The thing about reality checks is that they tend to be thrust upon us at the most inconvenient moments, and as reality-checks go, this current one is a biggie. What happens over the next period is critical to your success as a leader and an organisation.
The personal distress is considerable. Lives and businesses have been lost, and the survivors are out of kilter. There has been revenue collapse or growth depending on your sector and situation. Change has been both traumatic – think airlines, higher education, hospitality, and the performing arts – and incremental with the acceleration of existing trends such as the migration to online retail and the fusion of information and operational technologies. Consumption patterns are changing, and people are recalibrating their relationship with work and with each other.
So where to from here? What are savvy businesses focusing on now? Executive must-haves include collaboration and horizon thinking. Collaboration certainly needs to ramp up as companies must find partners, forge alliances, and develop mutually supportive ecosystems that can mitigate as much risk as possible. An element of this is staying connected to stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, and employees. The more connectivity that can be forced into the moving parts, the better the prognosis for future business prosperity. The acronym T.E.A.M. seems to have come into its own as businesses need to support and encourage each other in ways they did not previously.
Effective organisational collaboration cannot be mandated though; it is only possible once credibility is established and trust has developed. This usually requires a combination of emotional consistency, an ability to connect with the business and domain expertise, the bedrocks of competent leaders.
Horizon thinking is crucial, regardless of where you are in these turbulent times; whether you want to improve your existing environment, evolve into adjacent territories or in rare cases, flex your business model to grasp greenfield opportunities. Your executive team must be able to envisage the future, formulate and execute a plan, build culture, and on top of all this – be technologically adept. Historically this was three separate people: the smart ones did strategy, and the leaders were “obvious,” as were the detailed minded ones who provided information to the leaders.
This has not been the case for some time and is certainly not the case now. How would your team measure up against these requirements? Can they deliver your future? What would an audit of your group reveal? Executive roles are changing, and a psychological nimbleness is required. Are they change-ready, quality focussed, and can they deliver with speed? Alertness and versatility are two key qualities that spring to mind. They must be able to oscillate between strategy and data and – crucially – understand that data should not be used to club subordinates in the quest for better performance, but that it informs strategy by providing business insights and levers to pull. Regrettably, this suite of executive capabilities is not the norm. The other side of the coin, executive orientations to avoid, would be anything to do with power, politics, inertia, and largesse as these things inhibit your future success.
Every organisation faces its own specific set of challenges, but the starting point remains the same: a clear-sighted view of the way forward and the challenges, constraints and opportunities ahead. You must be clear on your appetite to act and crucially, what happens if you do not act. Once this is clarified, your greatest contribution as a leader is to assemble the talent to deliver on this vision, bearing in mind the team who got you this far, may not be the team to take you into the future.
AltoPartners supports businesses with executive team review, sourcing, and selection. We partner with speciality providers of business strategy, sales enhancement, and executive coaching services to deliver a full suite of diagnostic and coaching capability for our clients, setting them – and their teams – up for success.
About Peter Tulau
Peter enjoyed a diversified career in operations and production management in industrial environments before joining one of Australia’s premier recruitment and human services companies. Over a 30 year career, Peter has supported a variety of organisations: public and private, corporate and SME with executive search and organisational consulting services. Peter is currently a Director with AltoPartners Australia.
Get in touch with Peter
+61 490 460 492