With over thirty years of experience in management and leadership, I have learned that there are at least three keys to effective leadership. To be successful, you must be committed to all three. It is the responsibility of the executive leader to ensure that all three elements are solid. The three keys to effective leadership are: People, Program, and Culture. When organizations begin to struggle, it is typically because these three keys are not properly aligned. I have seen how this works firsthand. I was CEO of a growing company during the worst economy in history. We made a commitment to our people, program and culture; and the results were amazing.
If culture is the foundation of the organization, then the people are the precision gears that create corporate momentum. Without great staff, the organization will flounder. Culture is critical because that is what enables staff to see the vision of the company. Staff need to know where they fit in the organization and how they contribute, individually, to corporate success. When staff can see the vision and understand how they can contribute, the results are overwhelmingly positive.
Making a commitment to the people in the organization means that you as a leader give them opportunities to succeed. It is your job to tell them what needs to be done. It is their job to figure out how to get it done. In my experience, staff who are enabled to make decisions regarding how to get an assignment done are far more committed to the end result than those who are micro-managed. These staff will inevitably make mistakes. The mistakes they make often provide them the experience to succeed at a higher level down the road.
The reason I have program in the middle is because that is the key that pulls the people and the culture together and keeps them working together smoothly. Think of the engine in your car. There is a cylinder block (culture); there are the moving parts, pistons, valves (people), and there is the oil (program). If you do not take care of the oil in your car, the whole thing locks up and becomes useless. Everything overheats and causes irreparable damage. The car comes to a skidding stop. Likewise, if we as leaders do not tend to the programs in our company the whole corporate culture will begin to lockup.
In my case, I had great people and I was nurturing a culture. What I needed was a program. When we created our program, our staff began to get excited. Everyone wanted to participate. We had the majority of our staff pulling together to bring the company through a very difficult economy. They were willing to make sacrifices for the company because they saw the company making sacrifices for them. Suddenly we were one very large team achieving incredible results. For the first time in nearly 50 years we made the best places to work honor in our city.
Culture is the foundation of the organization. It is the bedrock of the company. If the foundation of a building is solid, the structure will stand even when difficult times arise. Conversely, if the foundation is weak, the building is weak and at the first sign of difficulty, the whole thing becomes unstable. Our organizations are like buildings. We must build a strong corporate foundation so that we are prepared to weather any storm that comes our way. If the company is going to be successful, the culture must be cultivated very carefully. When the culture is solid, everyone feels like they are part of a winning team.
I was the CEO of a company with two divisions. I was asked to create a culture for the newest division that leveraged the culture of the original division but was unique. In less than 18 months, staff from the original division wanted to participate in our culture development program. After that initial 18 months, both divisions shared a common culture and the results were phenomenal. We became one very large team working for the good of the enterprise. When times got tough, and the economy collapsed, we had a solid corporate foundation. Our company was able to achieve success that I did not think possible in that economic environment.
In most cases, the people are already working for the organization. The goal of the leader is to help the staff see the vision for the company. Help them understand what you want to build and how they fit in. Culture is equally important. It is the foundation upon which you are building your organization. Every company needs solid people and a solid foundation. Program is in the middle because it is the glue that holds the company together. But it is also pliable. The program will shift and change as environmental factors change. If the company has a firm culture and solid employees, the program can be adjusted based on the goals of the company and changes in the environment.
When all three of these elements are working together, the results can be phenomenal. Commit to these three keys, and you will begin to see changes in the commitment of your staff to the organization. As staff commitment grows, the corporation will begin to perform at a higher level. Sustained momentum achieves remarkable results.