Thursday, November 8, 2012

Global Leadership: Values and how you treat people

"When you  are with your people, they will treat the product as you say.  When you are not with them, they will treat the product as you treat them".  Sign in Kansas City Ford Assembly plant circa 1999.

I saw this sign on a benchmarking visit with some other Shell Executives as we were exploring how best-in-class organizations shared successful practices.  I think the quote is especially relevant to those in global roles, primarily because almost by definition, you are not "with them" as they go about their daily tasks.

Yesterday, I introduced the Delivery vs Values matrix.  I've also seen it referred to as the "What gets done" vs "How it gets done" matrix.  Most businesses have well developed metrics, tools and reporting systems that provide routine data on what gets done...the degree to which business targets are being achieved and commitments are being kept.  There are seldom as many feedback mechanisms on how things are getting done...the values piece. That means the leader has to be especially pro-active to make sure he understands the "how".  The 360 evaluation, with anonymous feedback from peers, subordinates and managers is one such tool. 
Doing it annually in conjunction with the performance appraisal is one successful practice I've seen.  Some companies have an employee survey than can also be an important source of data when used properly.  A poor safety record or spike in recordable safety incidents is also often a sign of a leadership problem.  It's almost axiomatic that a well led organization is a safe one...and vice versa.  Excessive employee turnover or sudden departure of key staff is another cause for inquiry.  Good HR staff are usually very capable of conducting exit interviews with departing staff and debriefing the leader on the outcomes.  It's also almost axiomatic that people don't quit jobs, they quit supervisors.  Site visits can also be an important data point.  If the local manager appears anxious when you engage with his direct reports or insists on absolute control of the agenda, where you visit and who you talk to....alarm bells should go off.  Informal social events help inform what the overall working climate is.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting a leader "go looking for trouble" or that any of the indicators I've listed above are sure-fire indicators of a problem....but they are signs that a leader needs to dig a little deeper into the work environment..  I am suggesting that most systems don't automatically provide the leader with all the data they need to come to an informed conclusion on how things are getting done...if the organization's values are being supported as results are delivered.

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