Lessons in Leadership: Vigilance (an excerpt from Dr. Bandelli’s Book, What Every Leader Needs)

Kevin was a new CEO for a shipping and logistics company. He came to the organization to turn things around. The company had spent years in stagnation and working with inefficient processes and procedures. The culture was slow, laid back, and leaders did not hold one another accountable for results. His mandate was simple: re-engineer the company’s operating policies and procedures, and re-energize the workforce by instilling vigilant discipline and accountability at all levels of the organization.

Kevin came to my firm with several requests. The first was to help him develop a new leadership competency framework that would be modeled by his senior leadership team with their people across the company. He also wanted his team to understand the new leadership mandate and begin to drive accountability for results. This was a challenge given that many of his direct reports were part of the old guard. He needed to replace several leaders that were not willing to adjust to his disciplined approach.

Once the leadership framework was in place we began development assessments with each of his team members. The goal was to identify their strengths and development opportunities against the leadership framework and craft development plans for each leader. As expected, driving disciplined execution came up as a challenge across his senior leadership team. This did not discourage Kevin. He met with each functional leader and made sure they were clear on goals and expectations, and began conducting regular follow-up meetings to ensure progress was being made against stated expectations.

As time progressed the organization went through positive and negative periods. Over the course of one fiscal year we saw the team go through an acquisition, replace their head of sales, and bring in a new marketing leader. This all was taking place as they were integrating a new IT ERP system. Talk about drastic change! Throughout all of this transition, Kevin remained steadfast and determined to make sure results were being delivered. He continued his regular monthly follow-up meetings with his direct reports. He instructed them to begin instilling monthly one-on-one meetings with their people. Additionally, he started to implement monthly team status meetings. This served as an opportunity for cross-functional colleagues to share information across their many enterprise-wide initiatives.

Kevin pushed his team to be responsible and to take ownership for decisions. He vetted ideas from people, defined success metric up front, scoped and resourced projects, defined clear accountabilities, and tracked real progress. It was his ability to use structure, process, and clear expectations that kept people focused on the right outcomes. Over the course of our work with Kevin and his team, we saw a dramatic turnaround in the company’s focus, and their execution. It took a while, but with careful attention to detail, and prioritizing effectively, the best use of talent, time, and resources were allocated to driving major business priorities.

Kevin instilled a sense of urgency in his team and organization. This helped to shape the culture and made leaders proactive in their approach to problems. They took decisive actions instead of waiting for others to get the job done. Today, his organization operates with a strong results orientation culture. People challenge one another to improve day-to-day processes in order to drive current as well as future outcomes. The company is consistent in exceeding shareholder goals and expectations because of the discipline and rigor Kevin instilled with his people. He was able to raise the bar on performance by leading with vigilance.

For more information on Dr. Bandelli’s book, What Every Leader Needs, contact Bandelli & Associates at abandelli@bandelliassociates.com.

Leadership Matters. Without It, People Fail.