Mama said, “We grow the way we lean!”

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When I was in my early 20’s, my Mom pulled me aside and told me, “Mel, we grow the way we lean.” I said, “Yes Ma’am.” She was trying to tell me that decisions are directional and they build something. They take you towards or away from your goal. She was encouraging me to stay on the road less traveled and lean towards God, good and right. Why? Because she knew that the way I was leaning was going to become more permanent as time went on. She wanted me to align today’s choice with tomorrow’s hopes and dreams, the right way. What a wise Mom!

Then it sunk in even more as I began transforming companies. In business, we grow the way we lean, too. Leaning towards your vision, core values and dreams is the best practice. Unfortunately, being mediocre in execution can lead to worst practice and growing short of your goals. The company will lean for better or for worse based on the health of these three (3) interrelated major company health indicators:

  1. Organizational Structure
  2. Culture
  3. Brand Alignment

Quick Summary: A sound and well designed Org Structure tied to a healthy culture is so important. Getting the right people in those right seats, led by the right leaders builds the culture. Aligning the client experience with the brand is critical. Having every element of your business from all team member behavior, every image, all interactions, and all customer engagements on-brand is elite. Get these three major indicators above right, aligned, and healthy, and you will have lightning in a bottle!

More Detail: When I am engaged to coach highly talented executives and executive teams, we look at this right away. How is the company leaning? How are the leaders on the senior team leaning? How are the departments and all locations leaning? Is everyone on the same side of the rope with you pulling and leaning the same direction? What breakdowns are occurring? Where are the gaps? Structure First, People Second: We look at the organizational structure absent names in order to take a “structure first, people second” approach. This was one of the most impactful best practices ever realized in my career. We want to ensure that we are building around sound structure and the need for roles before we fill them. Structure is very important. Once structured optimally, then getting the right people in those seats is paramount and never ending. When a company is leaning the wrong direction versus its goals, I can almost assuredly predict that the structure is unsound, leading to several people in that structure being wrong people or at least wrong seat. If this is systemic, it may be smart to engage an executive coach like me, because this is a tricky but very important step to course correcting the business. Learning to apply structure first, people second and execute proper delegation and elevation in all roles can be overwhelming due to the discipline required and the likely ripple effect. A coach is a smart investment to mitigate risk and manage the process.

We have all read or heard that culture eats strategy for breakfast. The culture of the company is heavily impacted by structure and people. It also requires exceptional and disciplined annual, quarterly and weekly meetings whereby goals are set and aligned top down and bottom up. Less is more in prioritized goal setting and that is unnatural at first. Sometimes deciding what not to do is key in order to focus team members. Healthy communication flowing up and down is required. A “problem solving” empowered culture is required. Getting everyone on your side of the rope, pulling and leaning together is like a fine symphony! It is the indicator of cultural health. There are incredible tool-sets here like the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) that provide an execution model for these best practices to drive your culture. To change a culture it takes a conscious decision to break away from comfortable mediocrity to embrace sometimes uncomfortable best practice.

Branding and being on-brand are powerful. Likewise, there is an inverse power that works negatively if your brand is misaligned with your market and/or if your team members act off-brand. Having all team members acting and all visible elements of your business (i.e. all locations, all client interactions, all communications written and verbal) in alignment with the brand is highly important to the way you lean. Being “on-brand” is nonnegotiable in great companies. This, too, can be addressed by engaging an executive coach who knows these woods. Changing cultures to lean towards your desired vision and target is also tricky. The good news is that it can and should be done.

Is your business leaning the healthy direction in which you expect and desire to grow? Or Is your current “lean” working against your vision and goals?

It is definitely an important self assessment to undertake. The good news is that we know how to correct it. The first step is seeing the need to correct it, if it exists.

Cheers! Happy New Year 2019! Make 2019 the year that everyone on your senior team does the very best work of your careers, together!

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