Executive Leadership Coaching
2 minute read
Jun 26, 2018
Written by: Shawn Sweeney
What would you do if your company was on track to lose $17B dollars this year?
If you were Alan Mulally, as the newly appointed President and CEO of Ford Motor Company, you would start by focusing on fostering transparency and vulnerability. After all, you can’t fix what you can’t see.
I recently heard Alan, who retired from Ford in 2014, speak at the EntreLeadership summit in San Antonio, and he shared 4 key leadership lessons that apply to all organizations.
Alan’s career is impressive, including being the CEO of Boeing’s Commercial Airplane division. Alan was the Boeing CEO during 9/11. And he stepped into Ford when the company was on the brink of declaring bankruptcy. Tough jobs to say the least. Imagine the pressure and stress of those roles at those moments in time.
During his talk, Alan described his first meeting with his leadership team at Ford — the same team that was on track to lose $17B that year. Every executive reported their projects and initiatives were in “green” status.
That’s right: Everything is going great. No risks. No issues. “Steady as she goes,” as we say in the Navy.
It’s fun to imagine the expression on Alan’s face as he heard report after report of “green” status.
Obviously, losing $17B didn’t match with Alan’s goals and vision for the company. And clearly, the first reports he received weren’t painting a picture of reality. But instead of berating leaders for their lack of transparency, he started with focusing on his role as the leader of the organization.
Here’s what Alan set out to focus on:
Let’s discuss how these apply to all of our organizations.
You have a clear idea of your organization’s priorities and plans. But does your team? Not just your direct leaders, but the entire team? If the team isn’t clear on where they’re going and why, it will be next to impossible to get everyone pulling in the same direction.
In my experience, declaring goals and priorities is only half the battle. Declaring what’s not a priority is just as, if not more, important. With the best of intentions, teams can quickly initiate projects and programs that aren’t actually aligned to the highest priority work.
If people are afraid that reporting the true status of an initiative is a career-limiting move, you can be assured all of your team is going to report “green” status. You can encourage transparency when you applaud those who call out issues and risks. Give them the help they need to overcome their challenges. And when they get more traction and more consistently hit their goals, you’ll see others begin to open up.
As for vulnerability, you need to model the behavior you expect. Openly discuss challenges and tough decisions. Don’t act like you have the answer to every question. In short: Be human.
As a leader, you need to know where your attention and support is most needed. You don’t have unlimited bandwidth, so knowing where to focus is critical. Projects reported as being in “red” or “yellow” status is a good indicator of where you can help. But remember: People will only be willing to report “red” and “yellow” if they know they’re going to get help — and not grief — when they report something other than “green”!
Final lesson: Start a weekly meeting. Alan leveraged a weekly meeting he called the “Business Plan Review.” Every member of his leadership team came together to review priorities, discuss the status of every initiative, and create focus on what was standing in the way of success. This one meeting reinforced the three elements listed above — while also eliminating the need for countless other meetings.
One meeting. Loads of focus and transparency.
While the idea of a weekly meeting may seem simple, if a successful CEO of a Fortune 25 company has used it repeatedly through his career, I’m willing to bet it’s worth giving it a try.
Echoing the steps of my father and grandfather, who both served in the military, I set my sights on service to country early on in my life, garnering a coveted spot at the U.S. Naval Academy with plans to earn my aviator’s wings. And while I earned my degree in aeronautical engineering, a submarine deployment during my academic training diverted my attention from the skies to deep waters.
Business Strategy, Human Capital, Leadership Development 1 minute read
Our Spinnaker team of experts knows a thing or two about meetings. In our careers, we’ve participated in, planned, and lead thousands of meetings. And over the years we’ve seen it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly. When we think about the #1 ingredient of successful meetings, we all have the same response: It’s all about the agenda!
Executive Leadership Coaching 3 minute read
Recently, I was invited to participate in Forbes Magazine’s Finance Council, which is a collection of senior-level financial services executives from across the country who’ve been tapped to share advice and resources. Last month, the editorial board asked council members for strategies to identify critical business metrics – and they appreciated the Spinnaker perspective on measurement, and the need to evolve reporting as business goals change. The crux of our recommendation: select metrics that drive decision making and for every metric you add, attempt to eliminate an old one.
Spinnaker News 1 minute read
Like how we think? Subscribe to have our articles delivered direct to your inbox each month.
Headquarters: 8000 Franklin Farms Drive, Suite 100, Richmond, VA 23229
©2023 Spinnaker Consulting Group. All rights reserved.