Building a high performing organization is a journey that begins with identifying where you are now, followed by recognizing where you are going, what you’ll need to get there, and how you’ll do it.
This means keeping results and relationships in balance. Great relationships with no performance might be fun, but they won’t create a long-lasting organization. Conversely, an organization with great results and poor relationships will also be short lived—the organization will begin losing its best people and results will decline. The bottom line is that both results and relationships are required for high performing organizations.
Our SLII® leadership framework, which works so well for one-on-one management, can also be used as a guide for leading an organization as a whole. Let me give you an example.
- In the earliest stage of a start-up organization, results are typically low because goals are new and most people haven’t worked together before. Relationships, however, tend to be high because when people first come together to create a new venture, they are enthusiastic. People look to their leaders to provide direction and get the organization moving. Leaders need to focus on establishing a clear purpose, vision, and values.
- Growing pains begin to surface in the second stage. Relationships typically dip when the difficulty of beginning a new business sets in. This is when issues around systems and structures can arise, along with the potential of dissatisfaction with leadership. People need coaching from their leaders—both direction and support—to keep results moving forward and to help them deal with frustrations typical of this stage. It’s important now for leaders to find ways to balance the organization’s purpose and passion with the realities of staying in business.
- In the third stage, skills are strengthened and strategies are put into place. The organization is becoming more creative and nimble, yet relationships are variable because new challenges arise almost daily. People are competent but not yet fully confident—they still need support and encouragement to build and sustain relationships. Energy is focused on both internal and external customer results.
- Finally, when goals are being met and morale is high, everyone knows they are part of a high performing organization. People work together well and take responsibility for both results and relationships. Leaders are available when they are needed, and customers are raving fans. Direction and support come from individuals and teams throughout the organization. Using a delegating style, leaders encourage autonomous decision making within established boundaries. To ensure organizational growth and progress, ongoing learning remains a top priority.
How can results and relationships get out of balance in an organization? When new CEOs come in and immediately go to their favorite leadership style rather than using one that is needed. Wanting to make a quick impact, new leaders often push too hard for results, try to change too many things, and forget about the people side of the equation. They don’t take the time to provide clear direction, listen to concerns, and enlist people in the process.
Contrast this to the approach Alan Mulally used in taking over Ford Motor Company when it was on the brink of failure. Mulally used a people-centered approach featuring a compelling vision statement: “People working together as a lean, global enterprise for automotive leadership … measured by the satisfaction of our customers, employees, investors, dealers, suppliers, and communities.” His strategy turned the company around.
It’s easy to get off track when balancing the quality of results and relationships—and it can happen in any type of organization or industry. Applying the appropriate leadership style and following a situational framework at each stage of development can help ensure a high performing organization that successfully navigates each stage of development, now and in the future.
Want to learn more about organizational leadership? Download the free 60-page summary of Leading at a Higher Level. It’s available for free on The Ken Blanchard Companies’ website. Use this link to access the summary.
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