Today I’d like to share with you for just a few minutes to bring you up-to-speed on the 4 trends, based upon my current work with a variety of business clients, that are driving today’s most important leadership challenge in business. And that challenge is…developing great leaders of great teams in the middle of your organization. Why?
Driver #1: Unprepared Leaders
First, research from the Gallup organization shows that a whopping 82% of people hired or promoted into new leadership positions don’t have the necessary knowledge and skills to lead effectively in their new role. The result? On average their team’s performance is 48% lower than those lead by skilled leaders. These teams produce barely half of the results they should! And most of these people have no effective plan to develop their leadership abilities. Similarly, author Bruce Schneider found that 85% of leaders actual impede the performance of their teams and have a negative impact on the overall results of the organization.
Sadly, we’ve simply grown accustom to, and seem to accept, this terribly low performance…as the terribly high cost of having no plan to develop these leaders; therefore, defaulting to simply hoping they ‘learn their job…on the job.’ Which is rather like giving your surgeon a knife and saying “once you’ve cut me open, I certainly hope you figure out what to do while you’re in there to keep me alive!”
Driver #2: The Era of Teams
Second, we are now clearly in the ‘Era of Teams’. What do I mean by that? Well, we all know we live in a dynamic, highly complex, and constantly changing world and business environment. There’s far too much change for one person to keep track of, or to provide the complete solution to any of today’s problems or challenges. As John Maxwell says, “One is too small a number to do anything significant.” Today, success requires a team. On the flip side, as much as marketers wish it was true, we don’t personally interact with a brand or an entire company. Instead we interact with their teams.
For example, as a customer when we walk into a store, restaurant or hotel we’re interact with the team at that location. We experience the team, not the company. When we walk out of a restaurant we don’t say “you know the service was okay, but the food was lousy…I can’t wait to come back because their marketing is so good.” We don’t do that. What we say is “Boy has that company gone downhill. Where do you want to try next time?” When a team fails to performance the brand, the company, suffers the consequences.
The same things happens as employees. When we work for a company we don’t tend to say, “Yeah, the work is just okay, my boss is a jerk and the people on my team are lazy and rude, but I really like the company.” That’s not what we say. We say, “I don’t like working for this company”…and leave and go somewhere else!
The experience of the team trumps the experience of the company every time. Today having great leadership at the top of an organization is no longer good enough. An important objective of company executives, today, needs to be developing great leaders of great teams in the middle of their organizations.
Driver #3: Unique Challenges for Leaders in the Middle
Third, a significant, yet rarely spoken of, challenge for these team leaders ‘caught in the middle’ of an organization is that they must be both great leaders and great team members at the same time. They must lead their team effectively, while also being an effective member of the leadership team. They must lead up, lead across, and lead down…effectively. Yet no one is dedicated to helping them succeed in this demanding, yet absolutely critical, role within the company.
Some of the unique challenges for those in the middle of the organization include the ‘vision challenge’, where the leader in the middle is required to invest their personal credibility in a vision, or strategy, that they weren’t involved in creating and maybe do not even believe in. Another example is the ‘tension challenge’, where the leader in the middle doesn’t really know where they stand and where their authority ends. They can make some decisions, but not too many. They can spend some money, but not too much and not at certain times. In fact their budget, which was agreed to at the beginning of the year, may change at any time based upon things completely outside of their control. (Read about more of the “Challenges of Leading from the Middle”.)
So, the leader in the middle has a number of unique challenges they need to learn to deal with effectively. Yet no one is dedicated to helping them succeed in this demanding, yet absolutely critical, role within the company.
But today, many companies are waking up to the reality that this needs to change. Leaders in the middle of the organization must get the support and help they need to succeed, so the company can succeed.
Driver #4: Playing to Strengths
Fourth, research is finally catching up with what expert practitioners like us have known all along, that the single most important driver of performance of a team is whether or not the members of the team feel they are playing to their strengths each day. And yet, barely 1 out of 10 people feels their strengths are in play. It’s the single most important driver of performance. And as business leaders we’re terrible at it! We live in a business world obsessed with weaknesses – even though it makes no sense.
Think about the differences between how most business leaders manage their employees versus how the coach of an NFL football team manages their players. They both manage talent, and their objectives – for the most part – are identical. But their approaches couldn’t be more different. Business managers focus on weaknesses, see skills gaps as ‘opportunities’, and waste most of their time trying to ‘fix’ their people – even though this approach has been proven to not move the performance needle at all. Sports coaches learn what their players are great at and focus their attention there. They position their players to showcase their strengths. Even putting special plays to take advantage of their unique gifts and talents.
Most business leaders have no idea how to effectively position their people to their strengths, much less what their team members strengths actually are, even though it’s been proven time and time again that it would dramatically improve the performance of their teams. It’s the most important thing, and they have absolutely no idea how to do it (or the tools and information to help them). As Brad Anderson, former CEO of Best Buy, said when I was working with them, “Most management systems are designed for the convenience of the manager, not the performance of the team. And that needs to change.”
It’s no wonder that most teams produce nowhere near their true potential. The potential within these teams, that you’re already paying for by the way, simply goes untapped…completely wasted. However, there is a better way. There is an energizing path to achieving extraordinary results without the toxic pressures of organizational politics or manager-on-manager ‘winner take all’ battles for survival.
As our business partner, and world-renown leadership expert, Dr. John C. Maxwell says, “Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership.”
Question: How would it impact your company’s results (and your life personally), if…
- your leadership team was known to be filled with trusted, confident, and decisive leaders to ‘architect and orchestra the execution of your business strategy’;
- you had strong, effective, and truly influential leaders in the middle of your organization who knew exactly how to build incredibly high performing teams; and
- every employee in your company was better able to solve problems, attack challenges, and go after the opportunities they across each day ?
What would that mean to you?