Over the years and more recently with clients, I've observed how pivotal it is for the leader to set (and being a living example of) the organisational standards to create a high performance culture. While a lack of team performance may be the result of the right people being in the wrong seats or wrong people in the right seats, it's more likely from a lack of clear standards demonstrated by the leader. This in turn cultivates an attitude of "doesn't matter" and "maybe next time".
Being a leader is a privilege that comes with many responsibilities including being a role model for others, which is not the same as being liked by others. Leadership status is the difference between "being on" when it suits you, to "being on" when it doesn't. It's living your values and the behavioural standards for these, even in the face of ridicule and rejection. Living your standards consistently, every day - no exceptions, independent of pressures you may be experiencing is true self leadership and a less commonly found trait in an era of instant gratification and abundant choice. Only when you master this, have you earned the right to lead others, until then you're still following.
When a new leader is appointed or joins an organisation, the impending change can be both welcome and unwelcome. Turning the heat up and creating disruption, can be an effective way to create rapid outcomes! Change in an environment, especially rapid change may be experienced as stress, uncertainty or discomfort for some people and excitement and adventure by others. A person reacts to their own perceived internal pressure with one of three responses aligned with our primitive stress response. They will either:
- Breakthrough: step up to a higher level of functioning (fight)
- Plateau: continue to function in the same way, despite the situation requiring different behaviour (freeze)
- Reject: remove themselves from the situation to find a less challenging situation (flight)
People's behaviour in the space of uncertainty, determines their ability to grow and evolve .The antidote to managing inconsistent behaviour, is for the leader to be consistent in their behaviour and communicate to the team that these standards of behaviour are applicable in all contexts. This provides certainty for the team, irrespective of what is happening in the business.
During change, people are more likely to revert to reliance on the leader and drop their performance, this is the time to be even tougher with the standards. Acknowledging the "feelings" of uncertainty your team may be experiencing and inviting them to approach the situation together maintaining the standards, helps replace negative feelings with togetherness, adventure and certainty of what is expected from them.