Getting Beyond Symptoms To The Root Cause
It is beneficial to have a conversation with a colleague who, when you describe a problem, asks “why” and then when you respond again asks “why” and repeats this one-word inquiry until you answer with a root cause. It can also be irritating because we are used to people accepting our characterization of a problem and assuming that the cause we have identified is the result of thoughtful reflection.
But We Often Mistake The Symptom For The Cause
- We say that employee turnover is high. Why?
- We say that profits are stagnant. Why?
- We say that our culture is poor. Why?
- We say that our people are not innovating. Why?
In business, the answer to the “why?’ is ultimately because the company’s top leaders are not aligned. We should think of this as the root cause of the ultimate answer.
The business issues are the symptoms; misalignment at the top is the cause. Leadership team alignment is the best barometer of your company’s ability to create and successfully execute its strategy.
Why Alignment Matters
Just as a manufacturing defect is often the symptom and not the cause (often poor maintenance or process inefficiency is), overall corporate dysfunction (high turnover, poor culture, politically-charged environment) is not the problem: it is the result of a problem. It is a symptom.
Therefore healthy workplaces, good leadership, engaged employees, low turnover, high productivity, etc., are not results of technical expertise alone, but are the direct reflection of an aligned and cohesive leadership team. Proper alignment fixes culture AND business results.
So, What Is An Aligned Leadership Team?
Leadership team alignment is the key to building a top performing company.
CEOs, owners, and entrepreneurs (often the same person) of growing companies value having a cohesive leadership team. So they are looking for advisors who can help them build and maintain that team. They are often trying to figure out how to grow. It’s not that they are in hot water. In fact, smart leaders will often look for ways to ensure alignment during their company’s good times. This is because when times are good, smart leaders wonder what’s wrong. They are often lifelong learners, open to change, who are not satisfied with the status quo (even when things are good) and understand how quickly their company can decline without a spirit of vigilance for ongoing improvement driven from the top.
They have a sense of discomfort:
- There is a smell of dysfunction
- Things seem OK, but important initiatives are stalled
- They are self-enlightened enough to get help, but they know that they need direction
Not every leader is ready for an Advisory Relationship, but that is what is often required to successfully lead through change and growth. This is not about bringing in a consultant for a project. It is not short term. It requires adding an advisor who sticks around, who becomes an adjunct to the leadership team.
How do you find an advisor who can help you discover and understand root causes? How can you make sure that the trust you place in such a partner is warranted?