No, this blog is not about Nancy Kerrigan and her infamous crowbar attack just before the 1994 winter Olympics. Although, true to good soap opera form, it is a rather compelling story and it has taken many interesting twists and turns since that time. Rather, the why I am talking about is the one that gives clarity, context and color to the decisions that you make every day. Truth be told, why is one of the biggest contributors to accelerating the business results you are looking for.
I am always fascinated by how business leaders or management teams go about making and executing key decisions. In my experience, they first spend a day or two thinking, discussing and debating the course of action to take. Then, once they come to a conclusion, they communicate their decisions. But – and if you weren’t really paying attention before, now is the time to tune in – rarely do they share how they came to these conclusions. Sure they share the goal and, at times, the market conditions that drive their decisions, but usually the conversations get very tactical and focus on what the organization needs to do. Despite the importance of these conversations, seldom is there enough context given to assist people in understanding how these actions match up with their overall vision, strategy or even their budget, which is driving their actions every day. In fact, I have found that without enough context and background information, many decisions from above seem very incongruent and thus have a devastating effect on the speed by which businesses get things done. And, for the skeptics, I see proof of this very phenomenon every time I am in the field.
I can’t tell you how often I am in offices and the decision from above that was made two days ago or two weeks ago has made it to the business leaders closest to the customers. These business leaders then sit at their desks confused and, at times, disheartened because at first blush, the decision seems contrary to some of the objectives they have been trying to accomplish. Now these are not ignorant people; they look at the inconsistency and then they get on the phone and start to manage up the organization. Over a length of time, which is dependent on how well the business leader manages up the organization, they get the appropriate context (why) surrounding the decision and they go about making it happen in their business. But after this long and drawn out process, the lack of why has sub optimized your decision process and the results you are looking for.
So as a leader, how can you instill more why into your communications in order to accelerate your objectives rather than creating culture gridlock?
1. Time. A leader has spent considerable time either in meetings or staring at the ceiling late at night pondering their decision. Once they gain clarity they want to take action because we all know that the key attributes of great leaders are their ability to be action oriented and to drive results. We also know that while gaining personal clarity is great, if you cannot instill that clarity within your organization then you cannot drive the results you are looking for. In other words, take the time to explain the bigger picture, tie your decisions to your strategy and allow people to ask questions so that they too can gain this insight. The minutes you take to promote clarity will exponentially add to your business’ success.
2. Share your thought process. This is a tough one. In fact, I call it the MBA of leadership. Each of you have a thought process or mind map of how you look at problems, the challenges they present to your daily objectives and at the same time, how they will affect your long term strategy. You then take these multiple inputs and come up with an overall solution that will resolve the challenges before you. This is a unique talent and it has elevated you to the role you are in today. Once you are able to recognize how you do this and are able to articulate this in your conversations, you can then pass on not only insight as to the why of the decision, but also how you arrived there. The gold in this process is when your people start to use this mind map for themselves to work towards better decision-making and ultimately, better results. Bottom line, the hard work that you have put in over the years and that has led to your success becomes a short cut or crib note to your organization and can lead to faster decisions with greater impact on the bottom line.
My goal for this blog has always been two-fold. First, I have the opportunity to share my insights and years of experience with you, the reader. And second, I myself get to hear your thoughts, opinions, experiences, etc. To make this blog a mutually beneficial experience, I would ask that you take the time to post your comments, your questions and your own war stories from your years in the business. Let’s use this blog to generate dialogue on the issues we’ve all faced in our businesses and work together to come to some great solutions.