Posted by Bill Dann

Those of you who have used our Vision Navigation® strategic planning system know that I often refer to the Vision Navigation® Chart as representing a contract between the CEO and the board. That is, the CEO commits to deliver agreed upon projects and targets on time, and the board commits to support the CEO if he/she delivers.

But recent experience with an impressive management team made me see that there is another “contract” at play in getting improved performance in an organization. It is the contract between the leader and his or her management team.

Terms of the leader’s contract with the team

The contract I saw evolving in this recent client planning session had the following “terms and conditions”, if you will. The leader pledged to:

  • Give the management team full reign to input and define the long-term vision.
  • Give the management team the decisive role in determining the strategies for growth/success.
  • Allow the management team to define the most important barriers to optimal performance.
  • Invest resources in eliminating those barriers
  • Take political risks and expend political capital in removing barriers.
  • Commit his leadership skills in “selling” the agenda to the workforce.
  • Be held accountable for delivery of outcomes associated with his pledges.
  • Allow the management team to set its own timetable for achieving project targets and completion of milestone outcomes.

Management team’s exchange

Unstated, but well understood by the members of the management team, was that they were expected to deliver on the following in exchange for delivery by the leader on his pledges:

  • Adopt a positive, optimistic attitude about the probability of achieving meaningful change after years of frustration at not being able to do so under previous leaders.
  • Deliver outcomes and hit project targets on time
  • Assure that their respective teams support and implement the strategic agenda
  • Overcome highly probable resistance from middle management
  • Work as a team vs. independent “silos” (as has been the case in the past) in honestly defining and working on solutions to problems.
  • Actively work to integrate systems and processes, and realize synergies between operational units.

The “servant leader”

6-11newsletterWhat I witnessed was the best example to date in a long history of working with leaders of what many authors call the “servant leader” (Here is a good definition of a servant leader.) It was powerful to watch it unfold. Unspoken was a very strong contract along the lines that I have outlined. It was clear to me that everyone in the room, whose attention was fixed and active for three days, understood that they were left with no choice but to deliver at a high level, having been given the opportunity that the planning processes afforded them and the commitments made by their leader.

Your route to improved performance

As talked about in the last issue, improved performance begins with setting the right future agenda. But, it is now even more clear to me that the process of setting that agenda is as important as the agenda itself in assuring that improved performance is the ultimate result.

If you have interest in exploring how to get similar results, send us your comments or contact us to talk about how to go about this in your own organization. This could be done via e-mail or in a short phone call. To set up either one, simply send us e-mail us.