A ‘Killer Question’ for Your Tech Project Kickoff
Got Any Strategic Blind Spots? Take the test.
Blind spots – all leaders, projects and teams have them – although some like to deny it. Tackling them could be the most rewarding, as well as the most challenging, of all resolutions. Illuminating blind spots offers the potential for real transformation.
If you are up for the blind spot challenge, here is a list:
Today's leaders don't have to know it all. Rather, they are encouraged to actively engage with their blind spots, challenging old ways and experimenting with new approaches. The question is: ‘Where will you start?'
Let’s explore each of the Top 5 Leadership Blind Spots, to discover which ones apply to your organization, project or team.
Alignment Blind spot
Many leaders believe that their people, stakeholders and projects are more aligned than they actually are. We call it ‘the illusion of alignment' – the assumption that people know what the priorities are, or even the strategy is, and that they are on board with it.
Leaders often get frustrated when people ask questions or show doubt regarding the strategy, often seeing it as evidence of a lack of commitment or motivation, even as undermining their leadership.
You may feel like you have over-communicated the strategy or its priorities, however be prepared to be surprised, even disappointed.
Alignment is not the natural order of things. It cannot be taken for granted. Just because you start off aligned, does not mean that you will stay aligned. Alignment is hard won and easily lost.
Alignment is dynamic rather than static and must be adjusted continuously. This dynamic alignment is key to meeting changing needs and priorities. It is essential to speed and agility, as well as collaboration and innovation.
Reality Blind Spot
Your people are capable and confident. Surely, they will say what they are thinking – ‘calling it' when required. Well, that is the assumption that most leaders make. Yet, they are often wrong!
A decade of research on psychological safety, tells us that speaking up is not the norm. The result is that people frequently end up telling leaders what they think they want to hear. Typically, people stay silent or simply nod in agreement (called Nodding Dog Syndrome). Moreover, many organizations only do Good News – with strategy and project updates often sounding like PR statements. This can lure leaders into a false sense of confidence regarding their strategies and plans.
Two out of 3 initiatives and teams are being held back have conversations that are not being had. While it is natural to shy away from difficult conversations, the result is an effective barrier to progress.
Ways of Working Blind spot
The business world has spent two years talking about engagement and efficiency. But despite countless articles, posts and podcasts, the debate hasn’t gotten many leaders very far.
The efficiency drive has been the ‘go to’ strategy for leaders over the past 12-18 months. But, to what effect? Leaders today put the level of efficiency of just 67%.
Leaders believe that their people should be getting more done. Perhaps they are just not committed or engaged enough, or maybe it is because they are remote working. This demonstrates a failure of imagination or analysis when it comes to understanding executive performance, productivity and efficiency.
For example, leaders don’t stop to consider the basics – that is ensuring the right people are in the right roles, doing the right work, working together in the right way, with the right rewards and resources to achieve the right results – this is the 7 Rights.
Ways of working is a total blind spot for many leaders. For others, it is a sound bite, with little practical meaning. But, surely, these 7 Rights matter as much if not more than engagement or where people are working?
Empowering teams to optimize the way they work (and interact) using the simple productivity mantra (i.e., the 7 Rights) has the potential to boost efficiency by 5-25% within most projects and teams.
Teams Blind spot
Many leaders have a peculiarly hands off or ‘laissez-faire’ approach to teams. They assume that their teams will develop and perform with little direct intervention – that is regardless of what is going on (e.g. within the organization, or the team itself).
There is an assumption that teams will rise to the level of their ability, achieve a high level of productivity and efficiency, and also bring out the best in each other. It is, as if, bringing talented people together was enough to create a high performing team.
‘Individual work' now accounts for just 30% of the working week! The rest (70%) is spent on internal meetings & other forms of internal collaboration! That means that the most powerful way to drive performance is to work on teams (i.e. the 70%), not just on individuals (the 30%).
High performing teams are not naturally occurring and are far from the norm. Indeed, depending on how you define a high performing team – they are as rare as one in 10 or even one in 20. Moreover, when a high performing team does emerge, it is no accident.
High performing teams don’t just evolve, they are created (and co-created). The message is ‘teams don’t work unless you do’1 Moreover, all teams are a direct reflection of their leaders.
Most organizations are a long way from a team-centric approach to talent. Thus, while teams and teamwork are increasingly important:
- How organizations recruit, manage, motivate and reward people is largely focused on individual, rather than team performance.
- Organizations don’t know how many teams they have, which ones are performing which ones are not, and what makes the difference between the two.
- Few leaders have readily available metrics to tell them of the health and performance of their teams.
- There is even confusion regarding the difference between a team and a group or a crowd.
- There is no protocol or set of standards to define what is required to set a team up for success or to develop a team so that it realizes its full potential.
- Moreover, many leaders don’t realize that teams need coaching and development on an ongoing basis. They may not have consciously determined how much autonomy different teams require or the type of leadership that is needed.
The changing shape of the organization compounds the teamwork blind spot. That is the shift from functional hierarchy to a cross-functional network or matrix of teams.
Collaboration Blind spot
‘One united team' – that is the refrain from so many visionary Chief Executives. They know that today’s ambitious strategies cannot be delivered by one department or function working in isolation. Nor can today’s complex business challenges be solved in silos – they require bringing people together from a diversity of backgrounds and functional specialisms. But, how to make this happen? Well, that is a blind spot for many leaders. For example:
- What does the cross-functional product development team for a new drug or vaccine look like?
- How can compliance, scientific, commercial, manufacturing and others work together effectively as one team?
Everybody talks about the need for more effective collaboration and teamwork, but few have a definition of what it means, a model for what it should look like or a set of metrics that can measure it.
As managers, we have been perfecting the hierarchical organization for a long time. But as today’s leaders, we have a new role. The hierarchy has reached the limits of what it is capable of. We see this in the fact that much of the important work – the truly strategic work – now happens in a network of teams that span traditional boundaries and functions. Empowering and enabling these teams to succeed is our new role as leaders, but it has profound implications for the culture, as well as the structure of our organizations. Failure to recognize or embrace these implications is a key blind spot.
Poor internal collaboration is a critical bandwidth issue. With half of all internal collaborating adding little or no value, it is the No. 1 Barrier to getting stuff done within large organizations.
Today’s most important work cannot be done in silos, but requires effective cross-functional collaboration:
- Sequential hand-offs and solo-runs won’t be enough to deliver on strategic initiatives and critical projects. Speed and agility require the ongoing interaction of cross-functional teams.
- To deliver the level of service that customers expect requires that operations works effectively with marketing, logistics, customer service and finance.
However, teams that span functional silos face the greatest challenges in terms of realizing peak performance.
Each new year, leader set goals for personal growth and development, including developing new skills, or adapting new behaviors. But, what about taking a different approach next year? Rather than developing a new skill or new habit, what about making blind spots the focus of your new year’s resolution?
This insight emerged from strategic conversations with business leaders on the requirements of delivering today's performance & tomorrow's transformation. It is part of our most exciting research yet:
SOLUTIONS & SERVICES: Here are some of the ways that our research & insights are put to work by our clients:
- This was the title of a book we wrote a number of years ago, it was aimed at encouraging the leaders and members of teams to take ownership of and shape their teams.