I recently posted a blog on my favorite business phrase of all time that focused on the idea of ambiguity (click here to read it). Today I want to share another phrase that I understood a long time ago but only came into sharp focus a few years ago when I was tasked with trying to turn around a struggling company.
As goes the leadership team, so goes the entire company.
The organization had more than 400 employees and a senior executive team of 11 people. Unfortunately, three of the people on the executive team hated each other. They would try to sabotage each other, withhold information, fight for scarce resources, and treat each other disrespectfully. I put the issues on the table and uncovered the elephant in the room, and still, they refused to work as a team. One month later, without any of the employees knowing it was coming, everybody went home on a Friday, and the doors were locked when they came back on Monday. Not only had 400+ people lost their jobs, but imagine the impact on their families, other businesses in town, the vendors to the company, and the extended ripple effect, all because three “leaders” would not work with one another and dragged the entire business into bankruptcy.
*** By the way, this is the primary reason I went into business consulting and executive coaching. Watching businesses struggle because of a few mistakes around simple ideas is so painful to me because of the negative impact it has on all the people associated with the organization.
On the other hand, I have worked with struggling organizations and seen them turned around by highly effective leadership teams with a clear, vivid, and well-communicated vision and strategy for growth, who built a strong culture of engagement and accountability. Working with an executive team like this is a joy as I have found that no matter how good they are, they always want to get better. They care about their people deeply, they are extremely customer-focused, and they are dedicated to consistently delivering superior products and services.
Success or failure all starts at the top of the organization.