Recently, Arcadia co-hosted a Webinar with Elliott Scott HR Recruitment on the topic of Leadership Alignment featuring two of Arcadia’s Partners Mark Weston and Matt Lyon.
Given the current turmoil in the business world, leaders are facing a multitude of challenges, many of which we have never encountered before. Companies are being forced to pivot their businesses and fast forward plans to move online, while staff have had to move to a virtual way of working, turning home into office.
Leaders have had to reassess their business environment and consider whether the culture is appropriate for the new reality. Some of these challenges can be very emotive, and leadership teams have to make critical decisions, which can often be divisive. The companies that will be successful are the ones that have a leadership team united by a shared vision which is then shared across the whole organisation.
Matt explained that when he sees organizations that are fully aligned there are usually four elements present, divided into ‘Stories and Behaviors’. A fully aligned organization has a story of who they are, what the journey has been and where they want to go. They also have a set of clearly identifiable values.
Each individual needs to see their own story being encapsulated in the group story so that they see their own goals or objectives form part of the goals or objectives of the group story. When those two stories connect – when individuals can see their own story forming part of the group’s story – then we obtain a huge enabler to drive those goals and objectives.
When individuals are motivated they will choose a set of behaviors that will enable them to achieve those goals. But because individuals are also motivated to fit in within a group, they will behave as others do. This results in individual’s behaviors aligning with the group’s behaviors.
Therefore, to gain leadership alignment you must also have alignment in these stories and behaviors. The problem companies are facing currently is that with all the disruption to business plans, group behaviors no longer match the individuals behaviors, or the individual’s story doesn’t match the group story. Consequently, in the case of Leadership Alignment we need to start by changing the group story, and then take it to a wider employee audience who can adjust their own goals to fit in with the new version of the story, and buy in to the new vision.
To achieve Leadership Alignment, Matt employs the “Strategic Narrative” model shown below. By completing each section of this Strategic Narrative model, we obtain a vehicle that we can easily cascade down through the organization.
1. Pride and Purpose
Initially, the leadership team has to decide upon a statement that best summarizes the purpose and overall reason for existing. This this can often be a long and difficult process as we need to consider everything the company is doing and then chunk it down in order to end up with a statement that is very easily communicated and that connects everyone in the leadership team. The danger is that if there are some leaders who don’t agree here, then the process can be very difficult and that individual may not stay through the journey. Therefore, it is essential to gain everyone’s commitment and ownership at this stage.
Matt jumped ahead to the sixth part of the model – Destination. The reason was because it is important to be clear on where the organization is going. The leadership team needs to have a conversation about the opportunities that are sitting within the organization in order to drive it to where they want to go. The destination needs to be motivating and it needs to be inspiring so that the rest of the people within the organization feel the need to want to get there.
2. Current Reality
This examines where we are today and identifies what key challenges are present through the entire organization, not just at the leadership level, and figures out what is holding it back. Again, everyone in the organization needs to be able identify with these challenges so that they can say “yes, this is my experience, this is what frustrates me”. By doing this, the individual gains belief that the leader is on the same page.
In this section Matt explained that the leadership team needs to reframe the problems and challenges as opportunities. This itself is crucial shift in perspective for the leaders, as by doing this they are taking ownership of the problems. The leaders need to take whatever the current experience is and translate that into an opportunity, then all these opportunities need to be reframed into something more achievable that has a journey.
The journey has to have clarity on the strategies that we are going to pursue to help us turn the reality into an opportunity. These are the “Strategic Drivers”, which are usually one of three things –
By identifying these Strategic Drivers, the leadership creates clarity, creates believability and they connect with the individuals.
At every level of the organisation we are expecting change – change in mindset, change in competencies and change in behaviors. People need to know what the new behaviors are and everyone needs to be accountable for these new behaviors. We need to be able to articulate what needs to change at a behavioral level and what mindsets we need to have.
Most importantly, the leadership team needs to know that it starts with them and that they are going to drive this. During the process the leaders need to have some vulnerability as they will need to be able discuss what things didn’t work, as well as sharing the successes. And by being transparent they build believability in the audience. Mark subsequently described some of the Leadership Mindsets that may be required to help enable success in the journey – Leadership Care, Growth Mindset, Wellbeing, Thriving Under Pressure, Resilience and High Performing Teams.