Ever hear someone describe an experience with the expression “it was like herding cats?”
It paints a descriptive picture, doesn’t it? The leader has a goal — his or her TRUE North — clearly in mind and may have done a bang-up job of communicating it… but each one of those pesky felines has a different idea of what needs to be done right here and right now. One heads for the scratching post, another dashes outside to pick a fight with the neighbor’s cat, one curls up for a nap, and yet another realizes it’s time to hit the litter box. Chaos, right?
Yet that’s a pretty accurate representation of how and why many leadership initiatives fail. Many leaders spend considerable time and effort becoming clear on their objectives and laying out the process for achieving them. (So far, so good.) Then they hold a mandatory town hall with all employees, where they unveil this plan with much fanfare and rah-rah enthusiasm. (Still OK.) And they wrap up this extravaganza with “Okay, team, let’s go do this!” Therein lies the problem.
Because every single person at that meeting may have a different idea of what “doing this” will actually look like when they get back to their desks.
And because they lack that clarity, many team members just toss that promotional coaster in their desk drawers and go back to their usual routine… and nothing changes.
As part of my work with clients, we go through what I call the three MAP Strategies to define and sustain a TRUE North culture:
- Meaning, to satisfy the human desire for purpose beyond the bottom line
- AllOne, to fulfill the human need for belonging
- Progress, to satisfy the human desire for ownership and contribution
In the above example, it seems like these leaders did a pretty good job on the Meaning side of things, but where they failed was at the AllOne level.
We’ve just talked about what happens when a leader misses the AllOne mark… but what does it look like when he or she hits it?
You’ll find one of my favorite examples of AllOne leadership over at Ford Motor Company.
Since taking the wheel of a company on the verge of bankruptcy in 2006, Alan Mulally has executed one of the most impressive turnarounds in corporate history, due in no small part to his belief in an AllOne approach.
Today, under Mulally’s leadership, Ford is driven (pun intended) by the One Ford plan, a beautifully simple manifesto to which every employee is expected to subscribe. In just 75 words — no corporate jargon to be seen — the company’s leadership lays out its TRUE North objective, the plan to achieve it, and the marching orders for every single employee.
As Mulally told McKinsey & Company in a recent interview:
At the heart of the One Ford plan is the phrase “One Team.” Those are more than just words. We really expect our colleagues to model certain behaviors. People here really are committed to the enterprise and to each other. They are working for more than themselves. We are a global company, so we really have to stay focused on the work. There are so many people around the world involved in our daily operations that it has to be about more than a single person — it truly has to be about the business. Some prefer to work in a different way. Ultimately, they will either adopt the Ford culture, or they will leave.
So the next time you consider an initiative for your organization, just remember that the AllOne strategy can make the difference between cruising down the highway towards your TRUE North… and herding cats.