Leaders of successful businesses are deeply committed to its purpose, its values and its success and act with a high level of energy and ambition. They have autonomy and authority to make decisions; they are principled, share information and know what is expected of them and are open and authentic; they are passionate; they have determination to succeed; they are accountable and take full responsibility for the way they work, and their performance; they find pleasure in the work they do and with their colleagues; they share a sense of community and trust. They care. The question is how do they achieve that?
Only when the leader leads by example, working closely with his immediate team, drawing them together. There needs to be a move from command-and-control, to values determined by the team, to processes agreed upon by the team, to a way of working that is agreed by the team so that a level of performance is expected by everyone and there is an agreed transparency and accountability. This can only be achieved when time is spent with a leader who is not defensive but who uses his or her experience and knowledge to enhance the debate, not to dominate it.
Questions such as those below should be regularly discussed at length and often revisited so everyone knows the framework from which the business operates, and which guides the decision making of everyone in the business:
- Why do we exist as a business?
- What are we passionate about?
- How do we make money?
- Who are our most important customers?
- How would our customers describe our business?
- What is our brand?
- What would we like our story to be?
- What is our proven process?
- What products/services do our customers value most?
- Are our customers’ needs changing?
- What is our value offering?
- Who are our competitors and what threats do they pose?
- What is our 5-year plan/three-year plan/12-month plan?
- What obstacles need to be overcome in order to achieve our plan?
- Which of our people are going to struggle with change?
- What values are most important to us?
- What behaviours do we expect from everyone in the firm?
- Do we like our firm?
- Do our people enjoy working here? Have we created a family?
These are questions not just for the executive team, but also key performing managers who, if not handled carefully, can cause ripples in the pond.
Impactful and insightful questions are often the key to not only delivering the vision but also to delivering followers. Both are needed for success.