Leadership is Key for Breakthrough Results

By Patrick Thean

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dateTue, Sep 18, 2018 @ 11:00 AM

Leadership is critical to achieving breakthroughs. Breaking this down into something tangible, that means having strong managers who can lead and inspire team members to perform well and deliver results. If you want strong performance and profitable results, focus on developing all your managers into “A” managers. Your managers are the main levers to delivering strong and predictable results. 

Here is why your managers are critical to delivering results:

  • Your entire payroll depends on them.
  • How engaged your frontline employees are depend on them.
  • High performance team culture depends on them. People don’t leave companies, they leave bad managers.
  • Clients and projects depend on them.
  • Quality of work and therefore any necessary rework and waste depends on how well they manage projects and resources.

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Years ago, a client was very focused on making sure as many people as possible would either be A-players or on their way to becoming A-players. We used a 4 quadrant tool that we learned from Jack Welch and modified it to fit their purposes. 
A-Player Quadrant
They focused their efforts on getting “C” players to grow into “A” or “B,” and ultimately to “A.” If improvements were not forthcoming, then the leaders were resolved to move them out of the company. Using a specific way of measuring A-Players, they developed a baseline that showed that they had 40+% of A-Players. After a quarter, they got to north of 50%. Good progress. Two more quarters went by and we only got to 52%. Our progress had stalled.
I suggested that we stop focusing on team members, but rather focus on developing “A” managers, that we do not allow any managers not to be “A” managers. After much discussion, we settled on a goal of getting the organization to have 70% “A” managers. The logic was that if we focused on developing great managers, the great managers would then focus on developing their team members to be great team members.
So what happened?
After another quarter, the client was able to achieve above 70% “A” managers. And amazingly, when they measured the employee base, they also achieved 70% “A” team members.

Here are three lessons we learned:

Lesson 1: You will receive the performance you tolerate. They set a goal of 70% because they did not believe 100% was achievable. They achieved 70% and tolerated the other 30% who were not delivering “A” leadership. If we decide that every single manager needs to be an “A,” we can achieve that goal. Set your goal at 100%. Why should anything less be acceptable?
Lesson 2: “A” Managers do inspire and engage their team members resulting in higher profitability. Your managers and their ability to lead well really does matter. And because these managers were able to bring up the performance of their team members, this led to improvements in revenue and profit. Better leaders inspire employees to become more engaged, leading to better performance and results. Clients become happier and fewer mistakes happen, leading to happier employees as well. And all this translates to operational excellence and profits. Execution leadership makes a big difference in your ability to get things done right and impacts your bottom line!
Lesson 3: A lot can be achieved in 13 weeks with focus. Initially, we debated whether a single quarter, 13 weeks, was enough time to help managers who were not performing at a strong level to grow and improve to the new level of high expectations. It's amazing what these leaders achieved in a short time!
What about you? How can you drive performance by improving execution leadership in your firm? We will have a number of breakout sessions at our 2018 Breakthrough Conference in October to help you grow and develop your leaders. We will show you how improving accountability leads to stronger leaders and better performing teams. Often times, its not your goal definition or processes that need improvement. It’s growing and equipping your people to deliver on your mission that could be your bottleneck to achieving breakthroughs and success.
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Patrick Thean


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images