Retraining an organization that has grown accustomed to leading at the wrong level is hard. Refreshed job descriptions or a new organizational design may not be enough. New muscles need to be built and new behaviors have to be institutionalized. Here are five things you can do to begin this critical shift in your organization.
Focus on integration: Connecting dots is crucial to combating compression. Effective executives do a lot of “sense making” for the people of their organization. They help others see how they fit into the larger whole and enable them to see the linkages between their work and the rest of the organization – the linkages that support and drive valuable contributions to the business.
Employ reliable calibration mechanisms: Safeguard against perspective compression by staying connected to and grounded in external realities. Visit customers and remote locations of your business. Force balance in long- and short-term thinking by purposefully calendarizing strategic debate and decision-making. Build and use comprehensive dashboards that ensure reliable, holistic data is developed and synthesized. Invest in great analytical data of your customers, your competitors, your progress against strategic commitments and the growth of your talent. Then look for patterns and trends across all of it. This is the best muscle you can build for your organization.
Take charge of the calendar: Take an inventory of your quarterly calendar and analyze where you are spending your time. Remember the work at the top is substantially different and you must work to ensure you’re spending adequate time on the strategic, forward looking issues of your business.
Develop participants: Platinum standard companies go far beyond the typical HR role description when clarifying people’s roles. They define roles based on required decision-making parameters. Once you have done this you can, and must, ensure you are building executives that bring all the required capabilities their decision-making demands. These capabilities generally include, but are not limited to, being data-driven, having managerial courage, collaboration and comfort with ambiguity and the exercise of power.
Replace compression with engagement: Once you get your immediate team refocused on work appropriate to their role, a vacuum will open in the gulf of work they used to do. You must fill that vacuum with engagement that pulls all successive levels of leadership up. If top leadership is the strategic system that sets direction for a company, the levels below translate that strategy into specific plans and actions for the rest of the organization. Look at and determine the right focus for all leadership roles, be clear in communicating these expectations and then work hard to build the skills necessary for all levels of leadership to take on their roles with confidence.
Proactively design and maintain healthy governance: The integration of strategic, financial and talent processes that allocate authority, priorities and resources in the service of executing an enterprise strategy is one of the most profoundly differentiating activities a company can undertake. It is the very lever, when pulled, that can deliver the efficiency, effectiveness and results that optimize a company’s competitive positioning. Well-designed governance ensures alignment and enables superior performance by enabling executives to make impactful choices as they guide the business, its units, its functions and its investments.
Ron Carucci and Eric Hansen are the co-founders of Navalent, an organizational and leadership consulting firm building executable solutions that result in transformational change in organizations. Their latest book, “Rising to Power: The Journey of Exceptional Executives,” features Carucci and Hansen's 10-year longitudinal study of 2,600 executives from the Fortune 1000 in combination with in-depth surveys of executives who recently transitioned into an executive role.