LeadershipWatch

6 Contrarian Reasons Why You’re Lucky to Be a Leader Today

Our Guest Post on Switch & Shift:

logo-for-web-largeNobody ever said that being a leader is simple. Certainly not in today’s world where changes seem to happen at the speed of light; where communication and collaboration are heavily impacted by new technologies; where management techniques from the past no longer appear to provide an adequate answer to the challenges of the future. Being a 21st century leader is a role not to be envied! Or is it?

Let’s look at it from a different angle. Today’s business reality offers leaders a number of interesting advantages. In fact, if people look to you for leadership today, you should consider yourself lucky. Why? Let me give you at least 6 reasons. Continue reading …

Leiding geven aan interculturele teams: Begrijp je de cultuurverschillen binnen jouw team?

This is a Dutch translation of a previously published Leadershipwatch article on how to deal with cross-cultural differences within your team. Click to read original article.

Voor leidinggevenden is het vermogen om mensen op één lijn te krijgen, om mensen te aligneren, een cruciale vaardigheid. Immers: mensen die echt gealigneerd zijn dragen gezamenlijke beslissingen alsof het hun eigen beslissingen zijn (in plaats van mee te bewegen omdat ze moeilijk anders kunnen); handelen vanuit overtuiging en toewijding (in plaats van mee te liften op de energie van anderen); en committeren zich persoonlijk tot het bereiken van de gewenste resultaten. Mensen aligneren was al belangrijk toen Henry Ford zijn automobielbedrijf van nul af uit de grond stampte, en wordt in de snel veranderende wereld van de toekomst nog belangrijker. Met de globalisering stijgt het aantal nationaliteiten en culturen waar je in je werkomgeving mee te maken krijgt. Hoe beïnvloedt dit gedragingen van mensen? Wat betekent dit voor het nemen en uitvoeren van beslissingen in teams? Hoe ga je hier als leider goed mee om?

Interculturele leiderschapskwaliteiten zijn in de 21e eeuw van cruciaal belang

Werken met interculturele teams, en de misverstanden waar je dan zoal tegenaan kunt lopen, was tot voor kort vooral een bron van sappige verhalen.  Tegenwoordig echter beseffen steeds meer leidinggevenden dat culturele verschillen een bedrijf of organisatie voor serieuze uitdagingen kan plaatsen. Als zij er in slagen om culturele verschillen te overbruggen, waarbij mensen de voordelen van de culturele voorkeuren van elkaar leren begrijpen en combineren, kunnen zij het succes van hun bedrijf vergroten. Als zij hier niet in slagen, staat de deur wagenwijd open voor miscommunicatie, tegenwerking, en conflicten, die succesvolle groei en innovatie serieus in de weg kunnen staan.

Daar komt nog een bedenking bovenop. De buitenlandse investeringsstroom was de afgelopen jaren grotendeels eenrichtingsverkeer:  westerse bedrijven richtten hun blik op het oosten, en openden dochterondernemingen of joint ventures in China en andere Aziatische tijgerlanden. Westerse culturele invloeden en denkpatronen verspreidden zich in het oosten. Chinezen volgden westerse leiderschap programma’s, haalden hun diploma’s in Amerikaanse en Europese business schools, en maakten kennis met westerse managementprincipes. In de toekomst echter kunnen we meer fusies en overnames van Oost naar West verwachten, zoals Chinese bedrijven als Huawei Technologies, Lenovo en Geely nu al laten zien. Voor de nieuwe generatie leiders, of ze nu opgroeiden in het Oosten of het Westen, wordt het leren overbruggen van cultuurverschillen dus nog een stuk belangrijker.

Als ik leiderschap teams begeleid bij het omgaan met de uitdagingen van intercultureel samenwerken, grijp ik dikwijls terug naar wat ik in het verleden heb geleerd van Fons Trompenaars en Charles Hampden-Turner. Ik  heb het geluk gehad met hen samen te werken en aan den lijve te ondervinden hoe je bedrijfsresultaten meetbaar kunt verbeteren door cultuurverschillen binnen management teams te overbruggen en echte alignment te creëren tussen mensen.

Ik leerde drie cruciale lessen, die vandaag relevanter zijn dan ooit:

1) Alles begint met het creëren van een wederzijds bewustzijn van de cultuurverschillen die succesvol samenwerken hinderen.

Succesvolle leiders zijn niet bang om een discussie uit te lokken over de cultuurverschillen die zij in hun teams denken te zien, en over de impact van deze verschillen op prestaties en gedrag. Zij vinden zo’n discussie nodig.  Ze begrijpen dat het creëren van een open gesprek cruciaal is om onderling vertrouwen en respect te creëren.

2) Culturele verschillen kun je enkel overbruggen als je begrijpt waar ze vandaan komen.

Ik ontmoet vaak leidinggevende teams waar de discussie zich beperkt tot het uitwisselen van standpunten, en het overeenkomen van acties om de negatieve gevolgen van de gepercipieerde verschillen te beperken. Succesvolle leiders begrijpen dat dit niet volstaat om de situatie blijvend te verbeteren. Zij willen verder gaan dan enkel zien waar de culturele hinderpalen zitten. Zij willen begrijpen waar deze verschillen vandaan komen, ervan leren, en zij willen dat hun teams ook echt begrijpen en leren.  Zij weten dat het in dergelijke discussies nooit draait om ‘juist’ versus ‘verkeerd’, maar altijd om ‘percepties’ en ‘waarden’ die er achter verschillende percepties schuilen.  Zij begrijpen dat het van iedereen extra inspanning en openheid zal vragen om tot dit niveau te komen, maar zijn ervan overtuigd dat dit de sleutel is om mensen in het team daadwerkelijk nader tot elkaar te brengen.

3) Interculturele verschillen overbruggen vraagt een oplossing waarbij culturele waarden elkaar versterken, niet een klassiek compromis.

Succesvolle leiders zien in culturele verschillen een opportuniteit om het beste van beide werelden met elkaar te verenigen. Dit betekent nieuwe manieren creëren om te kijken naar en om te gaan met de verschillen in onze cultureel bepaalde voorkeuren. Niet elkaar bekampen, maar juist onze krachten combineren. Zij vermijden compromissen; deze leiden meestal enkel tot tijdelijke en middelmatige uitkomsten. Zij zoeken naar oplossingen waarbij beide culturele waarden elkaar versterken en bereiken zo de beste resultaten.

‘Als we beide water in onze wijn doen, eindigen we beide met slechte wijn.  Maar als we de kwaliteit van onze beste druiven combineren, creëren we misschien een fantastische nieuwe wijn.’

Deze video kreeg ik van iemand die dagelijks tegen interculturele verschillen aanloopt: een krachtig betoog door Devdutt Pattanaik.  Wat aan de lange kant misschien, maar ik ben ervan overtuigd dat je het net als ik de moeite waard zult vinden.

devduttpattanaik_2009i.embed_thumbnail

Welke interculturele verschillen neem jij waar in jouw team? Hoe beïnvloeden deze verschillen de team prestaties? Hoe ga jij om met deze cultuurverschillen? Hoe creëer jij een sterker gealigneerd team? Ik kijk uit naar je reacties! 

Als je nieuwe Leadershipwatch artikelen in je mailbox wilt ontvangen, aarzel dan niet en schrijf je in bovenaan deze pagina. Je persoonlijke gegevens zullen strikt vertrouwelijk blijven.

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Aad is een internationaal organisatieadviseur, verandermanager, alignment expert, leiderschapsteam begeleider en executive coach. Hij is oprichter en managing partner van HRS Business Transformation Services en werkt internationaal met senior leiders en leiderschapsteams op drie kerngebieden: ‘leidinggeven aan complexe veranderingen’, ‘intercultureel leidershap’ en ‘post-acquisitie integratie’. Vind hier meer over Aad en HRS services. Contacteer Aad voor meer informatie.

Sustainable Change: Know How to Handle Complexity Across Cultures

Clocks showing the time

Business leaders of today face a high level of complexity. Globalization, technological evolutions, market shifts, an increased pace of change. These have changed the business landscape. Business environments are more cross-cultural now than ever before. Cultural differences are changing working relationships and are impacting business success. How do 21st century leaders deal with this complexity in a sustainable way? How do they align cultural differences when dealing with complexity? Let’s pick out one important element!

Cultural differences in how we manage time can hinder us in handling complexity

The valuation of time is different in various cultures, and this is often overlooked.

I vividly remember the discussions in this leadership team, which was putting together a strategic plan in response to the changes in the marketplace. The team was a mix of American, European, and Asian executives. The debates were very difficult and they had a hard time coming to results. The core reason for this was a different perception on how to manage complexity, caused by a different valuation of time. The difference boiled down to the following: one part (let’s call it the Western part) of the team saw complexity as something you want to control. They focused on planning and control techniques. In their minds time was seizable, controllable, measurable. They used words like ‘time is money’, and ‘we are running late’. In their thinking it was all about analyzing current and desired situation, and about getting from A to B in the shortest time. They believed the situation should be tackled by focusing on efficiency and control, process and procedures. Complexity had a rather negative connotation: you want to stop it or limit it.

The other part (let’s call it the Eastern part) of the team had a totally different valuation of time. For them time was not linear, but rather cyclic. Not something you want to control to get things done, but something that allows you to explore and learn. For them the change was not predefined, from A to B. On the contrary, they did not want to make prefixed choices, but wanted to take time to explore. More like following the flow to see what it can bring. For them the focus was not on plans, actions and targets, but on relationships. For them time was a means to develop and cultivate closer relationships, like a seed planted to grow. Good relationships would allow them to deal with whatever complex change they would encounter. In fact, their whole perception of complexity was different. Complexity had a more positive connotation: it offers new chances and possibilities. (Did you know that in the Chinese language words like ‘valuable’, ‘promising’, ‘potential’, and ‘deep’ are synonyms for complexity?)

For a nice read about how our perception of time affects doing business in China I recommend this article of Justin Shuttleworth.

The difference in time valuation, which Fons Trompenaars & Charles Hampden-Turner describe in their book ‘Riding the waves of culture’ as ‘sequential’ versus ‘synchronic’ time orientation, hindered the team significantly. ‘The West’ had the feeling that ‘The East’ was not efficient, not decisive, not structured enough to come to a good strategic plan. ‘The East’ had the feeling that ‘The West’ was careless, single-minded and pushy, not patient enough to come to a good strategic plan. The executive team was experiencing difficulty in finding an effective way to deal with the complex change, and therefore, so was the organization.

The difference between sequential and synchronic orientated cultures can be experienced when Western and Eastern cultures meet each other. But be aware not to generalize too easily and make it a caricature between East and West. Within the East and the West you’ll find nuances. For instance, in Europe you can find cultural differences between northern and southern cultures, which are comparable.

Time Valuation

How successful leaders deal with cultural differences in time orientation

The more organizations are confronted with cross-cultural collaboration (internally and externally), the more they will experience this difference in time orientation. And this will affect the way people respond to complexity and change. Successful leaders are aware of this and pay special attention to aligning these different cultural orientations.

  • Are you paying attention to signals that reveal differences in time orientation?
  • Do you make others aware of these different orientations?
  • Do you stimulate people to share their way of looking at the complex change they face?
  • Are you enabling people to better understand each other’s orientation?
  • Do you understand the strengths of both orientations?
  • Are your people aware of these strengths?
  • How do you encourage people to combine these strengths?
  • How does your team combine efficiency and speed with exploring new, different and stronger relationships?
 
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Photo: Alan Cleaver/Flickr (Creative Commons)

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Aad is an international business advisor,  change leader, senior leadership team facilitator, and executive coach. He is founder and managing partner at HRS Business Transformation Services where he works with senior executives and leadership teams internationally on three key topics: ‘leading complex change’, ‘cross-cultural leadership’, and ‘post-merger integration’. Find out more about Aad, our team, and HRS’ services. If you would like to invite Aad to your organization feel free to contact us here.

Creating Team Alignment: Team Development Initiatives Should Fit Today’s Business Reality

Team Alignment Brochure

One of the things our work with multinational companies has taught us is the growing importance of cross-team collaboration. For 21st century businesses it has become a vital prerequisite for building success. And this has an impact on the team development initiatives you undertake.

 We see two major evolutions taking place in today’s business reality, which affect team collaboration:

  • Mergers & acquisitions, alliances, and other new emerging forms of collaboration between organizations involve much more cross-border and cross-cultural aspects than before.

Management and employees are in many cases not used to deal with these new circumstances. Cross-cultural challenges increase the degree of complexity of successful collaboration. When results are not met, when motivation is going down, when irritation and emotions flare up, and we take a closer look at what is going on, it almost always comes down to the fact that there is not enough people alignment within and between teams to cope effectively with the cross-cultural and cross-border challenges they face. And this turns out to be a crucial obstacle, which prevents the organization to be successful.

  • Business environments are changing faster than before, and therefore businesses need to manage change differently.

Long term planning and fixed predetermined steps are no longer the key to success. It has become crucially important to be able to navigate and adjust course during the journey. Leaders need to develop cultures in which adaptability, agility, and resilience are key qualities. And these do not develop automatically. They require a company-wide ability of people and teams to continuously create alignment with each other to find and implement the right response to the changes taking place around them.

Both trends demonstrate the importance of having aligned teams that are able to collaborate successfully in these new circumstances. Our experience is that team development has shifted from “a rather soft aspect of business, which we address when we have the time” to “one of the essential hard success factors that make or break our organization”. And this means that we need to revisit the way we approach team development. We see the following points of attention:

  • Building team alignment requires a strong focus on the challenges and issues your business is facing. In other words, team development initiatives have no sustainable effect when they do not support the team to transform its real life business challenges into concrete team actions that have clear and positive results in the field. 
  • Team alignment is a process. It requires a sustained effort of ‘learning by doing’, in which there is an incremental deepening of the level of alignment and a recurring follow up on results. A good mixture is needed between off site (reflection, deepening) and on site (real life monitoring, coaching, doing) activities.
Team alignment brochure showing how to develop strong teams.

Click to Download Brochure

Is your company struggling with cross-team collaboration? Do you experience a lack of team alignment? In that case our Team Alignment Program might interest you. It combines two+ decades of experience in working with teams internationally, especially also teams facing the evolutions described above.

 
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Aad is an international business advisor, alignment expert, leadership team facilitator and executive coach. As founder and managing partner at HRS Business Transformation Services he works with executives and leadership teams internationally on three key topics: ‘leading complex change’, ‘cross-cultural leadership’, and ‘post-merger integration’. Find out more about Aad and HRS’ services. If you would like to invite Aad to your organization feel free to contact us here.

Verandermanagement: Waarom het aligneren van mensen cruciaal is voor zij die veranderingen leiden

Puzzle pieces, leading change
This is a Dutch translation of a previously published Leadershipwatch article on the importance of people alignment, especially for those who lead change. Click to read original article.
 
‘We hadden een duidelijke strategie uitgezet, maar ik zie nog steeds geen concrete resultaten.’

‘Hoe vaak moet ik mijn mensen er nog van overtuigen dat deze verandering belangrijk is voor ons?  Ze zeggen dat ze het begrijpen, maar na verloop van tijd grijpt iedereen terug zijn oude gedrag, alsof ik nooit iets heb gezegd.’

‘Iedereen zal je vertellen dat we weten waar we de komende vijf jaar naartoe bewegen, omdat we samen onze toekomstvisie hebben uitgetekend.  Maar als je de mensen in ons team apart zou vragen wat deze visie precies betekent voor ons bedrijf, krijg je vijftien compleet verschillende verhalen.’

‘We hadden de afgelopen tijd veel meer kunnen bereiken als iedereen de schouders onder deze beslissingen had gezet.  We verliezen terrein omdat sommigen zich niet betrokken voelen en de urgentie niet inzien.  Ze doen wat hen gevraagd wordt, maar zijn niet echt gecommitteerd.’

Komen deze uitspraken je bekend voor?  Het is een slechts een greep uit de uitspraken en situaties waar ik in mijn dagelijkse werk als begeleider van complexe veranderingstrajecten mee word geconfronteerd.  Al deze situaties hebben het volgende met elkaar gemeen:  mensen dachten dat ze op één lijn zaten – als team gealigneerd (aligned) waren om het met een Engels woord te zeggen – maar waren dat in feite niet.  Een onderschatte situatie. In elk van deze praktijkgevallen bleek het niet echt gealigneerd zijn van de mensen een veel ernstiger obstakel te zijn voor het bereiken van de gewenste resultaten, dan over het algemeen werd vermoed.

We ondervinden het allemaal:  de wereld om ons heen is in rap tempo aan het veranderen.  En ik trap een open deur in als ik stel dat effectieve samenwerking cruciaal is om succesvol met deze veranderingen om te kunnen gaan, om als bedrijf innovatief te blijven en de gewenste toekomst vorm te geven.

Hoe kan het dan dat bovenstaande organisaties, die toch stuk voor stuk veel energie, tijd en middelen besteedden aan het begeleiden en motiveren van hun werknemers, moesten constateren dat hun inspanningen niet resulteerden in het gewenste enthousiasme, in succesvol teamwerk, en in de gewenste resultaten?

De lijst met mogelijke verklaringen verschilt van organisatie tot organisatie, omdat de karakters van de mensen die er werken, de specifiek uitdagingen en de aard van de veranderingstrajecten van elkaar verschillen. Toch hebben ruim twintig jaar ervaring mij geleerd dat de volgende oorzaken veelal een hardnekkige en cruciale rol spelen:

  • De neiging om ons te verliezen in actiegerichtheid.  Opgejaagd door de drukte om ons heen zijn we vaak ongeduldig en hebben we de neiging om beslissingen te nemen zonder het onderliggende probleem goed genoeg te begrijpen. We beginnen onmiddellijk aan oplossingen en uitvoering te denken, terwijl het probleem vaak wordt veroorzaakt door het feit dat betrokken collega’s gewoonweg onvoldoende met elkaar gealigneerd zijn – vaak zonder het zelf echt te beseffen;
  • Geloven dat investeren in menselijke relaties iets is wat we ook wel later kunnen doen, als er meer tijd voor is.  Voor bedrijven en organisaties is de druk om te presteren en bij te blijven onveranderlijk groot, wat ervoor zorgt dat mensen in de regel allergisch zijn voor tijdverlies.  We hebben instinctief de neiging om de nadruk te leggen op de ‘harde’ kant van veranderingen (structuren, procedures, systemen, etc) omdat we denken dat die het snelst meetbare resultaten opleveren.  De moeilijkere ‘zachte’ mensenkant wordt uitgesteld tot later. Maar het is juist deze ‘zachte’ mensenkant die de meeste ‘harde’ en blijvende bedrijfsresultaten op kan leveren;
  • Onderschatten wat er precies voor nodig is om mensen echt te aligneren.  Echt krachtige samenwerking tussen mensen ontstaat pas als er sprake is van wederzijds respect, openheid en vertrouwen.  Leiders die deze elementen hoog in het vaandel dragen, en werken aan openheid, respect en vertrouwen binnen hun teams, kunnen bergen verzetten.  Als openheid en vertrouwen ontbreken doen er zich soms onaangename verrassingen voor.  In de voorbeelden hierboven werd er gecommuniceerd en geluisterd.  Mensen knikten ‘ja’ maar waren niet echt gecommitteerd.  Op de een of andere manier beweerden ze dat ze begrepen wat er van hen gevraagd werd en dat ze het er ook mee eens waren, maar diep vanbinnen voelden ze zichzelf niet echt betrokken.  Op de een of andere manier namen ze deel aan de discussie, maar voelden ze zich niet veilig genoeg om hun bedenkingen openlijk te delen met de anderen.

Als mensen echt gealigneerd zijn dragen zij gezamenlijk genomen beslissingen alsof het hun eigen beslissing is (in plaats van mee te bewegen omdat het moeilijk anders kan),  handelen zij vanuit overtuiging en toewijding (in plaats van mee te liften op de energie van anderen), en committeren zij zich persoonlijk tot het bereiken van de gewenste resultaten. 

Succesvolle leiders hebben het vermogen om mensen te aligneren, juist in complexe en snel veranderende omgevingen. Ze besteden bewust veel aandacht en energie aan het uitbouwen van alignment en zien dit als essentieel onderdeel van hun rol als leider. Zij beseffen dat het essentieel is om het succes van hun organisatie duurzaam uit te kunnen bouwen.

Hoe bouw jij alignment? Ik ben benieuwd naar je ervaringen, opmerkingen of vragen.

Als je nieuwe Leadershipwatch artikelen direct in je mailbox wilt ontvangen, aarzel dan niet en schrijf je in bovenaan deze pagina. Je persoonlijke gegevens zullen strikt vertrouwelijk blijven.

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Aad is een internationaal organisatieadviseur, change leader, alignment expert, leiderschapsteam begeleider en executive coach. Hij is oprichter en managing partner van HRS Business Transformation Services en ondersteunt internationaal leiders en leiderschapsteams op vier gebieden: ‘leidinggeven aan complexe veranderingen’, ‘intercultureel leidershap’, ‘post-merger integratie’, en ‘versterken van business performance’. Vind hier meer over Aad en over onze HRS diensten. Of contacteer Aad voor een vrijblijvend gesprek.

Organizational Alignment: The Power of Cross-Organizational Networks

Network of people

How do organizations deal with the changes in today’s business environment? How do they keep up with the pace of change, let alone get ahead of it? How do they innovate and stay competitive? How do they increase their adaptability? How do they create organizational alignment quickly enough? Do they hang on to hierarchical structures as the main drivers for change? Or do they explore and stimulate cross-organizational networks as a new way to enable people and teams to collaborate more effectively across borders?

I witness a tenacious tendency within many organizations: the more things change around us, the more we tend to hold on to what is familiar to us. We tend to focus more on hierarchical structures and managerial processes. It gives us a feeling of control and overview. But, in fact, it is limiting collaboration, flexibility and adaptability. Many organizations struggle with this phenomenon.

“WHEN BUSINESS WAS FINE WE DIDN’T HEAR ANYBODY ABOUT IT. BUT NOW THE MARKET IS CHANGING EVERYBODY COMPLAINS ABOUT HOW INTERNAL SILOS ARE HINDERING US AND HOW THEY SEEM TO GROW STRONGER.”

Leaders need to stimulate exactly the opposite of what is often the organization’s reflex. Encourage people to collaborate more across borders instead of less. Leaders need to stimulate the creation of cross-border networks that combine the best knowledge, skills, experience, attitude available across the organization, needed to get a certain job done. 

To be clear, in itself this is not new. Cross-unit and cross-team collaboration have always been important for a company’s success. But in the 21st century business reality there are two main reasons why cross-organizational collaboration has become more crucial than ever before:

  • The accelerated rate of change: organizations need to be able to adapt quicker in a more agile way
  • The changing relationships between companies and their customers, suppliers, and competitors: traditional boundaries are diminishing, and this calls for new ways of cross-border collaboration

I am not saying that hierarchical structures and managerial processes are no longer needed, but they will no longer be enough to deal with today’s challenges. Leaders need to put focus on creating and stimulating cross-organizational networking as an additional structure for collaboration. A new way of collaboration that leads to higher adaptability, agility, and responsiveness with respect to the new circumstances.

“Traditional hierarchies and processes, which together form an organization’s “operating system”, do a great job of handling the operational needs of most companies, but they are too rigid to adjust to the quick shifts in today’s marketplace. The most agile, innovative companies add a second operating system, built on a fluid, network like structure, to continually formulate and implement strategy.” – John Kotter, Harvard Business Review, Accelerate, 2012 (read the article)

Yet, many organizations do not have cross-organizational networks or leaders are not aware of these networks and don’t use them.

“While common sense might suggest that cross-departmental support for innovation would be a good thing, getting everyone involved is not a widespread practice. Survey respondents said they typically ask only certain departments for ideas, while other departments are relegated to implementation.” –  Economist Intelligence Unit, Cultivating Business-led Innovation, 2012 (download the research report)

I have witnessed with my own eyes how cross-organizational networks can have a positive impact on collaboration and how they can boost a company’s success. One of the examples is a client we work with who has faced fundamental changes in the market. Growing competition from the east; increasingly demanding customers; technological advancements that require longer, more complex, and more expensive research and development cycles; alliances with suppliers to create pools of joint innovation, research and knowledge sharing. The board has chosen early in the process to fundamentally change the way divisions, units and teams needed to collaborate. Existing structures are not thrown overboard but are supplemented with cross-organizational networks. Key objectives are on the one hand to speed up the research & development process and on the other hand to create more alignment between the departments and teams of engineering, sales, and customer service. Networks can have a different focus: streamline knowledge sharing, tackle specific cross-border issues, act as sounding board to provide a second opinion, etc. Networks don’t stop at the company borders but can also include customers and suppliers. Some networks have become institutionalized; others are contemporary and will dissolve over time.

Together with the top 30 executives of the company we shared and discussed the progress they made over the past year. They reported the following results:

  • A higher level of innovative thinking
  • Better and faster decision making
  • Better use of knowledge, expertise, experience, ideas
  • Stronger basis for successful implementation/execution
  • Better detection and development of key talent
  • Motivating environment for employees to learn and grow

How did they do it? How did this team of executives create the new way of cross-organizational collaboration? Three aspects in their leadership behavior stick out:

Stimulate networks actively and openly:

  • Analyze existing networks. Every organization has its hidden and informal networks. Make sure you understand where they are, who is in it, how they operate, and what their outcome is. Focus on stimulating and supporting the networks that add value. Stop or replace the networks that are not.
  • Make networks a ‘formal’ part of your organization. Make them visible to everyone. Explain their importance and encourage them. At the same time discourage silo behavior.
  • Focus your energy on communicating vision and strategic priorities and less on managing processes. Focus on the results and set the strategic boundaries. Allow the networks to fill in the rest of the strategy and to come up with ways to manage the results.
  • Stimulate diversity within the networks. Make sure they combine people from different teams, cultures, expertise, and locations.

“The most effective networks connect to people with diverse expertise, from a broad range of functions, and across different locations.” – MIT Sloan Management Review, The collaborative organization: How to make employee networks really work, 2010 (read the article)

Make your people’s ability to create cross-border alignment a top priority:

  • Invest time and energy in supporting leaders, employees and teams to learn how to create people alignment across borders and cultures. Define it as a core competency for everybody. Set up development and coaching programs to build the required mindset and skills.
  • Create an alignment culture throughout the organization. Make the importance of people alignment explicit in your communication, in your strategy, in your behavior, and in your reward system.
  • Stimulate a learning environment where people can build successes together. Register these successes. Share, communicate and celebrate them actively throughout the organization.

“Being a successful network requires more than having the right knowledge around the table. If the people are not able to align their different areas of expertise, experiences, objectives, cultures, they will be useless as a network.” – cross-divisional network member

Change the mindset of people towards failure:

  • Start at the top. Understand that cross-organizational networks need a certain level of space, if you want them to become successful. Make sure the strategic priorities are clear, but allow networks to fill it in and experiment. Let go of the urge to control every part of the process.
  • Give networks space to make mistakes and to learn from it. This can be in contradiction with what people are used to. There can be a fear for failure within the organization that can hinder this new way of collaboration. Be explicit to your people that mistakes are not failures, as long as they allows us to learn and grow individually and collectively (also read my earlier article on this).

“One who fears the future, who fears failure, limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity more intelligently to begin again. There is no disgrace in honest failure; there is disgrace in fearing to fail.” – Henry Ford, My Life and Work, p. 47

What do you think of cross-organizational networks? What are your experiences with networks? What are your questions? Share your comments below.

 
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Photo: WebWizzard/Flickr (Creative Commons)

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Aad is an international business advisor, change leader, people alignment expert, leadership team facilitator and executive coach. He is founder and managing partner at HRS Business Transformation Services where he works with executives and leadership teams internationally on four topics: ‘leading complex change’, ‘cross-cultural leadership’, ‘post-merger integration’, and ‘amplifying business performance’. Find out more about Aad and HRS’ services. If you would like to invite Aad to your organization or team feel free to contact Aad here.

Team Alignment: What if Your Team is Stuck?

Rope in a knot, team

Do you recognize this situation? A team is confronted with an important problem, and it has to tackle it. All team members are actively discussing and debating the problem, trying to come up with a proper solution. Everybody shares a clear will to solve this together and to reach alignment as a team. Everything that can be said about the problem is mentioned. All opinions and suggestions are brought to the table. But somehow the team cannot come to a decision. Somehow the team seems incapable of taking the last hurdle and making a final choice. The team is stuck! It develops signals of frustration and paralysis!

What do you do as a leader when you witness your team is paralyzed by indecisiveness?

Your ability to create team alignment is crucial in building business success (see my previous articles about the importance of people and team alignment). But does this mean that you always have to continue team discussions until you reach a shared decision, no matter how long it takes? No! For instance, sometimes the consequences of a decision are so extreme that a team can feel uncertain about taking this responsibility. Or, for instance, some teams can suffer from perfectionism. They try to reach the ‘perfect’ solution, but fail to find it because they are never satisfied. In these cases it will be counterproductive to keep on circling; the leader will have to step in. But is taking a decision yourself not ruining the team alignment and mutual commitment? Only if you do it carelessly! So how do you take action without damaging the team alignment? How do you do it in a way that still creates team commitment?

Here are four leadership traits that break your team’s indecisiveness without destroying team alignment and commitment:

Align with your team upfront what to do if the team is stuck

Avoid situations where you unexpectedly jump in and overrule the team. Prepare together upfront for the possibility that the team cannot come to a decision and decide on a procedure.

Make sure that all arguments / opinions / suggestions are exchanged

Indecisiveness of teams is often caused by a lack of knowing and understanding each other’s opinions, perceptions, suggestions, etc. Check actively if everything is on the table and there is no mutual misunderstanding. If not, there is still a lack of team alignment. In that case you make the team aware of it and continue to guide the team to alignment. If yes, and the team acknowledges it, they will accept you to step in and take a decision.

Focus on the common interest

Sometimes a team can get stuck because they don’t see the broader picture. Always make sure your decision is aiming at the common interest and explain to the team the broader picture. Explain why your decision is important and how it will serve the common interest.

Show that it is not about you

There is a big difference between taking the front position and keeping your team out of the wind versus showing how powerful you are and forcing your team to step into the wind. When you take a decision make sure you show your team that it is about you taking your responsibility. Not about you showing your power! Make sure you do not act based upon ego.

A striking example of these leadership traits is the way Abraham Lincoln took the lead in the decision to free the slaves, knowing his team was hesitating to take this momentous decision.

“When the rebel army was at Frederick, I determined, as soon as it should be driven out of Maryland, and Pennsylvania is no longer in danger of invasion, to issue a Proclamation of Emancipation. I said nothing to anyone; but I made the promise to myself, and … to my Maker. The rebel army is now driven out, and I am going to fulfill that promise. I have got you together to hear what I have written down. I do not wish your advice about the main matter, for that I have determined myself. This I say without intending anything but respect for any one of you. But I already know the views of each on this question. They have been heretofore expressed, and I have considered them as thoroughly and carefully as I can. What I have written down is what my reflections have determined me to say. If there is anything in the expressions I use, or in any other minor matter, which any one of you thinks had best be changed, I shall be glad to receive the suggestions.” (Inside Lincoln’s Cabinet: The Civil War Diaries of Salmon P. Chase (ed. 1954), 22 September 1862, p. 150)

Is your team stuck? What do you do about it? Share your comments below.

If you want to receive upcoming Leadershipwatch articles and news in your mailbox, don’t hesitate and register at the top of this page. Your personal information will be kept strictly confidential.
Photo: Jack Dorsey/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Aad is an international business advisor, business transformation & people alignment expert, leadership team facilitator and executive coach. He works with leaders of multinational companies and focuses specifically on three topics: ‘leading complex change’, ‘cross-cultural leadership’, and ‘post-merger integration’. Find out more about Aad and his services. If you would like to invite Aad to your organization or team feel free to contact him here.

Executive Team Alignment: The Power of Team Coaching

‘We should have had this discussion a long time ago. It would have saved us a lot of time and a lot of useless frustration.’ This was the feedback I received from executives during an executive team alignment session I facilitated not so long ago. The team was satisfied and relieved by the outcomes. They had not expected these results. They had even doubted the value of such a session. In fact, team coaching had never been high on their priority list.

A change is taking place in today’s business environment regarding teams and team collaboration.

Not the need for teamwork itself is changing, but the requirements for successful team collaboration are shifting. Economic and market changes require companies for instance to create new business models, to merge with other companies, to build alliances (with suppliers, competitors, or even with customers). Organizations feel the need for more flexibility and adaptability of people and teams in order to be able to keep pace with the developments. The need increases for more flexible ways of connecting people and building networks. Teams function much more cross-departmental. Functional and hierarchical structures are no longer the sole basis for teams. And on top of that organizations operate in an increasingly multicultural environment and face cross-cultural challenges (see earlier article on cross-cultural alignment).

Executive teams have the job to guide their organizations through these changes.

It is their job to stimulate people to create teamwork that successfully addresses these changing circumstances. In fact, they are the starting point of a successful change process. The executive team’s behavior is a vital example to the rest of the organization. Their level of alignment as a team is crucial. However, I frequently witness executive teams struggling with creating real alignment within their team. Why?

I experience three tendencies that hinder executives in creating team alignment:

  • The tendency to perceive the building of team alignment as a rather technical and rational activity. Putting the focus on defining and clarifying tasks and responsibilities between each other. Setting and dividing goals and targets, and deciding on reporting procedures.
  • The tendency to see individual coaching as the solution for a lack of team alignment.
  • The tendency to underestimate the effect of a lack of executive team alignment on the rest of the organization.

Executive teams that put special focus on team coaching, and actively promote team coaching throughout the organization do not only improve their team effectiveness, but also initiate cultures that foster people connectivity, flexible networking, and successful cross-cultural and cross-departmental collaboration. They develop the competence to recognize the behavioral mechanisms that hinder mutual trust and openness. They create the ability to influence and change these mechanisms positively. I certainly do not minimize the effect of executive coaching on a 1-on-1 basis. This proves to be very useful, no doubt about that. But to create real team alignment team coaching is essential.

With the right approach and experienced facilitation executive team coaching provides the following benefits:

  • Better understanding of the team dynamics that are taking place
  • Better understanding of the different perceptions, ambitions, values, concerns, fears, aspirations, and irritations that are present
  • Increased level of mutual trust
  • More openness
  • Better decisions
  • Faster decision-making
  • Deepened connections between the team and the rest of the organization
  • Stronger basis for consistent execution throughout the organization.

In this interesting article Manfred Kets de Vries, professor of leadership development at INSEAD, describes the power of team coaching. I love the Hedgehog metaphor he uses to explain the dilemma between needing each other to accomplish things and at the same time wanting a certain amount of distance to escape from unknown/disagreeable behavior and qualities of others. I experience this dilemma more than once when working with executive teams. I witness over and over again how team coaching brings teams to a next level and creates breakthroughs in terms of mutual understanding, trust and openness and therefore boosts the team’s effectiveness towards the organization.

What is your experience with creating successful teams? How do you use the power of team coaching? Please leave your comments below.

If you want to receive upcoming Leadershipwatch articles and news in your mailbox, don’t hesitate and register at the top of this page. Your personal information will be kept strictly confidential.
Photo: Lady-bug/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Aad is an international business advisor, business transformation & people alignment expert, leadership team facilitator and executive coach. He works with C-level and executive teams of multinational companies and focuses specifically on four topics: ‘leading complex change’, ‘cross-cultural leadership’, ‘post-merger integration’, and ‘amplifying business performance’. Find out more about Aad and his services. If you would like to invite Aad to your organization or team feel free to contact him here.

Leadershipwatch Anniversary

Anniversary Cup cakes

This month is the 2nd anniversary of Leadershipwatch!

The past two years have been exciting and rewarding. Leadershipwatch has become a source for 21st century leaders to find new insights, advice and tips on how to deal with today’s leadership challenges.

Thanks a lot everybody for visiting Leadershipwatch and for enjoying and sharing its articles and content. Your reactions and comments have been a source of inspiration and encouragement!

This anniversary is a nice moment to look back at your Leadershipwatch favorite articles (most read by you):

I also like to share with you some of my personal favorites:

What articles are your favorites? What insights or tips did you like particularly? How did you apply them? Let me know!

I hope to meet you on Leadershipwatch many more times and I look forward to exchanging ideas with you!

Photo: Oatsy40/Flickr (Creative Commons)

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Aad is an international leadership advisor, business transformation & alignment expert, leadership team facilitator and executive coach. He works with executives and leadership teams of multinational companies and focuses on four topics: ‘leading complex change’, ‘cross-cultural leadership’, ‘post-merger integration’, and ‘amplifying business performance’. Find out more about Aad and his services. Contact Aad for more information.

Leading Multinational Companies: The Difference between Execution versus Action

Globe

Some time ago this executive team contacted me. They were dealing with important market changes that affected their business. There was an urgent need for change in the organization and they had defined a set of strategic objectives that would be the key focus for the organization. They were doing their utmost to roll out these objectives throughout the organization, but it did not deliver the needed results. They were constantly in contact with their managers to make sure the right focus and actions were carried out. They had put together a road map with all the necessary actions and they monitored it on a weekly basis. But somehow the road map resulted in a list of issues and problems that only grew bigger while the expected results lagged behind more and more. What was going wrong?

A recent global study by the Conference Board found that the top two concerns amongst top executives were as follows (Conference Board, 2009):

  • Excellence in execution
  • Consistent execution of strategy by top management

Why this concern? As I described in an earlier article Leading Multinational Companies: Three Significant Changes in the Role of Senior Leaders the leadership challenges have changed over the past decades. Or as Gary Hamel says in ‘The Future of Management’: ‘Right now, your company has 21st-century Internet-enabled business processes and mid-20th-century management processes all built atop 19th-century management principles.’ The 21st century business reality requires from leaders that they are able to execute their most important goals in a fast changing, globalized, and increasingly cross-cultural environment. Leaders who fail to mobilize and motivate the organization to consistently execute the organization’s most important goals are ultimately ineffective.

The point is that many executives struggle with creating effective execution. Getting from clear aligned strategic priorities and goals at C-level to focused execution throughout the organization seems to be a problem. One of the key reasons I witness: companies can suffer from a culture that is action-oriented instead of execution-oriented. And there is a clear difference between the two! Like the team I described at the beginning, executive teams are not always aware of the fact that they are sustaining an action-oriented culture. And in the 21st century this can seriously hinder successful execution.

Let’s take a closer look at what differentiates an execution-focus from an action-focus, and what leaders who drive effective execution do differently. Below I list 6 important differences.

Execution-oriented leaders:

  • Focus on the WHY and WHAT. On the vision, the road ahead, and the results the company wants to accomplish. They do not underestimate the HOW, but see it as their role to create the right circumstances for their people to figure out the HOW.

Action-oriented leaders: spend a significant part of their time and energy in figuring out the HOW. They feel the need to define the HOW for their people. By doing this they tend to lose the broader perspective. Ticking of action lists becomes more important than creating desired results.

  • Stimulate people early in the decision-making process to contribute their experience/ideas bottom-up. They invite people to think along in creating the vision and strategy. They make them co-owners of the vision and strategy.

Action-oriented leaders: define vision and strategy at the top and roll it down into the organization as a given. They fail to create ownership in the organization. People will wait for them to say what needs to be done. They will have to invest lots of time and energy in keeping everybody moving in the right direction.

  • Maintain a longer-term horizon. They focus on creating consistency in the direction of the company. This longer-term view allows them be more pro-active in their decisions.

Action-oriented leaders: focus more on short-term solutions and tend to be much more reactive in their decisions. In a fast changing environment it will be extremely hard to keep up and to keep the organization aligned. Action lists tend to explode and focus gets lost.

  • Try to avoid a ‘command and control’ style. They focus their energy on facilitating management and employees to achieve the desired results and they build the company’s success by delegating accountability as low as possible into the organization.

Action-oriented leaders: feel they have to control the situation. They hold on to hierarchy. They want to have all the information. They won’t hesitate to use their power to get things done.

  • Maximize cross-boarder collaboration and teamwork. They break down structures and processes that hinder this.

Action-oriented leaders:  Rely on functional and hierarchical segmentation. They unintentionally stimulate ‘tribal’ behavior (read this nice article on culture and tribal behavior)

  • Stimulate flexibility. They value pro-activeness, agility, and resilience to change. They try to maximize these skills in the organization.

Action-oriented leaders: try to excel in planning and expect everyone to stick to the plan. This will cause less flexibility and increased risk avers behavior. The organizational responsiveness to external influences will deteriorate.

In closing I come back to Gary Hamel and like to recommend this video of him explaining his interesting take on the future role of managers (click here to play video).

How do you create an execution-oriented culture? Please let me know your ideas on the list above by leaving a comment below.

If you want to receive upcoming articles and news in your mailbox, don’t hesitate and register at the top of this page. Your personal information will be kept strictly confidential.
 
Photo familymwr/Flickr (Creative Commons)

___________________

Aad is an international business advisor, business transformation & alignment expert, leadership team facilitator and executive coach. He works with executives and leadership teams of multinational companies and focuses specifically on four topics: ‘leading complex change’, ‘cross-cultural leadership’, ‘post-merger integration’, and ‘amplifying business performance’. Find out more about Aad and his services. Feel free to contact Aad for more information.

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