Leadership is always a priority as results follow effective leaders and project managers. In today’s marketplace, service expectations have radically increased due to the effect of customers like Amazon. Customers are demanding more for less on a quicker turnaround than ever before. Organizations continue to run lean as they want to ensure margin improvement since sales growth is more of a challenge than prior to the recession. Thus, those organizations with solid leaders will leapfrog those who don’t as it is one of the critical differentiators to success.
There are three C’s required for an exceptional leader who not only consistently delivers project results but who also engages employees, customers and suppliers: 1) Clear Vision. 2) Communication. 3) Culture
I’m not referring to those leaders who spend significant dollars drafting and posting vision statements yet who do not live the vision statement. You might as well stay home. Instead, I’m referring to those leaders who have a clear vision of where the company is headed and why it matters. Throw out the fancy PowerPoint slides – even if the vision is written on a napkin, it will be effective if the leaders are clear on the direction.
In order to develop an effective vision, the leader must know the market, customers, suppliers, employees, etc. And the leader must be able to translate the vision into something all the constituents can understand. Being “the best” means nothing. Your vision must be tangible and actionable. Projects should “make sense” with the vision.
Communicate, communicate and communicate. It might seem never-ending, yet it is vital to continue to articulate the vision, the path forward, how the projects tie together etc. Communicate in various ways and through different mediums until it becomes a part of the everyday culture and understood by not only employees, but also customers, suppliers, bankers, investors etc.
Communication is not a one-way street. Although the end vision shouldn’t change, there are countless ways to achieve the vision and goals. Thus, encouraging discussion and debate on the optimal strategies/ paths to achieving the objectives is vital. Take the time to listen. Ask probing questions and be open to new ideas. One of the keys to success is utilizing each person’s unique strengths to achieve a better result than any one person could achieve on his/her own; however, the only way to do that is to stop talking – and listen.
Last but not least, the communication process must be incorporated into the performance feedback process. Translate the vision into goals and objectives for each employee. Understand the projects and programs which are required to support these objectives. Establish metrics, and tie to rewards, recognition and feedback systems. Results will follow.
My most successful clients value execution. Focusing decisions and priorities on those efforts that produce results sounds obvious, but is often overlooked – it is easy to get caught up in great-sounding ideas that are complex and resource and/or capital- intensive to implement. Instead, think about “Occam’s Razor” – in essence, all other things being equal, the simple solution is often the best – and most profitable. What does your culture support?
Valuing execution has to be incorporated into the day-to-day culture and performance management system. Do not reward solely effort. Reward those who are willing to challenge the status quo. Reward those who encourage teamwork and debate to develop new ideas. Don’t reward those who develop fancy project charters and timelines, but who do not ensure the project results are achieved; instead, reward those who manage the critical path with vigor. Reward those who are willing to address the sacred cows. Reward those who are willing to go the extra step to ensure success when they don’t know anyone is looking. Reward those who accept blame and give away credit. Reward those who continually look for a better way.
It is not easy to be a leader in a culture that values execution; however, that’s why it “works”. Consistently encourage the “right” priorities, teamwork, etc., and results will follow.
These qualities are not expensive in terms of capital or resources, yet in my 20-plus years of experience, it is the only combination that delivers a 100 percent success ratio. Have you been involved with projects where there was vast opportunity yet it failed to deliver the intended results? Think back to the leadership. Are you willing to invest in leaders who will focus on the 3 C’s to ensure project success?