After enjoying the organic growth stage in your organization, you will come face to face with the reality that Ownership and Self-Accountability don’t just happen at scale (that is, if you haven’t already).
Structuring an environment for Ownership and Self-Accountability to thrive may sound foreign and complicated.
But it’s not.
It’s actually quite simple to understand.
There are five steps you need to take to get your organization out of Whitewater and not back to its winning ways, but forward to more success than you’ve ever achieved!
However, as I mentioned in the previous article, it’s not only about taking the right steps; it’s about taking the right steps in the right order. Unfortunately, that’s where most of us mess up. It’s like adding the right numbers in the wrong order to a combination lock, then wondering why it won’t open.
I have to pause here to admit that I’ve got a lot of processor in me. And so, if you want to nerd out for a moment on why combination lock is a misnomer and why the math behind the myth can be used to explain why so many organizations get stuck in Whitewater, click here.
Instead of storming away complaining about the “stupid lock,” in this article, part 3 in the series, I’ll introduce all five and show you the specific order to tackle each one. I’m giving you the code to unlock Ownership and Self-Accountability like never before.
Step 1: Org Chart
Ok, snooze-fest alert. I get it. All this hype and I want you to create a flowchart with a bunch of names on it? Not really. While the org chart needs to be drawn up, it’s so much more. A great org chart in all its parts is like the schematic for the new engine in your organization: high-quality team-based decision-making.
Before you check out, consider this for a moment. How many fires, headaches, and frustrations you’re dealing with now result from a bad decision made by someone in your organization (including you)? I’d be willing to bet it’s almost all of them.
Even if you can point to external factors like market realities, supply chain interruptions, labor shortages, and/or inflation, everyone out there is in the same boat as you. The decisions you and your organization make in response to those challenges will separate you from the rest. Especially in difficult times, great organizations grow faster than mediocre ones.
And so, the biggest challenge you are facing right now (at least if you are in Whitewater) is the quality of your decision-making. And the absolute best tool for the job is to create clarity around the org chart.
You can learn more about what this means and how to overcome it in this article.
Step 2: Lateral Management
As you clearly define who reports to whom and, more importantly, who is responsible for what, one thing will become painfully clear. What being a leader used to mean and what it’s going to mean moving forward are two very different things.
There is lots of advice available on what it takes to be a leader. But there is one fundamental flaw underlying virtually all of it—the question of when. Getting the right people on the bus or the right people in the right seats requires getting the right people in the right seats at the right time. And right now is a critical time.
In the past, your leaders were the top achievers. The heroes who led the way were quick to act, good at what they did, and demanded results from their team. You could count on them to get the job done.
Today, you need a whole lot more than a hero; you need a team member. You need your leaders to not just drive their functional expertise (silo). You also need them to lead the whole organization. And that principally means learning to lead side by side with other leaders, make great decisions together, and rely on each other as you implement those decisions alongside one another. In other words, they need to lead laterally.
You can learn more about what this means and how to overcome it in this article.
Step 3: Cross-Functionality
By now, you’ve heard one of the worst phrases an employee can say, and you’ve probably heard it more than once. “That’s not my job.” It boils your blood, doesn’t it? That one phrase goes against just about everything you stand for, believe in, and want for your organization.
Here’s the bad news, sometimes that is a sign of health. Not everyone should do everything. You don’t necessarily need your sales reps to have “done the job” in the past. You don’t need your leaders to experience everything you’ve experienced to lead well. You don’t need your frontline employees to understand the entire organization’s strategies to do their job exceptionally well.
By clarifying the org chart and role responsibilities, you will have appropriately delineated most of what is in someone’s job and what isn’t. But, again, the goal isn’t for everyone to do everything. You just want to make sure everything gets done.
Here’s the good news: you can eliminate a lack of ownership and remove all the dead space in between by focusing on Cross-Functionality.
Cross-Functionality is a new muscle for an organization in Whitewater. Up until now, your people have succeeded by doing their job well individually. Now you need to teach them and give them the structures they need to do their job well with individuals and teams from other parts of the organization. When you marry a clear sense of individual responsibility with a strong desire for cross-functionality, you end up with a highly tuned machine for decision-making.
You can learn more about this and how to do it in this article.
Step 4: Alignment
Alignment is where things finally start to make more sense. What you do to solve alignment issues is more visible, tactile, and intuitive. Think about it like building a skyscraper.
I live in Atlanta, and there are construction projects and building cranes all over the place. But one particular project stood out to me simply by virtue of its proximity. The new 20+ story building was erected right next to the interstate. Every time I drove by, I examined the progress. Yet, for what felt like an eternity, all they did was made the hole in the ground bigger and the ground around it messier. It was months and months and months of no visible progress. But then, all of a sudden, one day, I drove past, and the first seven floors were in place seemingly overnight.
That’s what Alignment is like. Of course, we can try to skip straight ahead and start building up (like we always have). But that structure is guaranteed to collapse if we don’t build down first. Org Chart, Lateral Management, and Cross-Functionality are the dirty fingernails work of digging down and laying a foundation. And with the right foundation, Alignment starts making things happen very quickly.
So what is Alignment? It is the degree to which everyone knows, understands, agrees with, and works actively toward achieving your shared Mission, Vision, Values, and Goals. It’s where your organization’s massive amount of energy is pointed like a rocket in a single direction.
But there is a particular way you must address the issue of Alignment, and you can find out more about what this means and how to achieve it in this article.
Step 5: Empowerment
We’ve admittedly laid more track than ever before, but we still haven’t fired up the train engine. But that means when we fire up the engine (remember the rocket from Alignment), you’re going to move further and faster toward your vision for your organization. These are exciting times.
And the way to fire up the rocket is to stop working so hard.
The way to scale an organization and bring back Ownership and Self-Accountability is to empower the people around you. This can be (and usually is) a little awkward at first. But, with the right process in place, you can create an environment for your people to achieve infinitely more than you could by yourself or with just your leadership team.
It’s like stepping off the field of play for the very first time to lead from the sideline. You are transitioning from player to coach, and it will be one of the biggest transformations in your life as a leader.
As strange a transformation as this is, it requires a lot less energy from you, and you can achieve so much more, just ask Mario Lemieux.
The goal of empowerment is not abdication, far from it. Instead, your goal is to give away appropriate authority and responsibility with autonomous boundaries that grow over time. Then get the information you need to correct material missteps, then push the Empowerment dynamic out and down.
This is the spark that allows great people to do great work. And it’s the final piece of the puzzle needed to restore Ownership and Self-Accountability.
You can learn more about what this means and how to attain it in this article.
Is this really worth it?
If all of this sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. It is. And much of it is hard work, too, especially getting down to the level of detail needed to make it all work.
And that’s why the rewards are so exceptionally high.
Remember my story? We added $1M to our bottom line and then grew our revenue and our profit margin together.
I’ve seen finance companies make this shift and go from $20M to $200M.
I’ve seen nonprofits make this shift triple their annual budget before going international and expanding even further.
I’ve seen companies increase their EBITDA by over 800% in a single year.
I’ve seen advertising companies triple in a year and still have more room to grow.
Beyond the financial benefits, I’ve seen leaders on the verge of quitting get a fresh vision and hope for the future of their company.
I’ve seen burnt-out founders find new life and joy in and out of the game when they found their new place as a coach on the sideline.
I’ve seen miserable leadership teams transform overnight once they understood their problems were caused by Whitewater and not by the person across the table.
If you want to achieve these same results or even set some new records of your own. Or if it’s as simple as just wanting to love leading again, then Ownership & Self-Accountability are essential to your success. And while you can no longer simply will them into existence, you can follow these five simple steps to create the organization of your dreams.
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