Over the next few articles we are going to explore four simple principles for performance that those leading teams, groups or companies can easily remember and apply. They are Coherence, Climate, Challenge and Celebrate. Let's start with the first principle Coherence, which is really the foundation for the others.
Coherence is an all encompassing word that covers a multitude of daily practices and activities. It is at once both broad and minute in its application. It is something that is crucial at every level of leadership and work. It could be confused as simply communication but it is so much more than this. It involves not only the transmission of purpose, task and outcome but it also provides for everyone in the group meaning and context for how things are done, why things are approached the way they are and how all things fit together. It provides perspective that the leadership and group have with respect to the value and role of its members.
Let me share a rather informal but good example of how leaders can provide coherence. I did some work with a oil and gas service company and spent time meeting with various folks getting an idea of the culture and goals of the company. What was truly fascinating was the number of stories retold to me about the founder and owner. People could relate to me why certain brands of trucks were bought over others because they were the first truck supplier to take a chance with the then new company. Who they used for tires, again a local manager of a tire company came out personally at two in the morning to change a tire on a large rig. And most of all they could tell you how much staff were valued by the owner. Folks would come to work in the morning and find this old guy working under a unit and chat with him only to find out later he owned the company. He would show up in the shop and work along side the crews and he told them they were valued. He would take great pains to speak with them about their salary and bonus policy and how it was structured to allow the company to keep as many working during downturns so that folks did not need to be laid off.
How did he provide coherence? First he provided by example the importance of loyalty and appreciation - remember the trucks and the tires? He communicated too the value he placed in his staff and provided policies that demonstrated that commitment. He provided an example for a way of doing things that they all emulated. To say that the company was a reflection of his attitude and approach would be an understatement.
We don't expect all leaders to provide this type of example but the principle nonetheless is valid. Starting with the Owner, President, CEO and right down to the front line leadership it is the leaders task to communicate why we exist, how we behave, how we do what we do, what success looks like, what is important right now and who does what. The top leadership team should be absolutely clear about the answers to those issues and they in turn provide answers to their direct reports and ensure that information is passed down the line accurately and clearly. When that is done well there should be no confusion around expectation, goals and outcomes.
Why is this important? Two different companies, two identical operations positions and two very different approaches. In the one company the operator has no clue about those issues or an understanding of the answers and how they fit into the big picture. They do their part of the work, collect a paycheck and have minimal investment in the company. The second company operator has had these things communicated to them. They understand the overarching direction and approach and their role in it. They don't just see themselves as a small cog in a big machine they see themselves as a part of team who's goal is to outclass the competition. They can tell you how much downtime hurts the company and they are constantly looking to add to their opportunities list for how to improve their part of the company. One operator has coherence with their company and the other doesn't.
As a leader at any level there is an expectation that you provde coherence. You interpret the company to your team, you provide the context for how what they do is important, and you set them free to pursue adding value to the group and company. After-all everyone wants to be part of a winning team.