Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Leadership as turning goals into commitment and follow-through

Posted in HR and personnel by Timothy Platt on October 27, 2013

I write about leadership from a number of perspectives, and with a goal of addressing a range of challenges that people can face when leadership for them means stepping outside of their own comfort zones. I take a much more results-oriented approach to leadership here, and begin by noting that a goal in and of itself is only an intention, and it is not necessarily a deeply considered, well thought out intention at that.

Leadership means a lot of things, and finding your own best practices approach to it can take a lot of forms, depending on who you are and what you bring to the table with your personality and experience, and depending on the circumstances and context that you would have to lead in. But bottom line, real leadership is always a directed and even compelling call to action and to converting the intentions of goals into action and realization.

• Leaders turn goals into commitment, and both for themselves and for everyone on their team.
• And they turn commitment into follow-through.

My goal for this posting is to share some thoughts as to how effective leaders do this. Different people with different approaches might arrive at effective leadership in different ways, but there are some points of similarity for any effective leadership path forward. My goal here is to shed some light on them and on what they entail.

• Effective leaders never take a “do as I say, not as I do” approach. They lead by example and set a standard to follow in what they do and in how they do it.
• Effective leadership, from this perspective is about mirroring best practices that others might follow your example. Many people object to the word mentoring, assuming that this means favoritism of some sort. But effective leaders, and at all levels of an organization mentor those around them, and if in no other way by the power of the example that they present from their own demeanor and their own actions and their own follow-through and sense of personal responsibility.
• Open and honest conversation and communications are essential to this, and to making this work.
• And at the risk of being repetitive here, accountability and follow-through do not and cannot work in any organization if they are not valued and practiced from the top and in all directions. They cannot just be for the staff, with their managers and leaders held to a different standard.
• How do you make this work? What drives this in practice? Credit for effort and accomplishment, and rewards for exemplary performance should the standard too. In this, I see golden parachutes and other indicators of preferential treatment and rewards at the top as poison to the organization, its morale, and its overall and long-term success.
• If you lead, share the rewards and the credit and share equally in any cutbacks or when more commitment is called for to complete the tasks at hand.

What I am writing about here is creating a commitment and follow-through culture, driven by positive example from the top. I am posting this as an entry to my HR and Personnel directory because I am going to conclude this with some thoughts on standards setting and on implementing this type of approach in a non-arbitrary, consistent manner.

I am not writing about building a cult of personality around an exemplary leader and their personal style. I am writing about building excellence into the basic fabric of the organization, where examples set from the top can and do influence follow-through, throughout the organization as a whole. So for purposes of this discussion, I begin with Human Resources and with the decisions and actions of managers who they should at least in part be training.

• Most businesses would benefit from rethinking their performance review processes and how goals and stretch goals are set and performance reviewed.
• More businesses should explicitly require goal and stretch goal considerations and rewards, for performance initiatives that employees undertake and succeed at that were not included in the formal goals and stretch goals at a previous annual performance review. Unexpected needs and unexpected opportunities can and do arise and they need to be acknowledged too. And the value placed on previously set goals and stretch goals, and these new and emergent ones should be determined, as best as can be done by their relative values to the organization and its customers.
• Think in all of this in terms of commitment and follow-through and of the value of this employee’s effort to the organization, and not simply in terms of the paperwork that might have been generated at last year’s performance reviews with check marks on its static assessment criteria.
• If this means a manager has to consult with their own manager and perhaps with other involved stakeholders in deciding how to evaluate a member of their team in a time of change, they should do that. Part of the example they set, of their commitment to excellence and follow-through should be in objective fairness, and in their willingness to listen and to work with others.

I did not seek to offer a polished, complete description or presentation here, but rather to provoke thought. Think through your own business and its culture and systems, and how the thought I present here do or do not apply and how and why. The one general point I would make here is that the basic goal I seek to convey does reliably hold even if the details of how it would best be implemented varies. I am absolutely certain to discuss issues of leadership in future postings. Meanwhile, you can find this posting at HR and Personnel. And you can also find related postings at Social Networking and Business and at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory.

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