Companies must be proactive about building leadership competencies if they are to successfully compete in this complex world. This begins by understanding and common and shared definition of leadership for your organization. But even if the bar has been set and leaders understand, conceptually, your standard of leadership, it has to be reinforced by the infrastructure and systems of the organization.
One way to do that is to create a forum in which leaders and employees speak to each other and leaders allow their employees to hold them accountable. The purpose of these meetings is to ensure that their day-to-day practices (as well as policies, procedures, and systems) are aligned with their espoused values and philosophy.
Although the logistics of such an event can be handled in many ways, here is a simple process. Feedback meetings are scheduled for the entire year, usually every other week but no less often than monthly. A different group of employees (12-20 per session) are invited to attend each meeting. Participants are selected by some random method (alphabetically) and every employee should participate in at least one session a year (assuming a site with up to a few hundred employees.).
Each session follows a simple structure:
- Review the mission, vision, values, etc. of the organization.
- Ask: What do you (employees) understand or not understand about our mission, vision, values?
- What do we, as a leadership team, do that is consistent with our mission, vision, and values?
- What do we do, as a leadership team, that is inconsistent with our mission, vision, and values?
- What specific changes would you recommend?
A quorum of the senior-most leadership team should be present in each session. They keep an on-going “action registry” from these events and make decisions about what and how they can implement suggestions. They are also responsible for communicating to the entire organization the priority items and actions they are taking to make improvements.
In too many companies, people give lip service to a set of values that sound appropriate but to which they lack genuine commitment. The feedback process forces leaders to be serious about their deepest beliefs. As they do so, they gain the trust, credibility, and loyalty of their employees.