In general terms, the ‘right’ goals are more strategic than tactical, and they aim at the longer-term sustainability of the organisation.
They address the potential for maximising the future opportunity, and take into account the possible evolution of:
the product range
the audience profiles
the culture of the organisation
Over time, what is considered to be the ‘right’ approach certainly does shift. Social trends change, and with them, customer and employee expectations.
A generation or two ago, ‘stakeholder value’ was not a consideration in any business, and neither was it mentioned in any executive learning programme.
But more recently, people have become far more concerned about a whole range of issues that are (rightly) influencing the planning process for our organisational leaders; every board is under scrutiny as much for how it makes a profit, as for how much it makes.
These issues will almost certainly include:
individual and collective wellbeing
engagement and the workplace environment
All this highlights the varied approaches taken by different leadership styles, so being aware of your own strengths and weaknesses is vital in establishing how to deal with such an uncertain future, and recognising that there are ‘known knowns’ and ‘unknown unknowns’ gives us a great capability for dealing with it.
Doing ‘the right things’ will always be driven more by attitude, mindset and character, but this can be taught. When the entire team works in alignment, it adds up to a set of values that reinforce the functional elements. It is the application of these values that will ultimately shape the organisation’s reputation.
While the meaning of ‘the right things’ has changed with time, in line with economic and socio-political trends, and continues to vary from sector to sector, fundamentally they are likely to include:
honesty and transparency
fairness and equality
empathy and integrity
consistency and reliability
From what I observe, in order to be seen to be doing things in the right way, there are three particular areas of planning and implementation that have to be addressed:
This doesn’t just mean focusing on what the customer says they want.
Henry Ford put it succinctly when he observed that: ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me they needed a faster horse.’ In the words of Steve Jobs: ‘Our task is to read things that are not on the page.’
The point is that in order to be truly customer-centric, and to maintain our competitive edge, we need to give customers what they need, even before they realise that they have a need for it.
In this context, loyalty refers to the emotional attachment formed by employees, customers and other stakeholders as a result of the relationship the organisation has developed with them over a period of time.
It also relates to the need for a mutually profitable, symbiotic connection between the parties, in which trust is the catalyst and underpins every element.
The approach it takes to its employees, and its relationship with the wider environment are becoming important factors in how attractive it will be to rising talent, and so the ability to recruit its future leaders will be directly affected by the way it acts.
As well as the efficiency of the functional processes, the entire fabric of the organisation has to be acutely conscious of the impact it has had, is having and will have on the environment around it, such as the effects on the local population, the roads and rivers, the air and the water.
This impacts its choice of suppliers, the design and location of its buildings and the materials used to build them, the utilities it selects, its recycling policies, and so much more.
Doing ‘the right thing’ is rarely compatible with short-termism.
It has often been said that any fool can manage a business and make it profitable in the short term; creating something that is sustainable requires a very different kind of leadership.
So when you think about the purpose of your organisation, I would urge you to think less in terms of targets and more in terms of the legacy you want the organisation to leave to future generations.
How will you and your fellow senior leaders be regarded by future generations when they look back at what you did and how you did it?
If that thought makes you slightly uncomfortable, Henley’s Executive Management Programme will open your eyes; let’s have a conversation and ensure that you will be a hero in their eyes.
Learn more about the Executive Management Programme