651 words: 4-minute read

Have you ever come away from a conversation and felt privileged to hear another’s story about what’s really going on in their lives? All too often we wear a mask when facing the outside world. Taking it off every so often, and being ourselves, helps.

I feel like that a lot in my work as an executive coach. Whilst reflecting on this recently, I saw a theme emerge. It relates to the development leaders innately know they need, but perhaps because of the mask, don’t always get.

The letter below illustrates this conundrum. I hope it stimulates helpful conversations between leaders and their HR colleagues.

Dear HR,

Be straight with us. 

From your vantage point, how often do you see those of us in leadership roles struggle? 

As people who know a thing or two about how business culture makes strategy execution easier, we bet your answer is “quite a bit.”

And we think we know why. We over complicate the business of doing business sometimes.

Simply put, our company’s future depends on new and existing clients trusting our reputation for delivering on our promises. We achieve this by completing projects on time, within budget and without harming anyone. 

But if we’re frank with you – and we know we haven’t always been – not enough of us get this right, enough of the time to make a big enough difference. “Stuff” gets in the way.

Just think how wasteful some of “the ways we do things around here” can be:

  • Clients – we focus people on sales targets and processes. And when distracted by these, sales teams don’t always hear clients’ real concerns, let alone pitch how they could solve them.
  • Schedules – we need a keen price to win new work. And when we’re too optimistic in our planning schedules this only sets us up for failure downstream and damages our reputation.
  • Behaviour – understandably, we think the answer to errant behaviour is more rules and costly enforcement. And if you take on-site health and safety incidents as an example, people caring and looking out for each other is a more permanent solution.
  • Procurement – we have always procured from a supply chain in contractual, arm’s-length relationships. And this isn’t the same as collaboratively working with our key suppliers to reduce costs and improve their and our margins.
  • New technology – as new technology gathers a pace, it quickly becomes today’s problem, not tomorrow’s. Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the Internet of Things (IoT) for example can appear as unwelcome impostors, or just a matter of learning new software. For some however they’re a strategic route to competing more effectively in our market place.
  • Differences – they’re inevitable, necessary even. And if we can’t disagree healthily we can’t turn what divides us to our advantage.

In a busy, full-on world where it’s easy to keep on doing what we’ve always done and not see the wood for the trees, we’re going to need your help to solve problems like these. 

Together, we believe we can co-create a development programme that would:

  1. Get our heads out of the day-to-day so we can see the bigger picture. 
  2. Increase our self awareness to the point where we stop doing what doesn’t serve us well and free up mental space to find insightful new answers of our own to the challenges we face.
  3. Help us weave learning into our everyday work – in teams and 1:1 meetings – not solely be delivered by experts in a classroom.
  4. Deliver higher levels of performance – as measured by increases in new business and project productivity say – and therefore be self-funding.
  5. Build our capacity to coach and develop our leadership bench strength for the future. 
  6. Create a new-found enjoyment of leadership that becomes infectious.

Are you up for exploring this with us? Imagine how your reputation throughout the business would thrive if you were.

We eagerly await your reply.

Sincerely,

Your company’s business and project leaders

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