A frequent theme that came up in the Leadership Conference was the fact that initiatives get started then after a while they die off. The question is why?
The answer to this is lack of executive sponsorship. For any initiative to succeed, it is a prerequisite that the initiative has sponsorship from the very top. Now sponsorship does not just mean the top have asked for it or the top agreed to it. That is not sponsorship.
Sponsorship is when the top take accountability for the success or failure of the initiative, where the top takes personal interest and action because they believe in the initiative and its merits. The top ensures that all senior executives are the first to be exposed and immersed into the initiative before it gets rolled down into the organization.
A good example is the current coaching fad that is sweeping town. Every HR or Training manager is trying to buy coaching serivce. What they need to do before they buy, is to talk to people who have already bought to find out the results. Consultants will tell you that coaching is today the magic pill that cures all your organizational ills. The logic of if is simple. To be the best athlete, you need to be coached, so to be the best employee you also need to be coached.
If we extend that logic a bit what it say is, to hold the number 1 position – e.g. Tiger Woods or Roger Federer or Michael Schumacher they each have their coaches. Therefor, in an organization, the first person or people to be coached surely must be the no 1 person – the Chairman, the MD/CEO followed by the Management team.
Yet every request I have had for coaching has sounded like this “Our CEO want a coaching program for the managers” or worse still – from the training department “Please send in a proposal for coaching.” How can a request for proposal be made in the absence of context.
There are 2 important principles that I learned and applied when I was running companies:
Before you impose your subordinates / employees to anything, make sure you first impose it on your self. If you want coaching, get a coach for yourself first. If you want good customer service, make sure you are the first to be with customers. If you want people to do staff appraisals, make sure you do appraisals for your staff first.
I am sure HR will be the first to vouch that when it comes to staff appraisals, the hardest to get is the on from the CEO of his direct reports. Well I am sure there are exceptions, but it is true in general.
The second is that any training initiative that is developmental (not technical) must be driven from the top. Development training is resource intensive and expensive, thus it must be clearly tied to strategy. It must sit on the senior management teams agenda. HR and training can come and propose, but what they have to propose is not just the activity but the strategic context of the activity: “How will this help us”
“What problems will it solve”
“What improvement can we expect either in customer satisfaction or in shareholder value?”
If we are able to answer the above ,we are likely to have a strong sustainable program as it gets written into the strategy and business plans.