Every leader needs other people to fulfill a vision, achieve organizational objectives or deliver results.
Simply stated, no leader can do it all by themselves. The success of the leader is defined by the decisions and actions of others who are empowered to accomplish their respective responsibilities.
There are three critical keys that every business owner, executive or organizational director needs to follow to make that happen.
1. Clarity of goals.
I used to work at a sleepy, regional telephone company that prided itself on customer service but lacked a strong commitment to innovation. In the mid-1990s the company got a new CEO who changed all that.
Even though the Internet was in its infancy, his goal was to pull that company into the 21st century by transforming the enterprise from "dial tone to data." It was clear that he wanted to make the necessary investment in infrastructure, technology and training to ensure the company was ahead of the needs of our customers. After several years of subsequent acquisitions and strategic divestitures, the company became a next-generation telecommunications organization with a national fiber-optic network, leading edge data centers and a demonstrated commitment to ongoing employee training.
The CEO's transformational goal of moving from "dial tone to data" was a clear, understandable rallying point that was necessary for the organization's survival. Without that clearly stated goal, the organizational transformation implemented by the employees would have stalled.
2. Consistent communication.
This same CEO believed in "over communication" across the enterprise. I was responsible for internal and external communications for the company, and he constantly challenged me to find new ways to communicate our collective objectives and progress company wide.
My team implemented a robust communications schedule for the CEO and his direct reports to travel across the country setting the vision and reinforcing it amongst the various employees and union leaders face-to-face. We used weekly print newsletters so field technicians, who didn't have laptops at the time, were informed when they picked up their daily repair and installation assignments at the remote locations.
We also launched an Intranet as well as weekly conference calls, voicemail recordings and videoconferencing with the executive team, new communication tools had not been widely used across the corporation back then. This relentless commitment to communication ensured alignment with the organizational goals and helped inform every individuals' role toward delivering the expected results.
A leader can't accomplish anything without trust.
This was the most difficult key to implement in our particular transformation from "dial tone to data." That's because for years prior to the new CEO joining the organization, there had been conflict, mistrust and rancor between the unions and senior executives. The animosity got so heated during one contract negotiation cycle that, until contracts were finalized, a few executives received dead animals mailed to their homes and were routinely wakened in the middle of the night by bullhorn sirens in their yards.
The new CEO changed all that with a single gesture. The head of the union was tough as nails but had cancer. Shortly after the CEO joined the company, the union leader had an incapacitating relapse. The CEO used the company jet to fly the union boss to the Mayo Clinic for emergency care.
The CEO explicitly told me and the communications team NOT to promote this action internally or externally. After a few weeks of care and treatment, the union leader returned to his job and widely shared the kind gesture of the CEO on his own. That melted away years of mistrust between the two opposing sides.
The CEO and union boss remained friends for years, even after the CEO left our company. He also attended the union leader's funeral when the cancer became too much. Without the trust of our company's organized labor the organizational transformation would never have occurred.
When it comes to delivering results, it's the people that matter.
Great leaders understand that.