20/09/10

By Andrew Lester, Managing Partner, Carr Michael Consulting

There are two main leadership behaviours which block the ability of a team to make sustainable progress. These are very common in many senior business people and are difficult for many people to recognise.

The first is the lack of clarity given by leaders to managing both the Urgent and the Important side by side. In other words, everyone in an organisation needs to have clear roles and responsibilities on what they have to do to drive cash today (save costs / drive revenue) and deliver growth for tomorrow (new business). This lack of balance produces the all too common issue of the Urgent getting in the way of the Important. It also drives the less well recognised but equally critical problem of work on the Important being used as an excuse for not delivering the cash today (the Urgent).

Good leaders recognise the need for everyone in an organisation to “manage, respect and enjoy” working on both Urgent (operational) and Important (growth) tasks. Too often a wedge is driven between these two within companies.

Carr-Michael regularly sees the typical attitudes that highlight the problem. Operations people view those involved on growth projects as not contributing to the real world. They dismiss growth initiatives as time wasting distractions that stop them getting the job done. They don’t respect growth as it is not “here and now”. In their view it’s not “real” work because it doesn’t have a very short term payback. By contrast we hear the opposite view from those few focussing on growth: “we can’t get the resources we need and when we do it’s grudgingly given”.

The great issue here is lack of leadership. Leaders need to make it clear that running today’s business and delivering tomorrow’s future business requires everyone to be accountable for balancing and supporting both the Urgent and the Important. For some in the team their time and effort will be disproportionately spent on “operations” but with specific input required in tightly defined ways to support growth. For others the reverse is true. And this is not just a function of seniority. Just because you are not a senior manager does not mean you can’t make a major contribution to company growth.

The second leadership behaviour that blocks progress is that leaders all too often announce changes in company direction and objectives without being clear about the specifics: what has to be accomplished by whom and by when. In other words they change direction, they state a goal but they don’t make it clear how this new “strategy” translates into specific activities by team, and how each of those activities link together to generate success. Leaders too often poorly translate a vision into implementation. They think others will work it out, but without clear proper expectations “the others” fail to challenge and the vacuum does its worst.

Please feel free to comment by contacting me: andrewlester@carr-michael.com. Andrew Lester is Managing Partner of Carr-Michael Consulting, specialists in growth management and business performance improvement.

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