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If you’re part of a leadership team, you’ll recognize how unusual it is to have a highly productive, collaborative and future-focused group. But success today requires our leadership teams to lead – and to perform and transform the organization toward a meaningful purpose.
For starters – most companies will experience a high level of competition within their top ranks. While this jostling for power and individualistic thinking will drive accountability, it typically won’t transform the company. But leadership teams need to do more than just work together better – they need to recognize the incredible responsibility they have to invert their efforts from responding to the needs of the organization to directing and shaping its future. In Beyond Digital, we interviewed and researched the leaders at today’s top companies, such as Microsoft and Hitachi, to uncover how exactly they lead companies through change.
Here are three actions that you can take to reposition leadership so they can drive growth, success and digital transformation within your organization.
Bring together the right mix of skills
The first step in enabling transformation within your business is to create the right roles on your leadership team. This will establish what primary areas need representation, what skills are required and what type of leaders you want to help manage the company. Just as an organization creates a strategic plan based on its capabilities to differentiate itself from competitors, your leaders will need new skills, thinking and capabilities so they can shape the future of the business.
In fact, there has been an explosion of new C-suite titles and roles in recent years, such as chief quality officers, chief analytics officers, chief behavioral officers and chief customer officers, to bring focus to critical capabilities for the future of an organization. You need to choose the areas that represent your strategy, your purpose and the capabilities that your organization must build to deliver incredible outcomes. For example, Apple created a chief design officer position in 2015 to signal the importance of design for Apple. This helped Apple attract the best designers and highlight a differentiating capability of the company.
Your leadership team should balance some of these critical capabilities with traditional P&L and functional roles that help you shift the focus of the organization. As you build out your team, pay attention to ensuring the diversity of experience, background and thinking, which is essential to ensure that the team brings unique skills to shape the future, and hold each other accountable.
Focus on driving digital transformation in addition to reacting to today’s demands
The last few years have certainly presented an endless set of “fires” to manage, beyond the ever-so-challenging performance of the business, which can take significant effort. But it’s critical for your leadership team to really think about how it sets its agenda to ensure it drives the type of transformation you need to stay relevant in today’s incredibly competitive market.
Your leadership team will always have to manage two distinct agendas: running the business on a day-to-day and quarter-by-quarter basis, and building your company’s future. The team has to perform and transform at the same time. If you only transform but don’t perform, you may not have the freedom or investment to build the future (or as some leaders say, you may not be around long enough to have that opportunity). But if you only perform but don’t transform, your company has no future.
Therefore, leaders must pay attention to both of these goals and ensure the longer-term goals don’t falter because they are busy putting out fires on a regular basis.
Some companies manage this by separating agendas, ensuring enough time is spent on both topics. Others build in different governance mechanisms to separate operational management from strategy and transformation. Be careful of false efforts to really focus on transformation.
As we write about in Beyond Digital, launching dozens of digital initiatives is not the same as a meaningful business transformation that addresses a big societal or customer challenge, and then plans and invests in the type of people, process and technology changes required. Real transformations have a clear destination, and a leadership team engaged in architecting how to get there.
Take ownership for collaboration
The massive transformations ahead will be inherently complex, cross functional and likely require investments that truly scale across most or all of the company. That means your leaders – those that you selected to drive the company’s agenda – must work together to solve these big challenges. That may sound obvious, but leaders often fall into the trap of coming to leadership team meetings ready to defend their areas, or try to minimize their engagement on real cross-functional or business unit topics. You will need to shape the team’s understanding that working in the traditional way will likely be a road to irrelevance. They will benefit immensely from the type of collaboration ahead, but this may not come easy for some.
You can help facilitate this culture by embracing your role as a change agent and behavior influencer of your company. And you need to work with your leadership to define how they must behave to allow everyone to be effective, solve problems together, come to decisions quickly, and help each other and the organization thrive. You may want to assign, as many of the leaders in our research did, difficult tasks and important efforts to several members of your team so they can bring a powerful solution, and also experience the benefit of working together in this way.
It’s important for you to spend time with your team to align on a common understanding of why your organization needs to transform, how to see your company’s place in the world, and the capabilities that differentiate your company and will help you achieve this transformation. All the members of your leadership team must wholeheartedly own the transformation program and understand that their personal objectives and agendas are tied to its success.
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