Short-termism is an executive’s worst enemy. According to Nicky Pattimore, Portfolio Director for People and Culture at the AA, it’s understandable why they want to focus on their own immediate priorities, but it invariably results in driving “the leadership’s siloed mentality downwards into the rest of the organisation”.
It’s something that cannot be allowed to happen. “When senior leaders become too drawn into what is impacting only them, they stop listening to and communicating with others in the organisation,” she adds.
This view is supported by a recent poll conducted by Criticaleye, which found that 60 percent of C-suite respondents thought leadership teams are too focused on tactical goals. Similarly, 73 percent said the behaviours of leadership teams reinforce silos within organisations, and 88 percent felt this had a negative impact on business performance.
Phillippa Crookes, Senior Relationship Manager at Criticaleye, has worked closely with numerous executives to ensure they do not succumb to siloed thinking in their roles. “The pressure on leaders continues to be immense as they seek to balance maintaining business performance with providing a return to investors. Nevertheless, if a senior leader is serious about creating long-term success, they must carve-out time to think strategically.”
Set Audacious Goals
Leadership teams need to communicate their ambition throughout the business, so everyone is energised and driven to achieve clearly stated objectives. It can be done, in part, by putting a strategy in place that reflects not only short-term goals, but long- term aspirations too.
David Parry-Jones, Vice President and General Manager for Northern Europe at technology company VMware, says: “Your people need to realise that the senior leadership team is serious about both. Very early on we sat down to develop a strategy for the business that was aligned with our overall vision and that brought people along with us, so that from the top team down, everyone was aware of and engaged with our long-term plan.
“For example, we tried to foster a competitive atmosphere and developed the slogan: ‘Mapping the race to a billion dollars,’ so that everyone was aware of our trajectory to become a billion-dollar division in the foreseeable future.”
David notes that a big part of the shift in mindset at the company came about by improving the mix of people within the organisation. “When I started at VMware six-years ago it was very middle-aged, very white and very male, as is typical in the technology sector.
“This has changed and so has our ability to think creatively about the long term. This did take time though, as well as the instillation of a metric to ensure that we were making progress on diversity. To begin with I pushed back a lot on measurement, but what I have learned over time is that without a metric you simply don’t get the change that is required.
“The metric has to be managed and carefully considered though, so it does not appear to be patronising towards the minority that you are trying to attract.”
Rob Walker, CEO of BIE Executive, notes diversity of thought is essential if an organisation is to be forward-thinking. “A static senior leadership team that has been together for too long will start to see its performance tail off. What you absolutely don’t want is for the same people to keep endlessly regurgitating the same well-trodden thoughts and feelings….”
In Rob’s view, the HR Director has an important role to play in evaluating the senior leadership team. “A balance of experience with fresh thinking is required to deliver long-term objectives and the HRD needs to make sure that the right leaders are in place to enable this to happen.”
It’s a point echoed by David. “You simply have to stay current and you have to listen out for and embrace fresh thinking wherever you can,” he says.
By Robert Leeming, Editor, Criticaleye