Are you asking questions that communicate that you want new ideas to help customers and the company?
In my book The Leadership Solution, I discussed how leaders can use questions to signal their priorities. If you want to improve speed to market, ask about speed to market issues. If you want to focus on customers, ask about customers.
If you want to increase innovation, ask about new ideas.
Two companies I’ve worked with recently have used employee surveys to try to surface barriers to innovation. Sure enough, the questions related to management’s interest in new ideas received low scores (56% and 38% respectively).
If you want to be more innovative, you absolutely must be viewed as someone who wants fresh new ways to take care of the customer.
The question I’ve always liked best is: “What do you think?”
Leaders can talk all they want about the need for people to work together, but if the numbers tell those people to work in silos they will. The “do communication” will trump the “say communication” nearly every time.
What counts is what you count.
Among the CEO’s I work with, getting people to work together across functions and departments is one of the top issues. Why then, do others guard turf and focus only on their department, business unit, function or geographic area, which is often at the expense of the company’s overall health?
With the assumption that few if any of us get up in the morning relishing another emotionally-draining day of battle with our teammates, I believe we aren’t willingly creating the silos. Systems create them and they usually start within the goal setting and reward systems. These two systems communicate what’s expected in a powerful way.
If you want integration, check to see if your leaders have shared goals. The way I do it is to use a simple Excel spreadsheet, listing the leaders down the left column and company goals across the top. Fill in each leader’s goals and weightings. You should be able to see quickly if you have a problem. The goals will be out of whack at a glance.
Here’s what you should focus on:
- Keep the number of goals to a minimum—the critical numbers. Having a small number of goals clarify priorities. Having many goals confuse people as to what’s important.
- Company-related goals should be shared by the leaders and weighted heavily. This makes it clear what’s important and creates interdependencies among the leaders. That is, the goals should be set so that individual member rewards come as a result of the entire team winning.
- Business unit or functional goals should be secondary, so they should receive lighter weightings. They should drive the overall corporate goals.
If you’re trying to integrate your organization, start with the exercise I use and see what it tells you. Then, if necessary, modify the goals and weightings to eliminate silos, integrate the organization and improve overall results.