Are Your Leaders Wasteful?
The people who fill leadership roles in our organizations make more money per hour than any other employee group. They are also the least measured group from a personal daily output perspective. While most leaders would agree with the first statement, they will also bristle quickly if you make the second one to them. What do you mean I'm not measured? Do you know how many numbers I have to report on? If you are gutsy enough to make such a statement, you may also be gutsy enough to point out that the things most leaders report on are not those things that they personally do each day - they are things that they have been assigned responsibility for. Think about it - what do leaders do each day?
In a general sense, leaders are paid to make decisions, analyze performance, and provide performance coaching and direction. My experience has shown me however that most leaders tend to hold back performance improvement more than they encourage it. Most leaders tend to maintain system performance and benefit from the efforts of their people more than they drive performance improvement. Most leaders are overpaid firefighters who do more to keep the fire from burning out of control than they do to extinguish the flames.
Leadership hypocrisy will kill a lean improvement effort quicker than anything else! We measure the physical contributions of our front line employees down to the tenth of a second, but how often do we measure and trend meeting effectiveness, let alone include it as a monthly performance measure? Do your leaders spend a lot time in meetings? Could they accomplish the same results in 30 minutes that they are currently spending 60 minutes to get? Does the time your leader spends with you truly make a difference, or would your performance actually improve if your leader left you alone?
Do you measure the quality of your leadership decisions? Why not? Isn't decision making one of the main things that your leaders spend their time on each day? How about e-mail processing and report writing - do you include e-mails per minute processed as a key measure of leadership productivity? Is e-mail and report quality tracked and trended? How many minutes do your leaders waste each day?
If we were not asking our people to get the most out of every second of their time, these questions would not be nearly as important. If we didn't pay our leaders such high wages, we might not need to be concerned about whether our leaders personally added value by the minute or not. How can we expect our people to embrace the concepts of 5S, lean thinking, one piece flow, and value added processes if we don't exemplify these practices in how we do our jobs each day? Is your desktop layout straightened, sorted, standardized, and swept clean? To what degree do your personal behaviors reflect self-discipline? How many of the things that you do repeatedly (your key processes) have been value stream mapped? How do you measure your daily success?
Your daily leadership cost is greater than any other cost area! Do you know your daily leadership cost? The daily cost of leadership is much more than simply the sum of the cost centers that capture the wages and benefits paid to these people each day. Incorrect decisions, or decisions that are not made in a timely manner, cost money too. Leadership behaviors that fail to support the stated organizational values or mission also carry a significant cost. It is bad enough that we fail to measure the daily contributions of our leaders in terms of tangible output - we also fail to ensure in a measurable way that our leaders are consistently practicing those behaviors that are requisite for creating a high performance workplace culture. Many leaders actually do more cultural damage each day than they do good!
Most leaders will struggle to truly show you how they personally add value each day. Ask your leaders to show you how they spent their time on the job this week, or even yesterday. If they can show you this information in a measurable fashion, ask them to describe how these time investments added value to the organization. For example, how did your presence in that meeting for 60 minutes really make a difference to our customers? If you had only been there for one half of the time, how much damage would have been done? What did you do with the information you gained in the meeting? How much did you personally say? How did your presence make a difference? What percentage of your contributions were positive, as opposed to negative?
You have to decide for yourself if these questions matter. At the same time, I will tell you that your people are making assessments of your performance on a daily basis, and they are comparing your contributions, or lack thereof, to what you are asking them to do each day. They know who makes the most money, and if you are asking them to change their behaviors and to learn new things, you have better believe that they will watch you to see the degree to which you are doing the same. Before you say "Who cares what they think?", you might want to consider whom you depend on for the things that you currently are measured on. Do the attitudes of your people affect your personal performance review?
Leadership waste is easy to eliminate, IF your leaders are willing to measure and modify their personal beliefs and behaviors . Leadership is largely a collection of mental processes, and it will be a few years before we can even begin to measure true leadership effectiveness. There are high performing companies out there who do measure leadership behavior quality, meeting effectiveness, and other forms of leadership contribution in a trendable manner. There are organizations that really try to link their leadership development efforts to such results so that their leaders do add more value over time. There are leaders that set good examples out there, and there are measurable ways to prove that they do.
If you want to get more out of the leadership dollars you spend and increase the likelihood that each of your leaders is positively impacting your company's culture each day, take the time read about my Leadership Power System. If you like what you see there and want to actually put some of these systems in place, send me an e-mail and we can begin to create a plan for making this happen.
We all need great leaders. Without some way to measure leadership effectiveness however, we don't even know the degree to which our leaders are fair, good, or great, let alone identify ways to make them even greater. What is your daily leadership cost? How much time and money are your leaders wasting each day? Are your leaders helping to shift your workplace culture in a positive direction?
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“The only thing I know is that I do not know it all.” -- Socrates