Sunday, February 24, 2008

Organizational Potential: Real or Imagined?

One of my favorite parts of the day is when I get my summary of what discussions are taking place in our member executive roundtables. The roundtables were set up to provide with members another channel to exchange ideas and information on business issues and challenges and get to know each other better in the process. In reading over the exchanges, not only do I always learn something, but I am also reminded of just how powerful the sharing of ideas and experience really is.

Over the past week or so, there has been a fascinating discussion going on started by George Bradt, founder of Prime Genesis and author of The New Leaders 100-Day Action Plan. He began by saying:
My working premise is that transformational leadership is about inspiring and enabling people to do their absolute best, together, to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose...So, how have you done that? What advice do you have for others seeking to turn their organization's potential into something meaningful and rewarding?
George clearly touched a nerve as the responses poured in from all points of the compass and as you might expect with observations and comments ranging across a broad spectrum. One of those who put in his two cents was member Kerry Bensman. I thought what he had to say was not just powerful, but powerfully put, so I asked him if I could pass it along and he generously said I could. For the sake of space, here are a couple of the highlights from Kerry's post:

Your question presupposes a couple of basic assumptions. One is that the organization has unrealized potential. Another which is more important is that it has the ability, experience, and expertise to embrace a vision and drive towards it. (Of course, how often have any of us listened to the newest twist on a vision statement only to have the organization driven in a different direction.)
Working harder and smarter is not always the answer. In the computer business, we had this saying: "It always works well in Powerpoint"
There is real buy-in and there is "fake" buy-in. Your top performers know the difference and they also know where the weak links are. Unless the organization believes you are being realistic and is not being set up for failure,the entire effort is DOA.
I worked for a general manager who had an interesting philosophy. He set the goals so we could over achieve. Why, I queried? "We all feel better being 102% of goal rather than 98% of goal. Does wonders for everybody." he responded.
I have never forgotten that. No one likes to feel they are pulling an oar they are chained to in the galley along with Ben Hur.
Both George and Kerry are right of course, but I was particularly struck and with Kerry's reminder that what "works well in PowerPoint" really doesn't matter unless those who are tasked with making the vision come alive are committed to and led by leaders who understand that while words can inspire, they need to come with the investment in the training and tools to really make it happen.

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