(as found in the latest edition of Navigating WhiteWater)
As I reflect on the role of leadership, I am reminded of our work with a client working headlong on a new corporate strategy that, at its essence, focused on propelling this company to the top of a highly competitive industry.
This firm sought to produce the highest-quality products, with the broadest product line, at the most-competitive price. They wanted to sharpen their customer experience: to become the easiest company to order from, to have the best on-time delivery, and for their customer service staff to be the best to deal with.
We helped them devise a strategy that would help them get there. But as they began executing, they realized they had a leadership gap – managers and supervisors who needed the tools to execute, and to get their teams to do so as well.
So we jumped in to help. Our goal was first to build the overall leadership capacity and capabilities of their senior leaders and department leaders. We did this by delivering Just Lead, Dammit!, our comprehensive program to build the leadership capacity to be effective performance managers, coaches, change agents and more.
Like many leadership programs, we helped them build specific skills and capabilities. Different from many such programs, though, we also helped them build the capability to challenge their own “Thinking” — the fundamental mental models, beliefs, assumptions and perceptions they carry. Leaders’ underlying thinking has a much greater leverage over the results they deliver, and how effectively they engage their teams, than any specific leadership practice.
It proved so successful that the company asked us back to deliver the same program to their next-level leaders. We were in the middle of that when the pandemic hit, and we shifted to virtual delivery.
The company’s executive leaders undertook this believing it critical to the successful implementation of their strategy. They understood that they not only needed their leadership to be aligned, that they not only had to have a common understanding of how to successfully execute, but that they needed to be empowered to succeed.