Several years ago, I was providing consulting overseas to a very interesting business doing innovative things in the tech space. The company was full of excitable young people who were incredibly enthusiastic about what they were building and the fact that it was creating “industry first” technology that had the capacity to change the way we live. I’m of the slightly older generation who find technology very helpful and yet slightly terrifying, but their enthusiasm was infectious and so I accepted the assignment.
The leader of this business was a beautiful and generous soul who adored his team like the children he never had. His leadership style was very inclusive and facilitative, and this endeared him to his young charges. Upon the commencement of our engagement, he proudly shared with me that he looked for the enthusiasm in his staff when recruiting and indeed, every day in the workplace. You could literally feel the level of enthusiasm in the team and building.
Then an interesting thing began to happen. Whilst enthusiasm was at an indescribable high and his staff review processes indicated very high staff engagement, the financial success of the company began to decline and over time to stall. In short, this was the result of low levels of accountability, so while people were excited about coming to work and what they were doing, there were few deliverability and accountability structures in place to ensure the team’s activity delivered on its promises.
Several things impacted the creation of this situation, but key among them was the principle that the fish swims from the head down. What I mean by that is that the business owner and Manager came to work each day looking for the enthusiasm and excitement in his team…..and he found it. What he wasn’t “looking for” in the same way was the accountability for outcomes and this was hurting his business.
Leadership is all about knowing what to look for and ensuring you get the appropriate “bandwidth” of perspective to enable you to be well informed about every aspect of the business required to work well to create success. Once we created a dashboard of “success indicators” and shifted the business owners’ focus, things began to turn around, as there was emphasis being placed on all aspects of the flow of operation and development of the business and its people.
Sure, as leaders we can and must place different emphasis on different elements of our business at different times. But we must also remember that the lenses of our glasses define how we see our people, our business and the world around us. What lenses are you looking through?