The following is a brief look back over the last 20 years based on what I have seen senior executives do to enhance their leadership of organizations throughout the years.
1. Clarify expectations. Focusing on results equals creating a zone of focus. I’ve seen several leaders throughout the years, do a great job at clarifying what they need for people to do to accomplish the important results. Often times, it is better for the leader to tell people all the steps he/she needs to be taken and why, rather than engage in an extended conversation.
2. Provide venues for listening to employee input. The corollary? Provide opportunities for employees to hear the same message the same time. I have facilitated a number of sessions for senior executives that provided them with a unique opportunity to share some of their personal perspectives and respond to questions from their employees at the same time, in the same forum. This lack of editing provides us an opportunity for everyone to hear the same message without the need for middle managers to translate the vision to frontline employees.
3. Create enthusiasm for the future. Data that we now have available about engaged employees demonstrates that one of the key differentiators in organizations that have a high employee satisfaction rate is directly related to the employee’s belief in the vision they’re hearing from senior executives. How compelling is the picture? I’ve worked with senior executives who are so skilled at painting the picture of what’s possible; it’s a real art in getting employees excited about the future.
4. Be the “noticer-in-chief”. Having the opportunity to work with many senior executives, I have urged them to accept the role of “noticer-in-chief” in helping drive organizational change. What exactly does that mean? They need to observe critical behaviors that are essential to helping the organization move forward and to comment on these behaviors. Observing, commenting and focusing on key behaviors will help highlight what is expected of employees going forward.
One senior executive in particular, understood how important it was for him to notice new skills being applied. Communicating through his organizational newsletter, in personal notes to individuals, and in large group meetings, he observed and commented. His actions helped to reinforce the importance of these skills and helped the rest of the employees to focus on developing those skills as well
5. Provide opportunities for employees to provide input into tactical aspects of organizational strategy. People tend to support what they help create. Senior leaders can get buy-in into the strategy by listening to feedback from employees regarding tactics; thereby enlisting their support to make it happen.
6. Create high-performing multifunctional teams. One of the great ways senior leaders can get things done is to charter cross functional teams to come up with solutions to pressing organizational development challenges. The key to these efforts include successful the sponsorship by the senior executive, training for the facilitator and team members, and setting the expectation of results.
7. Be willing to say no. One of the most powerful things a senior executive can do to guide the organization is to articulate very clearly what is off strategy and to be able to say no to internal proposals that might create diversions at a critical time for the organization.
8. Confront the tough issues. I have heard many employees tell me how much they respect a senior leader who is willing to take on the tough issues. One of the toughest issues is often team members who are not pulling their weight. Being willing to confront these employees, either in reassigning them or letting them go, sends the message that performance is truly valued and that everyone will be rewarded and recognized fairly.
9. Walking the walk. Senior leaders gain a lot of credibility in their organization by “eating their own dog food”. Too often, senior leaders lay out requirements for the staff that they’re not willing to do themselves. Having worked with many executives over the years, I have seen how powerful a statement it is when the senior executives do the same things they expect from team members. Whether that be taking on new behaviors, taking training to introduce new skills, or participate in certain team activities. It sends the message “we are in all of this together”.
10. Gratitude. Tell people on a daily basis that you love them. Express your gratitude for them and let them know what you appreciate about them. This personal connection reinforces an abundance mentality and helps people understand how what they do contributes to the overall success of the organization.
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