My recent client work has revealed many senior leadership teams experiencing a great deal of angst. This is partially due to the speed of change, a challenging marketplace, and decreased revenue. My observations is that it’s also a direct result of the absence of strategic leadership conversations.
Over the past few months, I’ve repeatedly observed the following pattern.
Competition is intensifying. --> Teams are pushing harder, faster, and further trying to keep up. --> Teams aren’t creating margin for deep conversations. --> Critical topics aren’t getting airtime. --> Teams are employing short-term, temporary solutions to problems.
The result? Angst is mounting due to unaddressed root issues.
As healthy teams know, it requires discipline and courage to slow down and talk about the most critical long-term issues. Directing full attention to only tactical, execution-oriented issues is not only short-sighted, but extremely detrimental to the long game. Remember, unidentified or unaddressed root issues will become detrimental to your culture. In other words, if you’re perpetually treating symptoms of an issue you haven’t made time to strategically and intentionally address, your team will eventually be dealing with the side effects of all those “temporary fix” band-aids. If your team focuses only on tactical execution and never on strategic planning, deterioration will set in.
It’s a long-term, comprehensive view that drives overall growth, development and results for organizations.
Failure to create margin for the strategic conversations also often leads to a focus solely on the “smarts” of the business–things like processes, products and services. This disproportionate amount of focus on the technical aspects of success prevents teams from staying focused on the health of the organization, a trap that has the greatest negative long-term impact on culture.
The downward slide for culture and engagement begins when leadership health and overall organizational health are compromised in the name of a quick fix. If sustainability is your goal, it’s essential to stay intensely focused on team health. Having the right strategic conversations as a leadership team is good preventative medicine!
Here are some diagnostic questions to jump start your senior leadership team’s big strategic conversations. At a minimum, a healthy organization revisits these questions quarterly.
What might you suspect or fear an insightful observer would say is your biggest problem or challenge?
What feels off?
How honest and open with one another are our team members?
How completely aligned are we?
What’s the elephant in the room, the one we may be in denial about?
What risk must we take in the next week? Month? By the end of the quarter?
What painful decision have we been avoiding that we need to make?
If our followers didn't have to follow us, would they choose to?
What part of the current reality is preventing our best work?
Despite that reality, what’s our next best step?
Remember, it’s a leadership team’s job to understand and respond to their organizational landscape, including anticipating where problems will exist. If your team is naturally inclined to move forward as quickly as possible and employ short solutions, you would be wise to pump the breaks, step back and get an accurate reading on the organization’s current health, effectiveness and sustainability for the long-term.