.

Essential Questions:

  • How will you ensure that customer contact people and others connect with one another to develop differentiable approaches?
  • How will you measure the degree and profitability of differentiation?
  • How will you leverage differentiation to lead your market place?

I can see how these first four create a platform for success…but how do leaders get this to stick and not just be another “flash in the pan”

5:  Coaching

How would you describe the coaching process in your organization…Isolated  or Cascaded

We know, we know …. your people coach!  The real question is, do your people coach with the right intensity and frequency to replicate successful behaviors? Or, is coaching infrequent, informal and isolated?

Essential Questions:

  • What will you do as a leader to establish your coaching cascade?
  • What is the right intensity and frequency of coaching needed under present competitive conditions?
  • How will you know that coaching is effective?

6:  Replicating Success

How reliant are you on using Lagging Indicators as opposed to Leading Indicators?

The words, “best practice” seems to have permeated the corporate world.  Your people undoubtedly have their own practices of choice, honed by years of personal experience.   Often corporate rewards go to these people rather than to those who demonstrate the “best practices” that everyone can adopt and benefit from.

Essential Questions:

  • What will your real best practices look like?
  • How will you tie best practices to behaviors which can be evidenced and replicated without alienating the productive “lone rangers?”
  • How will you use your “language of leaders” to make managing easier and more measurable?

7:  Rewarding Change

To waht extent does your reward system reflect what worked in the past rather then being liagned with your current direction?

If the recognition and reward systems of your company run on the “legacies of past success” it will only encourage doing things differently, not “doing different things!”   To change, you need to consistently reward the new behaviors, not the “reward legacies” of the past.

It’s like traning people to use the longbow,used in the Middle Ages as a weapon of war.A trained army archer could shoot upwards of ten to twelve arrows in one minute, making him the world’s first “machine gun” in some ways. Today how ever, the fastest rate of fire a 36 barrell Prototype mini gun, and can shoot 1,000,000 rounds per minute

Essential Questions:

  • What proportion of people’s compensation should be tied to adopting the new behaviors?
  • How will you measure and reward those who support your purpose?
  • How will you “raise the bar” so that over time people demonstrate excellence in the new behaviors?

Where do you go from here?

Ensure that your “walk and talk” are consistent.  This relates to your language, how you reward excellence, how you coach and how you react when things go wrong!  Bravery means displaying an attitude of distinction.

Create a cascade of conversation and coaching that gets above the “white noise” of legacy…..that’s doing different things!

Align the expectations of the organization. Bravery is found in exposing misalignments and distractions for immediate correction.

Tip of the Blog

Look at your team/colleagues…whose up for a fight

“He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors,

And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,

And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words”

(St. Crispen’s Day Speech William Shakespeare, 1599)


Great, but how can this help me?

This is probably the first thing on your mind after reading this Blog.
How about asking us?  The first call is free!  Just email me to set it up.
Don’t wait, get The Crispian Advantage working for you!. If our conversation leaves you needing more, we offer at a reasonable fee telephone and video coaching improve bottom line results.
If that still doesn’t do it, we’ll work with you on a solution.


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For Help in Getting Your People on the Same Page 
Nick Anderson, The Crispian Advantage

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© Copyright All Rights Reserved, The Crispian Advantage and Walk the Talk – A Blog for Agile Minds, [2010-2012]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nick Anderson, The Crispian Advantage and Walk the Talk – A Blog for Agile Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.