This article is written by Predictable Success Consultant Scott Propp.One of the challenges of leading a fast-growing organization is that what has worked so well in the past can suddenly become ineffective. Perhaps the most jarring example of this is in how people communicate.
When communication starts to break down between team members, balls are dropped and ill-informed decisions are made. Not only does this cause internal strife, it also leads to poor customer service.
So how can you overcome this and set your organization up for scalable success long term? Before we examine the solution, it’s important to understand the logic behind it.
Why Communications Break Down
Once a firm has found its footing and is experiencing initial success, it is in the Fun stage of growth. Typically decisions can be made rapidly, on the fly, and everyone is working together shoulder-to-shoulder, doing whatever it takes to achieve the necessary results.
However, as the organization grows, it becomes more complex. Teams expand and new departments are formed. Suddenly it’s much harder for information to be shared, especially laterally between divisions. The organization is now in Whitewater, the most stressful stage of growth.
Creating Cohesion In order to guide an organization through this turbulent stage, it’s critical to open clear lines of communication, not just within teams but also across departments.
Begin by introducing these two tools:
1. The Enterprise Commitment
The Enterprise Commitment states:
When working in a team or group environment, I will place the interests of the enterprise above my personal interests.
The Enterprise Commitment functions as a virtual customer in every meeting, calling each member of the organization out of their personal agendas and into a perspective that focuses on the customer and the mission of the firm.
Trust is simple concept, but it can be challenging to maintain, especially in the face of change. In this context it means that I can trust my peer to be on the same agenda, i.e., honoring the Enterprise Commitment and not driving a personal or politically-oriented agenda.
Now that we’ve established the key tools, here’s how to apply them - your four steps to success:
1. Do the work as a senior team to hold each other accountable to the Enterprise Commitment.
Review it every time you address the team, make sure that meetings start with it and actions are tested against it. (Download your own set of Enterprise Commitment flashcards here.)
2. Be “Ruthlessly Constructive” about rooting out decisions that have their basis in personal or functional agendas.
This behavior is more “caught than taught” and needs to begin with the C-Suite. Prompt actions here yield massive results.
3. When you see horizontal communication and leadership asserted on behalf of the organization, make a big deal about it.
Put it in the company newsletter, tell stories about it at town hall meetings, make it very evident that you are all in.
4. Use the VOPS leadership styles framework* to build powerful cross-functional teams that deliver.
Assign team leaders on the basis of their profile and job to be done on behalf of the customer, then show by example that no one is an island by making sure complementary skill sets are present on the team. Rinse and repeat.
(*Not sure what the leadership styles are of your team? Use this simple quiz to find out.)
In summary, accelerating through Whitewater by building great communications across the organization leads to very real results – from customer satisfaction and enhanced employee engagement to significant financial returns.
Start the ball rolling with zones of trust and personal responsibility, then provide support and watch people surprise you.