Changing the Approach

culture earning leadership ethical influence genuine influence leadership leadership culture management organizational culture profit profitability profitability killers return on investment servant leadership supervision Mar 07, 2023
top down approach

If we want to have the exponential impact I referenced recently, I don’t believe there’s any other option than to buy into the idea that it all starts at the top! While there will certainly still be plenty of hard days, changing the approach we take will be one of the most critical things we do in addressing our profitability killers - especially the highest risk areas!

In mid 2018, Cindy and I had decided to build an “executive summit” onto the tail end of what was already a fairly full day leadership development event we were hosting. This session was to be geared at putting local business owners and high level executives in a small room together where we facilitated round table discussions around very specific leadership topics that had been addressed throughout the day leading up to that point. We were very intentional about who we invited to be part of this session. The main event had around 200 participants from 70 or so companies but this final 90-minute segment would be paired down to no more than 50. We worked through the complete list of attendees and identified the ones who had the level of responsibility we were targeting for this type of interaction. In talking with each of them one on one about the value that exclusive session could provide them, the most common response we received was that they had never seen an opportunity to be with a group of their peers where the sole focus was on leadership. Many of them were part of industry focused peer groups but none of those had carved out specific time to dial in on developing how they led their organizations. From those conversations, and that first “executive summit” session, our Executive Leadership Elite Think Tank (ELETT for short) was born!

Based on a clear need we saw in putting together that executive summit session, we went to work immediately in crafting the criteria for something we could do for local business owners and executives that would help them key in our building best-in-class leadership cultures in their respective organizations, showing measurable return on the time and money they invested to be part of the group, while creating stronger business relationships with their peers in other industries. I’d love to go down a rabbit hole here and tell you all the amazing things we’ve seen come from this group since, or even how it’s grown into a model we’re able to offer on-site for our larger clients, but I won’t… What I will stress is one of the primary things we’ve held as a core principle for membership in that group; a strategic focus on leading rather than just supervising or managing the teams each member is responsible for. We set some criteria to serve as a baseline for the size of team each participant has, largely based on a scene from The Princess Bride where there’s a comment that goes something like this, “You can’t fight five giants the same way you fight one giant.”

Quite frankly, we were far less interested in the size of the organization or total revenue than we were in ensuring each individual in that group had a heart for leadership. I’ve been around folks who managed facilities with hundreds of employees and did hundreds of millions in annual revenue who couldn’t lead silent prayer! The team members in those organizations were there for a paycheck and when a comparable paycheck was offered somewhere else, that’s where they went. I’ve also had the pleasure of watching individuals with a primary goal of serving their team and the clients who did business with them, and I’ve seen many of those organizations grow exponentially!

If we want to have the best possible impact throughout our organizations and effectively deal with the things that kill so much profitability, we’ll need to change the approach from just managing the processes and procedures to leading the individuals who are engaged in those processes and procedures! I’m certainly not advocating that we no longer need to manage, but a healthy mix can make all the difference so we’ll pick up there next time…