A great leader has something similar to a world class driver of a race car. They both are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, understand their track/market, know inside-out their vehicle/management team and never stop developing it.
Could you imagine a Formula 1 driver saying: “The car feels kind of okay, we’ll leave it as it is…”. No, they’ll do everything in their power to work together with specialists to find new information and methods, better parts and stronger commitment to make the car even faster.
A self-aware leader knows his strengths and realizes that it is impossible for him alone to build a winning race car, i.e. his management team. Why would a leader feel uncomfortable to states that there are better specialists in some areas? To get the best performance out of our teams requires continuous development and co-operation with external sources. Successful leaders can fill up gaps with other people’s strengths creating a unique combo bringing right results. Okay is not good enough – it is a long way to build a high-performance team, but understanding need for support and walking the journey together is definitely worth it. That differs successful leaders from others.
Lately there has been lot of discussion on Nokia’s former leadership culture – management by fear. If I think about my 7 years’ history in the company I must partially agree. In challenging situations, we have a risk to fall into our stress functional behaviour. For some people it means stronger command and control culture – leading by fear.
But why would that happen when things are fine, and business is booming? A big difference comes from the dominant cultural stage in a company – is it “We are great, we succeed together” or “I am great, you are not, I make successes to take place – not you”. If we accept individual achievement & greatness culture we risk pulling others down into “My life sucks” level, which makes people to work the minimum without any drive or joy. When some leaders start to believe in their greatness and indispensability they forget others and how to make people to follow them naturally rather than forcing them to follow.
Continuous development of top leaders and management teams is crucial for all the companies. If the top management won’t walk the talk of people respecting and appreciating culture things won’t fly in other parts of the organization. We all need to work and develop together – nobody can do it alone.
There are well-known parts in a digitalization process, e.g. creating sense of urgency, building digitalization into company’s vision and strategy, creating cross function teams with empowerment to run projects, selecting vertical business segments for brainstorming etc. Still, we often forget the most important ones, i.e. how bring value for a customer and what to do with information from customer behaviour.
Digitalization changes nature of products & services and customers’ perception of value. In the middle of 90s I worked with many mobile operators who said: “Nobody in this country will ever send an SMS from his phone. They’ll just need to receive voice mail notifications and that behaviour won’t change.” But we all know it did – much more than we ever dreamed.
We are facing a similar chance of behaviour change with today’s digitalization. We must re-write the monetization approach and strategy, e.g. what does our organization own or control – what to monetize? It used to be only products and services, with digitalization we expand to information and data, access, user experiences, behaviours and outcomes. Digitalization adds new ways to bring value and means to capture it but a customer must be the king!
89% of digitalization projects fail according to studies. What is then needed from a culture to support the process?
Digitalization will never fly if it remains as a topic for one department trying to minimise costs and mistakes. We need to be able to challenge existing thinking, take joint ownership and fail or succeed together out of silos. This kind of culture is called for a WE Culture.
In the WE Culture leaders coach individuals to establish natural cross function networks to take joint responsibility and make decisions. These networks have autonomy with empowerment to succeed. In the WE Culture joint ownership & success are more important than individual achievement.
A WE Culture team or an organization has so high trust, respect and appreciation between its members (WE) that challenging existing individual opinions as well as failing in trying something new is possible. Group energy and enthusiasm to succeed together will help to include people with different talents and strengths, thus better utilizing diversity.
Within last 10 years I have worked with many companies implementing a WE culture successfully. What kind of culture does exist in your company? Are WE ready?
The challenge in digitalization is not technology – it is people! Many companies today are facing a big question: is our company ready for the digital transformation? Often the answer is: “Yes, our R&D is looking into it”. If that is the only thing happening the future doesn’t look too bright. Digitalization must go ahead strategy & people first. It is difficult to go for digital transformation if the culture is built around silos and there is no clear support from the management on a strategic level.
I spent 15 years in various telecommunication companies, from global players to start ups working with transformation from speech to applications. Now with digitalization and IoT we have chance to outperform technology one to ten. But have we done anything for the organization or leadership to make things really happen? My unfortunate answers in NO, or very little.
After talking with several technology providers and operators, so many things seem to be the same. So, who is going to be the first to say – we need to change! Digital transformation will fail without shared ownership in the complete management, supporting strategy, cross functional teams and right leadership.
Is your company ready?
We all have a need to be listened to – that is a way how people can show us that they respect and appreciate us. We notice in few seconds if a person listening to us is not doing it unconditionally. Negative mimics, comments, interruptions, other activities at the same time, etc. – the list is long for things to destroy the process. End result is we don’t feel being respected.
Respect doesn’t mean that we need to agree – I respect you as a person, your strengths & experiences, anyhow I might have a different opinion. When we have good level of trust, respect and appreciation in a management team a real dialogue happens automatically without giving everybody special time for sharing own opinions.
You can help building trust, respect and appreciation in a management team e.g. by increasing awareness and sharing our
– Natural Tendencies / MBTI types -> we are different, let use it
– Strengths (and Weaknesses)
– Core Values
– 360 Degree Assessments
– Learning active listening
– Crucible life moments
In a trustful environment without fear people are ready to share individual information – that makes other members of the team to feel being trusted and appreciated. The team develops and will be ready to take challenges.
We had in one EMEA management team program a leader suffering to get his regional agenda through country organizations. The leader’s reputation was being very smart, but number driven and having all the right answers, i.e. knowing what to do in the countries without asking. That didn’t warm up local managing directors. After accepting that something must be changed the leader was willing to discuss his topic in a group coaching session where colleagues gave him great advices and ideas how to modify his leadership and eventually his reputation.
It became a successful process. Country organizations felt being respected and listened to much better and a real dialogue was created with increased buy in for regional agenda. The leader’s reputation changed and helped him to succeed also in later positions. I.e. we really can manage our reputation. That is part of increasing self-awareness (“What is my reputation?”) and development (“How can I change my leadership to improve my reputation?”).
So, what is your reputation as a leader? Are you ready to find out and manage it right?