InFocus: The Leadership Diamond

The Business Diamond Framework™ is made up of 4 “Function Diamonds” — the Leadership Diamond, the Support Diamond, the Value-Add Diamond, and the To-Market Diamond. In these “InFocus” blogs, I’ll choose an aspect of the Framework and talk about it in greater detail.

Today’s blog — the Leadership Diamond. Leadership is a broad category. In many businesses it represents some of the following factors:Executives and upper management, the values, vision, mission, and goals of the company, the driving force of stakeholders (and, more frequently, security holders).

Those are probably the ones you considered when you first encountered this Function Diamond. But there are others: There’s the attitude and the underlying flavor of the company. And this can be a powerful force, but also an invisible one. I think back to some of the places I worked when I was just entering the workforce. We had leadership from upper management, we had stated visions and values and missions, and the stakeholders (most frequently my direct reports and customers) provided some of the guidance that we might label leadership here. But when no one was looking, that’s when the real leadership appeared: The joker who magnetized the employees with his or her charisma; the attitudes of employees against upper management and customers; the real feelings and opinions about pay, benefits, and about the products or services we were selling.This is a leadership issue, believe it or not. Like an iceberg, this is unseen force can sink the ship.

So, how can the stated leadership overcome the unstated leadership?

Modeling values is huge and not done enough in many cases. (We’re seeing that right now in the economy where executives of struggling companies are laying people or crying doom but getting bonuses).

Unfortunately, modeling is not enough because there is a world apart between the upper management and the rest of the business.

Communicate. Employees want to feel like they are part of something bigger and upper management would do well to communicate with employees. Obviously, if things are rough, executives need to watch what they say and how they say it. But there are other opportunities to communicate and employees want to hear from their bosses… they just don’t want to hear the company rhetoric. Today’s leadership should be telling their organizations: “Here’s how we plan on keeping the company successful through the recession, and, more importantly, here’s how we plan to help you…”

Get back into the trenches. Without a doubt, everyone is a busy in their jobs, company leadership included. But a boss that comes down from his or her ivory tower from time to time and makes sales calls or deals with an upset client will truly model a company’s values in a way that a memo or a poster of company values could not. Yes, it might be an entire afternoon, but it would be an investment. And they would get the added benefit of seeing the day-to-day pressures that their employees face, which may have changed since they walked the floor in those lower positions.

Revisit the training. This is a problem area I see in businesses all the time. The training, which is supposed to be a step-by-step instruction of the best practices according to leadership, is often based on the best case scenarios. Unfortunately, it’s only when the worst case situations “hit the fan” that the true attitudes of the business (that invisible leadership quotient) comes out. I have yet to see employee training that talks about when ALL the lines are ringing and there’s a line-up of customers that stretches out the door. Sit down with upper management and tear apart the training. You will keep some of it, but you’ll have to revise it to include the worst-case scenario stuff.

Make sure managers have the pulse of their subordinates. They shouldn’t just create quarterly targets and know their department’s numbers, they need to know their people. They need to build professional and respectful relationships with their staff. They need to model and communicate. I’m not talking about creating a “one-big-happy-family” mentality; I’m talking about understanding who in the department is a strength and who is a liability.

Good leadership, in my opinion, is about selling to your employees the idea that they can receive job security and a paycheck by putting in 7.5 quality hours each day. (Well, that’s a start, but it needs to grow from there).

Managers: read Gitomer‘s The Sales Bible and think of your employees as your prospects. And, here’s a good link on management from Harvard Business Publishing you should read.

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