• STRATEGY

    STRATEGY

    leads to confident rest while its adversaries toil.
  • STRATEGY

    STRATEGY

    is  both an art and science. Good strategy will result from neither independently.
  • STRATEGY

    STRATEGY

    can be overlooked when resources are abundant and margins for error are wide. But when environments are competitive, strategy separates those who survive from those who perish.
  • STRATEGIC ABSENCE

    STRATEGIC ABSENCE

    kills organizations. It’s people drown in an ocean of activities whose undertow moves faster than it’s the strongest swimmer.
  • STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP

    STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP

    organizes and induces a resonant oscillation that knocks down every obstacle, scales every wall and wins every battle.
  • STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP

    STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP

    never  tires. It only expends critical energy and resources on the highest value activities.
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Communicating Effectively in an ABC Driven Leadership Culture: Leveraging the Central Focus

In part 1, I discussed the importance of basing any organization’s strategic leadership on a central focus. This central focus should always be influencing Attitudes, inspiring right Behaviors and providing maximum Capabilities. All too often, leaders get side-tracked on “Things they would like to see”, “Expectations they’d like to havetheir organization meet” and 

 

“Results they’d like their teams to accomplish.” But because their focus is primarily on actions and results they’d like to see, they inevitably miss their mark. It is only a clear vision of howwhy and to what extent Attitudes,Behaviors and Capabilities must change that drives organizations to their potential. When you get attitudes, behaviors and capabilities right, the desired result will become a forgone conclusion.

 

Now I want to share an example of an ABC leadership interaction. Years ago, as a leader in a Fortune 50 company, my organization was faced with an increasing incidence of vehicular accidents. With a fleet of roughly 1,000 delivery trucks, the business impact could no longer be ignored. But even more importantly, I believed it was only a matter of time until one of these little “fender-bender’s” became serious, maybe even fatal. How could we turn this epidemic of increasing accidents around?

 

These vehicle operators, I believed, were increasingly using their cell-phones or their hand-held computers during the operation of their trucks. They were driving while distracted. How did I know this? Because the incident increases were all in the category of “rear-ending” another vehicle or “swerving at the last minute” to avoid a vehicle stopping or changing lanes in front of them. All other vehicular accident rates remained the same, or were decreasing.

 

 

In a meeting with my area managers, everyone agreed with the root cause… everyone wanted to solve the problem… shouldn’t this, therefore, have been easy to fix? The answer is, of course, no. Left to the status quo, these leaders would throw some time and resources into action plans like:

  • A contest that pays vehicle operators for not getting into accidents to raise awareness.
  • Talk to vehicle operators about how serious accidents impact lives.
  • Engage vehicle operators in distracted driving conversations in every venue.

     

  • Discipline vehicle operators who have distracted driving incidents.

 

As you read these suggested actions you may be thinking, “those are some pretty good ideas.” Don’t get me wrong, they are the kind of things that support a culture change. However, they completely missed the mark in addressing the root cause that allowed the behavior to not only continue, but to accelerate.

Here’s how I approached this. Some of you will not see a difference that matters to you - But for many of you, my hope is that you will see the distinction between gaining consensus on action plans and racing forward with them versus addressing attitudes and the behaviors that rise from them.

In this region meeting, I passed out a document to each of the seven area managers. I told them that I wanted them to sign the document and that we were going to ask every subordinate leader and vehicle operator to sign one as well. The elements, as I read them aloud, were essentially this:

  • I acknowledge that distracted driving is dangerous and will eventually lead to a significantly injurious accident.
  • I acknowledge that I, alone, control whether I will drive distracted and risk my, and another’s, life and limb OR to never drive distracted. I, alone, can drive focused to protect myself, others and the company, OR to risk all of it by driving distracted.
  • I will not use a phone, a computer or any other device while operating my vehicle - under any circumstances.
  • This letter serves as my resignation, in advance - If I am ever involved in an accident as a result of being distracted by my phone or any other device - I resign from this company.

Gulp! The area managers tracked smoothly through the first three points, but once I read point number four, they started to squirm. One of the area managers said, “I will sign it… but I won’t ask my people to sign it.” (I appreciated his candidness and willingness to share where his mind and heart were – nothing is worse than having people in a meeting shake their heads in affirmation while never intending to comply once they walk out the door).

I asked, “Why won’t you ask them to sign it?”

All of the managers pushed back with various arguments:

  • Are we legally allowed to do this?
  • This is too heavy handed…
  • We won’t build trust with our teams this way…
  • Etc.

And the “rub” was uncovered. These leaders wanted to “do something” but when faced with reality, they could not bring themselves to consider doing what might be necessary to truly change the attitude that was resulting in the wrong behavior. They were acknowledging that these vehicle operators believed (attitude) so strongly in their right to operate a phone while driving that asking them to promise they would not do it (change behavior - with their job as collateral) was unthinkable.

Having anticipated this reaction to my request, I had another argument ready to go. First, I reviewed the acknowledgment that everyone “signs” before they print out their airline tickets. It essentially tells them that if they attempt to enter security with any number of prohibited items, they may go to jail! But why does everyone “sign” this document by checking the “No” box? Because they have no intent to bring those items on an airplane!They do not believe that they are at risk of going to jail.

Then I asked, “If I were to ask your team members to sign this document but instead of distracted by a phone or device, it simply prohibited the playing of a tuba or a board game while driving? Would they sign it?” (They all could see where I was going). The issue was not that I was asking them or their team members to “sign” a “pre-resignation” document, as unorthodox as that is. The issue was that everyone, drivers, area managers and everyone in between wanted to “reserve the right” to grab a phone while “operating their vehicle” without risking such a serious consequence - Lightbulbs!!! - These leaders were coming to an understanding that this wrong attitude was insulating the wrong behaviors that were resulting in accidents. If we didn’t first address this “attitude” we would never change the wrong behavior. And if we couldn’t change this behavior, we would never, never, never change the result. We would, some day in the future, deal with a catastrophic accident in our organization - It was a certainty – yet it was 100% avoidable!

 

Right attitudes lead to right behaviors and right behaviors (equipped with the right capabilities) deliver the right results - Always.

 

Full disclosure - I’m not a monster. I did not desire to actually make anyone sign a pre-emptive resignation. My intent, which should be the intent of all leaders in an ABC leadership culture, was to help the organization understand the belief or attitude that prevented wrong behaviors from being sustainably changed. My intent was to help them see that all of the action plans in the world would not change these results unless the protective coating could be penetrated, the attitude changed and ultimately the right behaviors executed 100% of the time.

The challenge to the team became, how do we get every vehicle operator to go from thinking that resisting a distraction by a device is not just a “nice to do”, some-time thing. It needed to become a cultural-norm - one in which a vehicle operator would be extremely embarrassed if they were seen by a peer using their phone while driving - one in which a vehicle operator would submit his or her resignation instinctively if they rear-ended another vehicle as a result of their own distracted driving.

 

We walked away from the meeting with a really good understanding of the leadership challenge:

  • Changing attitudes at the operator level would not be easy.
  • Without significant attitude change, behavior would not change.
  • Without attitude change, a catastrophe was in our future.
  • The attitude we were looking for was one that “would be willing to sign” a pre-emptive resignation because they do not believe they would ever operate a device while driving.

 

Communication in an ABC leadership culture should focus primarily on influencing right Attitudes, inspiring right Behaviors and building right Capabilities.

 

Right Attitudes + Right Capabilities drive Right Behaviors which always deliver Right Results

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