This is the next in our series on the "Hu" (Human Element) of Organizational Effectiveness.
With the skill of being purposeful, we see how these talents actually fit together and support one another. If you have created outcomes and are driving your team toward them then being purposeful in prioritizing performance (metrics) instead of succumbing to organizational politics becomes almost second nature. In fact, being purposeful seems far less difficult, and "politics" becomes a non-issue.
Every Company Gets The Performance It Wants
When I talk about politics I use it in the more generic sense and really this could be interchanged with "company culture". Culture or the ethos created by it (politics) is a direct result of what company leadership requires and more importantly what they ignore. This is a powerful principle. For example, a company may give lip service to issues around safety but if they ignore or brush under the carpet safety issues in favor of increased profits they send a clear message to their team about what is really important. In the oil patch, there are companies that make so much money that issues of downtime and productivity are simply not important; the margins are so big. That is until the inevitable downturn hits but by then it's too late. Downtime is accepted and with a wink and a nod the supervisor or operations manager says "well its the oil patch - crap happens!" What that really means is that they don't care or know enough to realize that they could be operating at much higher levels of performance. In this instance, leadership does not have to be purposeful because nothing is being measured and there is more than enough padding in the profit margin to make up for those "little" mistakes. This is the type of "politics" I am referring to in our exploration today.
Purposeful Leaders Are Disrupters
So prevalent is this culture that both client and service provider make allowances for it; that is until someone who is decisive comes in to disrupt the natural order of things. In one case the change was stark. Service crews were working for a client. The daily schedule allowed for an hour of maintenance every four hours or so. Often downtime issues came up during those four hours of run time and when those issues had nothing to do with this service provider, out came the computer games while they waited for whatever issue was to be resolved. That is until one front line leader who was using outcomes to drive his team's performance decided that this was a horrid waste of good time.
Based on the data he was getting from his crew he calculated that there was quite a bit of maintenance that could be accomplished during these interruptions. This was a risk because he could be halfway through maintaining a piece of equipment and they could be called to get back to operations. But because of the input from his crew (the outcomes they had been measuring), he knew exactly how much time was needed and he didn't hesitate to talk to the site manager to confirm the estimated downtime for the issue and communicate to him what he planned to do.
What happened? It turned out the data he had was good and when interruptions happened his crew was prepared and went out to do maintenance. It was close sometimes but they were always ready to roll when the site manager asked them to. Here was the kicker; because they got so good at using these windows of opportunity for maintenance they did not need the scheduled downtime! Of course, the client was pleased as punch, and suddenly what had been the norm (waiting out interruptions playing on the computer) quickly faded away, and a new much more productive norm was put in its place. All because one front line leader made a decision and it paid off.
You Can't Have One Without The Other
It is important here to point out that this leader could never have made that decision if he had not already been driving outcomes with his team. Not only that but he could not have presented his case so effectively to the site manager if he hadn't had the data to back it up. You may want to be purposeful but without the outcomes and metrics, you are just taking chances. This is often where leaders who are purposeful run into issues; upper management is not going to run with your "hunch" when you have nothing to back it up with. So you may be naturally purposeful but you need that assertiveness and drive to outcomes to compliment it. You really can't have one without the other.
You may be reading this and saying to yourself that you want to be purposeful but that the company culture or your boss isn't open to it. Do you have the data to support your position? If not then set about getting it with your team, work with them on driving to those outcomes and just watch and see what happens! Performance Leadership - Think About It!