Promoting a consistent message and visual identity is critical to “branding” and maintaining controls around variance of messages.
In fact, once we have standardized our systems of purchasing we are able to be more efficient, effective and save time and money. When variances show up on the bottom line, we can check them against our standardized financial processes.
This is what our financial people do on a regular basis. This brings standardization to the organization.
However, most companies still don’t standardize their leadership best practices.
They may have dozens of ways to interview and hire, solve the same problem in five different ways in various divisions, and simply spend a lot of time and energy needlessly identifying and solving the same problems repeatedly in many different ways.
Those companies who do standardize their leadership processes and training create a path forward map to help every leader in the company to be successful. In simple terms: Develop your road map and follow it, or as I tell clients who seek strategic planning assistance from me, “Write your plan based on best practices and work your plan.”
Why don’t companies do this?
Research shows that many companies don’t have a unified leadership process in place because:
- The leaders don’t have the training they need to succeed.
- There is no objective accountability system.
- The “dots are not connected” for employees in respect to purpose, worthwhile work and making a difference.
- The companies are not using a sequenced mapped approach.
- There is no process for managing high- and middle-level managers.
- There is no process in place to address the problems with low performers.
- To determine if your company needs to standardize your leadership system, Quint Studer in his book, “Results That Last,” suggests we ask ourselves such questions as:
- How many different ways do we have to interview a candidate?
- How do we know that when our leaders have left a meeting we have accurately and completely conveyed the messages we want them to carry back to the employees?
- When employees are asked tough questions, how do we know they are not giving us just the answers they think we want to hear?
- How do we measure the performance of our employees in such a way as we can determine they are low, middle or high-level performers?
- What process do we have in place to assess the performance of employees and their accountability against the overall organizational goals?
Six ways to improve our leadership programs
Leadership programs can be standardized and improved. When we standardize our programs, we provide a path forward map for all our leadership, which saves time and money and makes organizations more successful. How do we do this?
1. Use a common agenda. While Studer recommends that all agendas be organized around his “Five Pillars of Excellence,” (People, service, quality, finance and growth) even more important is that for every meeting there is a standardized agenda used by all leaders in the organization. By using such an approach, we can align all staff to our organizational goals, which then allows us to help them connect to the organization’s vision and mission. This approach also gives us the means to communicate to our team the critical success factors within the organization and in their individual work areas.
2. Align your evaluation process to the five pillars or the organization’s critical success factors. When developing goals for our organization, they must be objective, measurable, meaningful and aligned with the organization’s pillars or critical success factors. They must also be focused on results.
3. Provide consistent packets of information. When leaders leave meetings, they should have a prepared packet of information they can share with their employees so that everyone hears the same messages. Studer notes that many companies use “Flip and Tell” books to package the information.
4. Choose a single method of interviewing and hiring employees. All applicants should be asked the same three or four behavioral-based questions no matter what job they are applying for in the organization. It would be prudent to choose questions geared toward values and ownership.
5. Collect tough questions from leaders. Every leader should be asked on a regular basis to share with the team the tough questions they hear from their staff. Then work with your leaders to develop a consistent set of answers that will be used by all leaders. This develops a consistent message that can be communicated by everyone. Consistency builds confidence and provides employees evidence that the leaders have the information needed to answer their questions.
6. Make sure your leaders are trained in basic competencies to perform. Many leaders are not comfortable delivering messages without appropriate training. Those companies who annually train their leaders in such competencies as meeting facilitation, negotiations, conflict prevent and resolution and presentations skills are more successful because they are providing the essential training all leaders need.
Research shows that repetition is essential to build integrity and credibility within an organization. Great leaders never tire of repetition. When leaders become better at using their skills, they become more efficient and effective at doing it. They will get better with practice.
Organizations that use this six step approach have longer lasting results, improved organizational efficiencies and greater innovation.
Key points to remember
- Stop the variances. When an organization has variance in its leadership approach it produces inconsistencies within the organization making it more difficult to achieve excellence. Alignment among the managers and employees improves performance and enhances customer and employee satisfaction.
- Standardize behavior. Leadership behavior is challenging to quantify and many organizations find it a challenge to standardize behavior. Many organizations fear that by doing so they will intrude on the leader’s autonomy and creativity. However, organizational goals come down from the top and include clear visions and missions. Any single leader’s independence is less important than the organization’s mission.
- Eliminate barriers. Barriers that can get in the way of standardizing leadership behavior include: Lack of critical mass; lack of a balanced approach; insufficient training; no objective accountability; no path forward map which connects the dots; no process in place to manage middle and high level performers; no system to address quickly and efficiently low performers; an inability or unwillingness to standardize best practices across the organization. These barriers must be systematically eliminated.
- Identify and eliminate inconsistent practices. Carefully scrutinize all your practices in interviewing systems, messaging to employees, leader responses to crises, varying leadership performances and ineffective leadership evaluations.
Sources: “Results That Last” by Quint Studer
Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong, Armstrong and Associates, is a consultant and counselor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-888-340-2006 or www.armstrongassociates.org.