Vision without execution is merely a hallucinationA phenomenon where an AI model generates incorrect or nonsensical information. It occurs when the model, despite its training, produces outputs that are unrelated or not based on factual data, often as a result of how it interprets its training data or the input it receives. . As the leader steering the ship, execution is your primary responsibility.
While I've been engaged by numerous companies to 'turn things around,' it's clear that these transitions often involve critical assessments. This includes evaluating what is or isn't working and making tough decisions on priorities, investments, and resources.
While I've delved into numerous management books offering a plethora of advice, it struck me that many don't always spotlight the obvious. For example, in “5 Traits of Dysfunctional Teams,” Patrick Lencioni presents the five characteristics as being:
An absence of trust
These are structured in a pyramid of cause and effect, with a foundation of distrust eventually hurting business results.
Patrick Lencioni's modelA model in machine learning is a mathematical representation of a real-world process learned from the data. It's the output generated when you train an algorithm, and it's used for making predictions. , as described, presumes certain foundational truths. For one, it assumes that an organization has already tasted a measure of success, and is either at a crossroads, striving to elevate to the next echelon, or is witnessing a decline — be it in market share, innovation, or other metrics. A second assumption implicit in the model is that every team member is equipped with the essential skills to effectively perform their roles. If only the team could shed its internal barriers, the promise of success lies tantalizingly close.
Yet, there's a potential oversight here. What if certain team members lack the requisite skills or expertise to discharge their responsibilities effectively? Such a scenario would inherently lead to an 'Absence of Trust'. It's not borne out of a reluctance to trust, but rather from a pragmatic realization: entrusting tasks to individuals ill-equipped to handle them is a recipe for disappointment. Unless there's an exceptionally compelling rationale, it's often unwise to bank on them magically acquiring these skills, especially when the stakes are high and the learning curve steep.
In light of this, I propose an enhancement to Lencioni’s pyramid, an underlying layer that addresses this very predicament: “Lack of Ability/Competency."
When team members lack the foundational skills crucial to their roles, trust becomes an impossibility, rendering the model ineffective. Absent ability and competency, the organization will inevitably grapple with a mounting array of challenges.
One might wonder, if individuals lack the essential skills and competencies, how did they secure their roles in the first place? The reality is that there are myriad reasons for such misplacements. These range from a misunderstanding of role requirements, hiring based on titles without grasping daily task necessities, employing acquaintances, or even optimistic decisions of positioning someone with the hope they would eventually ‘grow into the role.’
One frequent pitfall in hiring is the 'Title to Industry Mismatch.' A title can be misleading, suggesting universality across industries when, in fact, specific expertise might be essential. Take, for instance, the title 'Engineer.' I might excel as a software engineer, but slot me into a biochemical engineering role, and you're courting disaster. This might sound overt, but subtler variations of this mismatch happen consistently. Can a seasoned service sales leader easily pivot to product sales? Would an Account Executive who championed pharmaceutical sales excel in cloudThe cloud refers to servers that are accessed over the Internet, and the software and databases that run on those servers. Cloud servers are located in data centers all over the world. By using cloud computing, individuals and companies don't have to manage physical servers themselves or run software applications on their own machines.
computing sales? Or could a marketing expert, adept at promoting real estate or financial services, do justice to a BioTech startup's unique needs? Similarly, mastery in managing accounting software doesn't guarantee proficiency in overseeing AI
A branch of computer science that focuses on creating systems capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. These tasks include learning, reasoning, problem-solving, perception, and language understanding. AI can be categorized into narrow or weak AI, which is designed for specific tasks, and general or strong AI, which has the capability of performing any intellectual task that a human being can.
Machine Learning is a subset of artificial intelligence (AI) focused on building systems that learn from data. It enables computers to improve their performance on a specific task with data, without being explicitly programmed. This involves algorithms that can identify patterns, make decisions with minimal human intervention, and predict outcomes based on historical data.
products. The crux of the matter isn't doubting these professionals' competencies, but recognizing that each organization and industry has its own intricacies, and a seemingly qualified individual might not always be the perfect fit.
FIRST WHO, THEN WHAT.
Business literature often serves as a guiding light, with each book presenting its unique insights. A prime example is Jim Collins' seminal work, "Good to Great." One of its cornerstone concepts is 'First Who, Then What.' Collins underscores the importance of people before direction. He posits that exemplary leaders prioritize getting the right individuals onboard, assigning them to their ideal roles, and ensuring those ill-suited are no longer part of the journey. They maintain this discipline unwaveringly.
For any leader, the future is unpredictable. Hence, assembling a versatile team equipped to navigate any unforeseen challenge is paramount. A grand vision without the right team to bring it to life is moot.
It's pivotal to understand that the processIn computing, a process is an instance of a computer program that is being executed. It contains the program code and its current activity. Each process has a unique process ID and maintains its own set of resources such as memory and processor state. A process can initiate sub-processes, creating a tree of processes. isn't merely about having competent individuals; it's about ensuring the 'who' precedes the 'what.' Before mapping out a vision, strategy, or tactics, the focus should be on the team composition.
Selecting team members should be an exercise in rigor. Leaders in successful organizations prioritize having A-players, those with the perfect blend of talent, skills, and experience, in pivotal roles.
Ensure that crucial roles are occupied by the best-suited individuals. It isn't about perfection across every position but ensuring pivotal roles are filled optimally.
When it's evident that personnel changes are necessary, approach the decision with care, not cruelty. Ensure those departing do so with dignity, preserving the organization's goodwill and reputation.
When faced with challenges or opportunities, shift the focus from "What should we do?" to "Who's best equipped to handle this?". Invest time and effort in team selection. Having the right team allows leaders to delegate confidently, knowing tasks will be executed efficiently.
As a leader, it's imperative to cultivate an environment where truth is not just spoken but also heard. Admiral James Stockdale said, "Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be." – This captures the essence of leadership: facing the harshest realities head-on, yet holding unwavering faith in eventual success.
Recognizing the perfect balance of talent, skillset, and experience for your team is no small task. The cornerstone of this quest lies in accurately outlining what you seek. It's a common pitfall for those drafting job descriptions to lean on their assumptions or imaginings of the role, especially if they've never personally held that position. Relying merely on a job title to encapsulate all requisite competencies is a recipe for potential mismatches. Dive deeper. Envision a typical day for this role: what tasks unfold, how will this position interface with other teams, and what standards denote their success? Your goal isn't to merely assign tasks but to elevate the entire organization.
Bypassing this rigorous vetting process, no matter how time-consuming, is not advisable. The silver lining? When your bus is already populated by the right kind of people, motivation comes inherently.
If ever uncertain about a potential hire, exercise patience. Hold out. Let your company's growth be inherently linked to its capacity to magnetize and integrate the right individuals.
Strive to cultivate a culture rich in self-disciplined, passionate individuals willing to go above and beyond. They're not just employees—they're fellow travelers, echoing, 'We've got this!'
The quintessential personnel will sidestep bureaucracy and rigid hierarchies. Instead, they'll wholeheartedly embrace a discipline-rich environment, savoring the blend of autonomy and accountability within the defined structure.
The individual steering the bus—often representing the top tier of organizational leadership—holds profound significance in charting the company's course. The selection of leadership roles, such as the CEO, COO, CxO, and Vice President, bears weighty implications for the organization's trajectory. The consequences of a misguided leadership choice are not just detrimental—they can be devastating. Boards need to stay vigilant against underestimating the rapid descent a company can face under inadequate leadership. An ineffective CEO or COO's tenure, if prolonged, can plunge the company into turbulent waters.
Consider this: an executive team populated by B-players or C-players isn't merely underperforming; they block the seats that could be occupied by exemplary leaders. Turning around a company that's on a downward spiral due to this reason isn't just an uphill task—it's also an expensive and morale-draining endeavor. Measures to correct the course, such as organizational reshuffles or staffing changes, can further erode team spirit, complicating the journey back to stability and success.
Leaders bear the responsibility of setting clear and transparent expectations, moving beyond the commonplace metrics like revenue targets. This entails establishing standards for performance and behaviors that resonate with the company's coreA core in a processor is an individual processing unit within a computer's CPU (Central Processing Unit). Multiple cores can handle different tasks simultaneously, improving overall computer performance. values. Feedback, both praise and constructive criticism, needs to be timely, enabling team members to align their efforts with the organization's ethos.
If circumstances demand someone to be "off the bus," prior conversations should have highlighted their lapses—not only regarding quantifiable outcomes but also in aspects of collaboration and demeanor. Before making a final decision, ensure that the issue isn't just about them being in an unsuitable role. The crux of the matter is that any consequential decision—especially one leading to their departure—shouldn't blindside the employee. If a team member is taken aback by being asked to leave due to underperformance or a mismatch with company culture, it's indicative of a leadership oversight in the feedback and communication process.