Nothing causes mission failure in a company more quickly than a misaligned leadership team. No company wants to believe it can happen to them, and by the time they come to terms with the problem, the damage has often already been done. A misaligned leadership team can cause a ripple effect that touches the entire company. This can take the form of employees feeling disconnected or in the dark, silos between departments, in-fighting, and gossip.
As the CEO and founder of Media Direct, among other companies, Scott O. Hirsch has worked to align and stabilize multiple senior teams in his career.
“When there’s a problem in leadership, there are inevitably company problems that follow and reflect those issues. Employees in these environments become unmotivated, discouraged, and less productive, which means you’re that much more likely to fail in meeting your company goals. Nip it in the bud by continuously checking in and aligning your team, ” says Scott O. Hirsch.
Test and Enhance Their Understanding of the Company’s “Why” Advises Scott O. Hirsch
As a leader, you’re likely to spend a lot of time espousing your company’s mission and values as well as communicating internally and externally about what you do and how you do it. However, you need to check in – with yourself and with your leadership team – about your understanding of the company’s “Why.”
What do we mean by your “why”? We mean the big picture, the underlying purpose. “Why does your company exist?” asks Scott O. Hirsch. People aren’t motivated by the work itself, they are motivated by having a purpose and understanding their importance in the bigger picture.
Ask your leadership team what the “why” of your company is. Listen closely to the answers and note if they end up becoming descriptions of what they do day to day or how they do it. If so, they may not have a great grasp of the company mission or vision, which means they cannot effectively communicate it to their employees.
Remember, this doesn’t make them bad at their job. It also doesn’t mean they don’t believe in the mission – they may just truly not know what the mission is because it has not been communicated to them clearly enough. Lack of vision is a lack of proper leadership, so ask yourself how you can make the “why” clearer and communicate it more often. If you’re not sure yourself what the “why” is (which is common in third-generation and older companies), set some time aside for yourself and your leadership team to dig into it.
Try to get off-site and immerse yourself in the company’s goals, values, and mission. If it feels off, ask yourself if the company has evolved to the point that you need to rethink your mission statement and company culture. Maybe your company was founded decades ago and there was never a solid mission statement in the first place other than “We Sell Paper” (or whatever the case may be).
If you’re happy with the mission as is, do some team-building with your senior teams and ask them to come up with concrete examples of how they can implement the mission with their own employees.
Culture is Key Says Scott O. Hirsch
Now that you know your “why,” you can start to rebuild your company culture around it, says Scott O. Hirsch. The “why” should be the foundation for all of your major decisions as a leadership team. Hiring – and firing – decisions should be made based on your company culture. For example, if one of your cultural tenants is “cultural understanding and respect,” you should sort through candidates based on that criteria. And likewise, if an employee is constantly culturally insensitive or insulting, you now have something to point to during performance reviews, conduct warnings, or when they are fired.
When company culture is built on an understood mission and set of values, you can create a culture that supports the “why” of your company by finding the right employees, keeping them engaged, and, as a result, increasing productivity and profitability. Make sure your leadership team is unified in these efforts and that the messaging is consistent company-wide.
Define “Winning” For Your Team Advises Scott O. Hirsch
“You can’t succeed if you don’t know what success is supposed to look like,” says Scott O. Hirsch. He advises that you set concrete, incremental, realistic goals with your leadership team to motivate them. Without a specific goal in mind, it’s easy to become unfocused and counterproductive.
Neuroscience studies have found that “positive visualization,” or picturing your goals being achieved, activates neuro pathways in your brain that stimulate critical problem-solving. In other words, if you present success to yourself as a foregone conclusion, your brain will start to work backward to ensure that it happens.
Once you’re in agreement about what the goals are, have your leadership team visualize success. Have them picture it in as detailed a way as possible and ask them to share with the group to cement that vision. Now you’re ready to work on how you make the vision a reality.