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Thursday, October 20, 2011
Inspiration comes from odd places at times.  I was sitting in the dentist chair for a regular check-up one day, and with the hygienist’s hands in my mouth, I noticed an informational placard on the wall that said “Do I have to floss all my teeth? … No just the ones you want to keep”.  This struck me as an interesting axiom for business.  “Do all my people need to follow our plan? … No just the ones we want to keep.”   No, I was not under the influence of anesthetic.  It just made me think of all the organizations that tolerate poor results and in essence, the decay of the organization. Yes, that may be harsh but hey, it is only your organization’s success.  If you let people off the hook, don’t hold people accountable for their areas of responsibility then you certainly cannot expect to have results that deliver you to your goals. 

I recently shared these thoughts with a group of our clients at our Six Disciplines Summit – Client Conference.  The theme of the event was “Building a Culture of Leadership”.   The goal of my message was to convey that all individuals in a “people” or “operational” leadership role in an organization have a responsibility to the organization to be a contributor to the development of this culture.  Of course, it always starts at the top; however, it is a cop-out to not be a contributor to the development of the culture.  In successful organizations everyone leads.   

What do I mean by a “Culture of Leadership”?  First, culture and leadership are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, together they are tremendously powerful.  As leaders you know how important it is to build behaviors that consistently drive the organization forward.  Those are the behaviors that tie the team members to an aligned direction, a measured result or outcome and a sense of accountability to produce great results.  We believe it is not just the CEO’s job to build the culture of leadership.   You need to have others on the leadership team step forward and take action in the area you can control.  And for CEOs - you need to let your team lead.  Give them the goals and expectations, coach and mentor but don’t be the bottleneck.  Give the team some ownership, responsibility, accountability or “ORA”.  This is in fact the cultural key within one of our client’s organization, Pro-Tec Coating Company.  They have instilled “ORA” throughout their entire operation and it works!!

Some of us are better at driving the culture of leadership than others.   However, it is our job as leaders in our organization; yes we all are leaders, to push ourselves and our colleagues to a higher level.   Certainly some days are tougher than others to focus on the priorities, and the myriad of interruptions and less critical issues makes us crazy, yet the organizations that have embraced this culture get more done more often and with the desired results.

How do I go about building and fostering a culture of leadership?  There are several fundamental steps:

A. Set Goals, prioritize and define actions, measure results and live up to the goals by holding people accountable

B. Be more involved with being better leaders by being more diligent, more forceful in sticking to the plan.   Do what needs to be done, make tough decisions – execute the plan.  Keep people from being distracted by the wrong things or actions of lower priority.

C. Don’t tolerate mediocrity. Leadership is an influence process -- something you can control.  The process is one that abhors mediocrity and complacency.  You will need to develop a culture of leadership that improves your productivity and performance and it will then help you lead your organization to a higher level.

The way I see it – you can be like everyone else or you can change and be/get better.  You can make the choice to invest in building a culture of leadership, hence; working toward making a difference in your organization’s productivity, focus and performance.  Yes, you will need to make the commitment and likely change your behavior and approach. But who knows, the results may even give you fresher breath and a better smile.

(Eric Kurjan is the President of Six Disciplines NWO. Six Disciplines brings “big company” process improvement to organizations looking to jump beyond the status quo. For more information visit www.sixdnwo.com or call 419-348-1897.)