9: To scale accountability you need a system, not a program.
Here’s the 9th post in my 10 Years – 10 Truths series.
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I recently had a chat with Adam, a customer of mine, who headed up the strategy function for his organization. My team worked with his team to scale accountability and drive leadership culture change. During the discussion, I asked what his key learnings and insights throughout this process have been.
He paused for a moment and said, “I realized how hard this work is to sustain over the long term. I didn’t realize it until much later, that what you really need to do is build a system to support your leaders.”
Adam’s intuition was right. Unfortunately, many senior leaders don’t gain this insight. I see too many organizations approach this work naively or too simplistically. For example, we think that just bringing in a leadership training program, doing a change workshop, or bringing in a keynote speaker will be enough. It isn’t.
Let’s understand how the word system is defined. A system is a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified and interconnected whole. This is the kind of holistic approach to leadership culture change that organizations need.
The challenge is knowing how to build such a system and implementing it, so it gets you the desired results.
Over the years of working with our customers embarking on leadership culture change, we have developed a three-step system. We call it our Leadership Accountability System™ and it brings greater rigor and discipline to drive measurable leadership culture change.
I’ve always been fascinated by gears. Whenever I see them in motion, it’s amazing to see how they work together to amplify the power that one gear can’t achieve on their one.
This is why I represented our Leadership Accountability System as a set of gears. When these interlocking gears are set in motion and operating in unison, begin to build momentum that is truly compelling. In the amazing book, Good to Great, Jim Collins referred to it as the flywheel. He described how any real transformation doesn’t happen in one fell swoop, but rather it is a relentless commitment to building momentum that leads to a breakthrough.
The first gear in the system involves Defining your business context, determining clear leadership expectations, and ensuring executives what they need to do to set the tone of accountability for other leaders.
The second gear is about Aligning leaders to your organization’s strategic story, developing new mindsets and behaviors, and translating this shift into the daily routines in how leaders lead individually and with their teams.
The final gear, Embed is about how you drive lasting leadership culture change. In our work we find this involves sustaining a community of leaders across an organization, anchoring leadership expectations into organizational practices, and implementing a set of simple and straightforward impact measures to help you gauge your progress.
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