Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Five-P's of Leadership

Over the course of my career, I have used a leadership model, which has proven to be very effective in building engaged teams focused on achieving a common set of goals.  The results have been consistently impressive.  In many cases, the teams surprised themselves by far exceeding their own expectations or the expectations that had been set for them; expectations, which at the time were considered by many on the team to be unachievable.

The Five-P's are five simple principles to be balanced across the organization.  Skipping one, or focusing only on two or three will lessen potential and will create challenging hurdles when it comes to execution.

The Five-P's are:
  1. Purpose
  2. Perspective
  3. Presence
  4. Process
  5. People
Purpose:  This is also commonly referred to a the vision and/or the mission.  As the leader you must provide a clearly defined purpose for the team.  You have to create a compelling vision of what will be different.  You must be able to clearly articulate a picture of success and how success will impact the organization and how employees, customers, suppliers and other critical stakeholders will operate in the new environment.  Your statement of purpose must be as simple and as informative as possible.  It must provide clear direction and it must be something the team can reference as an anchor point when faced with decisions.  A well defined purpose will enable your team to make the right decisions based on whether their choice takes them closer to or farther from the desired state.

Perspective:  Once you have your purpose clearly defined, you need to provide perspective to your team members so each of them understands exactly how their role and daily activities contribute to the greater purpose.  When you provide perspective, team members will be more likely to be able to make decisions on their own, without always having to delegate critical decisions up.  Perspective must range from the top to bottom of the organization.  This critical element is probably the most overlooked in any organization attempting to drive change.  Leaders often believe that after spending time creating their purpose, printing snappy posters and making colorful powerpoint presentations, their job is done:  everybody is on board and success is just around the corner.  The truth is that people more than one layer removed from the creation of the purpose often don't understand it and don't know how their role will contribute to it.  Spending the time to create perspective will go a long way to ensuring success for your team.

Presence:  The most effective tool in any leader's arsenal is their presence among the critical stakeholders.  Presence means getting up from your desk, and getting out with your people, your customers and your suppliers.  In today's world of instant communications:  e-mail, text messaging, video conferences, etc., the art of presence has been lost in many organizations.  There is NO substitute for face to face interaction.  When people can see the leader's commitment to their new purpose, when they can hear it in the leader's voice and when they can ask the leader directly about how things will change for the organization and for them as individuals, they will be more likely to align themselves with the change and dedicate their efforts to making it happen.

Process:  Every organization must have a commitment to process and to continuous process improvement.  Without sounding bureaucratic,  I do believe it is important to establish clear processes and procedures for critical operating elements and to follow those closely.  It is also important to ensure that any formal processes and procedures are regularly evaluated for relevance and that those who are involved in their execution are committed to continually improving them.  It is also important that process improvement be managed through a disciplined change management system, which records the reason for change, the desired outcome of change and the actual outcome of the change for future reference.  This important step helps to avoid the future problem of not knowing why a particular change was made and perhaps changing something back to a prior state, without understanding the consequences.

People:  Last but not least, people must be the focus of every leader.  This may be cliche, but people are the foundation of every organization.  The common thread through each of the previous four elements of this model is the way they connect to the people in the organization.  The most successful leaders I have worked with are the ones who know how to engage the hearts and minds of the majority of their employee base.  Doing so leverages their leadership influence and allows the leader to spend more time focused on developing and executing strategy, and less time dealing with tactical concerns.

I have found that the simple step of communicating this model to my team before embarking on change goes a long way to helping them to align with the details of whatever changes are required.

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