How Leaders can Orchestrate Ideas into Profits
15 October 2008 David Goldsmith
When it comes to maximising profit, a strong CEO must offer direct leadership. Your Talent Manager president David S Goldsmith explains how leaders can bring harmony to their company's different facets.
Leaders can learn much about how to turn their ideas into profits from the world’s great musical conductors by focusing on how they prepare and get their players to produce beautiful music. CEOs must also know how to prepare and get their key people to play the right roles if they want to turn their ideas into profits. Businesses cannot afford to allow their best ideas to sit on the shelf collecting dust if they want to stay ahead of the competition and increase bottom line results for today and in the future. A mistake that many leaders make is to use a ‘one size fits all’ approach when developing their execution plans on how to get their ideas to take hold.
Many CEOs and executive teams do not take the time necessary to establish the kind of blueprint needed on which to build their implementation plans. Remember, an orchestra can have the best musicians and instruments, but if they are all playing different music and without the proper leadership, the results will be disappointing and the music will be off key. Don’t let this happen to your ideas.
A word of caution: when leaders only use what has worked in the past or what other companies have done to successfully execute their ideas; they are headed in the wrong direction. One reason is because organisations and business environments are changing so rapidly that what worked one year ago or even six months ago might not work today. Another reason is that each plan requires different goals, skills, talents, organisational structures, cultural changes and financial commitments. Insightful leaders know that in order to effectively learn from their past execution experiences they must focus specifically on the processes that were used in building the right execution foundation.
CEOs need to think proactively when putting together their execution plans and take an active role in assuring that each part is aligned and executed properly. Also, it is vital that leaders actively seek and get the full commitment and support of their board of directors and executive teams. When leaders take a passive role they are dooming their ideas from reaching there full potential or even getting off the shelf.
No skill or talent left behind
Insightful leaders will do a thorough self-evaluation of their own skills, strengths, talents and depth to determine what roles they can perform most effectively in executing their strategies. CEOs must fully understand the skills, strengths and management depth of each member of their boards, executive and overall management teams. This evaluation process will help leaders understand the different work styles, decision making abilities, management and negotiation skills, and communication and leadership styles of their boards, executive and management teams. This knowledge will help the CEOs determine if they are truly using the best that each member has to offer and what strategic role each can play in the overall execution process. Progressive leaders know that it is up to them to personally communicate to each member the role or roles he/she can best play in implementing the strategies throughout the organisation.
CEOs understand that in order for executions to stay on track they must also take a hands-on approach in monitoring if the right progress is being made. Plus, they must frequently assess if they are using the skills of their leadership team in the most productive ways possible. An execution plan needs to be managed by the CEO or a lead executive who has the skills to effectively guide the process. Organisations cannot afford to let their talent (at any level) sit on the bench; they have to get into the game if they want to win. Remember, it is the skills, strengths, talents and depth of the executive management team that will be a primary performance driver in determining how successful and profitable the outcome will be.
Communicating strategy messages
It will be imperative that the messages outlining the strategy and the benefits that the organisation as a whole and each unit will receive be clear and easy to interpret. The individual or individuals who are in charge of delivering the messages must be well respected and trusted and have the communication skills needed to gain the kind of support to get the right things done. Also, message evaluations need to be done frequently to determine if the executive and management teams are properly interpreting the messages and moving the strategy in the right direction. Plus, CEOs will have another opportunity to communicate the strategy messages and reinforce what needs to get done.
Also a CEO’s actions will deliver a powerful message in communicating the commitment level to get the strategy properly executed. When the leadership takes the "Do as I say, not as I do" approach, this will have a negative effect and will not produce the kind of buy-in or bonding needed to have the execution plan take hold. CEOs, boards of directors and executive teams need to be aware of how non-verbally they communicating show their support for what they are trying to accomplish. From my past execution experiences, if messages do not create clarity, vision and purpose it will be very hard for an organisation to form the kind of bond needed to turn its ideas into profits. When verbal and non-verbal messages are in sync, it will be easier to clearly distribute the messages and communicate the direction the company is headed. Another benefit is that it will help the total organisation align itself with the strategy.
Setting execution goals
CEOs, along with their executive teams, must take an active role in establishing short and long-term goals that clearly outline the individual steps the organisation and each division must take in order to reach the desired results. Insightful leaders realise that every goal will take their organisation and its units in one direction or another. For this reason, leaders must take great care in developing each goal to ensure that the execution process will move in a systematic fashion throughout the organisation.
When CEOs only set one goal of increasing growth, sales or profits they are making a mistake because this alone will not communicate what steps are need to reach the desired destination. Short and long-term goal setting in order to be successful has to tie into the overall vision, mission, values and purpose of the strategy itself. Goals can be a powerful tool in generating the kind of energy needed to bring out peak performance, commitment and be the light that guides the organisation in the right direction.
If execution goals lack clarity and are disjointed they will not be in alignment with each other and can cause the execution plan to become dysfunctional. Also, when there is a disconnect between the goals, strategies, organisational cultures and execution plans this creates a dysfunctional alignment that will result in confusion over the direction the company is heading and can cause an organisation to work against itself. Remember, short and long-term goals need to be designed to help the organisation and its many parts move in the same and needed direction.
If you ask your employees what direction your company or strategy is headed for the coming year, how would they respond? A poll conducted by Harris Interactive concluded that two thirds of all employees had no idea of the direction their companies were headed. Remember, goals that are well designed will communicate the direction the company is moving and what the strategy is trying to accomplish. Also, if goals lack directional substance you are leaving it open to individual interpretation on where you are trying to take the organisation and how to get there.
Furthermore, not having clear short goals can cause ambiguity in an organisation and throw the strategy execution off course. CEOs who take an active role to establish short and lon-term goals that paint a crystal clear picture of where the organisation is headed and the steps it needs to take in order to get there will produce the most profitable results.
Making the right changes
Leaders and executive teams must complete an in-depth evaluation of their organisation, including decision making rights, flexibility and willingness to accept change, different cultures, structures and functions, management depth, longevity of key employees, existence of any departmental silos, and openness to taking risks. Next, leaders need to make the strategic investment to effectively evaluate what kind of organisational changes are needed to allow the kind of alignment necessary for their strategies to become a permanent part of the organisation’s culture.
A serious mistake many CEOs make is trying to change the total culture of their organisation without knowing if this is what is truly needed to have their strategies succeed. Lou Gerstner, the former CEO of IBM, had a great deal of respect for IBM’s traditions and cultures, as evidenced in his book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?
This caused him to take great care in evaluating what changes were truly needed to get IBM back on the right track. Gerstner proved that an organisation’s culture, functions and structure must be in alignment with the strategy for the execution to succeed. CEOs must take an active role in determining what changes can successfully be made and how to make the necessary cultural adjustments.
When all the pieces are ready to be implemented, the leader must play an active role in making sure that all the parts are in harmony with each other and moving in the right direction. The role of the CEO is much like that of a conductor leading a large orchestra. All individuals must have their instruments well tuned, have the right sheet music, know their parts, and be allowed to use their skills in a manner that will allow each musician to produce beautiful music. Much like a conductor, a CEO’s role in building an effective execution plan involves coordinating many different facets, including talent management, message communication, goal setting and organisational adjustments.