Before we start, I want you to try something. It’s a quick exercise I do with highly successful CEOs all across the country.
Grab a pen and paper and answer these 3 questions.
- How would you describe the glory days of your organization?
- How did it feel to lead?
- What is the one thing you need to create, sustain, or return to from those great times?
Let’s dial in on that last question. Is it really that simple? Is there just one thing?
Let’s assume for a moment that it is just one thing. What do you think it is?
The CEOs I work with give me many of the same answers. For example, they often say they need to hire good people, build a strong leadership team, have a compelling vision for the future, lead/manage their people well, sell more, or innovate more.
To an extent, they are all right. Intuitively they’ve all picked up on those key leadership activities essential for scaling sustainably. And there are actually 13 of them. If you’ve been a reader over the last year, you will likely recognize them from past articles.
The image below is the roadmap to scalability, and we call it the Scalability Matrix. It contains all 13 leadership activities and depicts the order and relationships of each “imperative” for scale.
You must have the right internal structures to support the growth and consistently make high-quality decisions.
You need to hire good people to create lasting success.
You’ll also recognize that your organization must be highly aligned around shared goals and work daily to achieve those goals.
It’s also obvious that you need to be able to train your people to do their jobs well.
And you can’t last in today’s competitive landscape without innovation taking a central role in your organization’s strategy and ethos.
But outside of just “making sense,” why is it that these 13 imperatives are so important?
It’s because together, they create the environment for this one imperative that is the most important of all. This imperative is the number one predictor of future success in your organization.
And it is individual Ownership & Self-Accountability.
Because these words can mean a lot of different things to different people, let me share how we define them in the context of Predictable Success:
Ownership & Self-Accountability is the degree to which everyone in the organization understands and takes personal responsibility for their contribution to achieving the organization’s common goals.
Beyond some academic definition, it just feels right, doesn’t it? If you look back at the history of your organization or even other organizations you’ve worked for, the one thing that was always there in the best of days was a group of people that took responsibility for their work and were passionate about getting even better.
That was or maybe is a really fun group to lead, isn’t it?
That is an exceptionally effective group as well.
You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here
Now what tends to happen in a growing organization is, at first, you sort of stumble on it. You get lucky on a few right hires, and the rest don’t make it, at least not for long. You have to be a little crazy to work in a young, growing organization.
When we were growing like crazy, I led every new hire orientation, telling them, “We don’t have all our ducks in a row; we’re growing too fast to get it all right. So if you see a stray duck, it’s your job to get it into place.”
These were new hires in their first week with the company, and I was not only permitting them but setting the expectation that they would take responsibility and do the right thing for the good of the customer and the good of the company.
And it worked! Like most organizations in this Fun stage, we took off. It was hard, even breathless work, but it was a lot of fun.
You may find yourself in this position right now. You’re stealing victory from the jaws of defeat and market share from much larger competitors. You’ve got a small band of brothers or that “family feel,” and it’s returning dividends. You’re growing by double or even triple digits yearly with no end in sight.
This works until it doesn’t.
One day you wake up, and things aren’t as fun as they used to be. You’ve got bickering leaders, lazy employees, and angry customers, and no one is taking responsibility for any of it.
Where did it all go wrong?
The cause may surprise you – success. The success you’ve experienced creates more success, but it also creates more complexity. And complexity is a Fun killer. And when you look around, all that Ownership & Self-Accountability that was just there has been replaced by renters and finger-pointing.
And nothing will suck the joy out of leading as fast as a lack of Ownership & Self-Accountability, which leaves you with a critical choice to make. Do you simplify and turn the dials back a little to breathe life back into your small team? OR do you push the pedal down and drive forward?
The Founders and CEOs I work with are split right down the middle. But how you achieve Ownership & Self-Accountability is very different depending on which route you choose.
In the following article, I’ll show you how simple the path to each destination truly is!
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