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The nature of my role means that most of the calls and emails I receive are from founders and leaders looking for a way to jump-start their organization, division, department, project, group or team.
Here, in no particular order, are the five most common reasons they give me for calling or emailing in the first place:
- General economic headwinds;
- Tired product or service line;
- Change in market demographics;
- Negative effect of recent technological or legislative change;
- New or revived competition in the marketplace.
And here, in ranked order, are the three most common reasons our work together identifies as the actual barrier to growth or higher performance:
- Leadership blind spot(s) on the part of the leader who first called;
- General dysfunction in the top team;
- Lack of knowledge / skills required to make consistent, effective, high-quality team-based decisions.
In other words, the majority of leaders spend too much time, money and energy trying to change the symptoms of stalled growth when they should be looking upstream, at the causes.
Here are three indicators that you need to shift your perspective upstream, and concentrate on your top team (including yourself!) for growth this year and beyond:
1. There is no clear consensus on what the underlying growth problem is.
Johanna is sure the reason you’ve stalled is because of the fallout from the failed product launch last year.
Enrique is equally adamant that the core issue is the lack of a robust IT infrastructure.
Vanna in marketing is convinced that your lack of a social media footprint is the real problem.
If you have a similar hodgepodge of equally plausible, equally strongly-held views amongst your top team, but little or no consensus around them, then chances are that your real problem is the team itself.
Whether hunkered down in silos, firing missiles at each other, or simply talking over each other, you likely have a team that works on anecdote and autopsy – one which hasn’t learned to gather and analyze data to make high-quality decisions.
"The majority of business leaders spend too much time, money and energy trying to change the symptoms of stalled growth when they should be looking upstream, at the causes." - Les McKeown, Founder and CEO, Predictable Success
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2. There is consensus, but little or no effective action.
Everyone agrees on what the single issue is that’s preventing you from achieving the growth you want – and despite the fact that you meet, and talk, and meet and talk…and meet, and talk – nothing ever actually gets done about it.
You may have even called in a high-priced consultant, or held a kaizen, or hired a new executive to fix the problem…you have, in short, solutions coming out the wazoo.
But the underlying problem is still there. If that’s the case, then you almost certainly have a top team that’s dysfunctional, or which at least needs to learn how to work laterally together to not just make decisions, but to effectively implement them.
3. Everyone looks the other way when you start talking about it.
You have a clear idea of what the key issue is for this year. You want to make sure everyone else ‘gets it’. But for some reason, they don’t seem to want to.
Instead of engaging with you, your top team changes the topic, looks the other way, discovers an urgent emergency to attend to, or simply glaze over.
If this is your situation (and assuming your top team aren’t a bunch of numpties), chances are you’ve hit a leadership blind spot.
Something has blind-sided you and you’re temporarily (hopefully) missing the mark in how you perceive the underlying issue.