Driving Strategy Home (part 2 of 2)

December 29th, 2008   •   Comments Off on Driving Strategy Home (part 2 of 2)   

In the last issue, we addressed the challenge leaders face as they engage in strategic planning for their organizations. Our focus for that article was on how to make the strategic planning process more effective. This article addresses the next challenge with strategic planning: getting the change to take hold in the organization. We have seen strategic change efforts in organizations flounder because the goals, priorities, and initiatives begun during the planning process are not woven into the fabric of the organization. Employees interpret the change in strategy a number of ways, including something that doesn’t affect them, the “flavor of the month”, or something to wait out until things “get back to normal”. Below are some of our thoughts on ways to help move strategic planning to successful implementation:

Go beyond the Town Hall. Communication about strategic change generally starts with a big Town Hall meeting where the top leader explains the new direction. Unfortunately, for many organizations, that is where the communication ends. Leaders need to follow up town halls with localized communication, where the strategy can be translated into thee specific impact on their people. It also allows them to field more questions and start to paint a picture of what the change means.

Revisit the goals often. When we engage with a new organization for strategic planning, we usually ask about what happened with their last plan. Too often we find that at least one or more big goals resulted in no action. Worse, we have heard, “We haven’t looked at it since we finished it three years ago.” Strategic goals and priorities need to become part of the normal conversation among leaders, with appropriate accountability identified for each goal.

Cascade strategic goals down the ranks. Once strategic goals are announced and accountabilities are identified, leaders should revisit their groups’ goals to see where they need to be updated in light of the new strategic priorities. Failing to revise and update the goals will negate any momentum communicating about the goals started. These group goals drive regular performance evaluation and feedback, which are powerful guides for behavior.

Celebrate successes. Any strategic change has the potential to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt in an organization. Even those who buy into the strategy will still have reservations about making changes to how they do business. Using early successes in strategic change to bolster confidence and create additional energy keeps people moving forward.

Leadership in Practice: Steve Hanley of Covidien Imaging Solutions

December 23rd, 2008   •   Comments Off on Leadership in Practice: Steve Hanley of Covidien Imaging Solutions   

Leadership in Practice: A Conversation with Steve Hanley, President, Covidien Imaging Solutions

 Q:  Can you give me a two minute synopsis of how you got to where you are now?

A:  I started almost 17 years ago at Kendall Healthcare, which is another important part of Covidien, as a sales representative in Milwaukee. Over the next ten years, I went through the ranks of marketing and management.  My last position at Kendall was Vice President of Sales for the Eastern half of the U.S.  In January 2001, I came over to Mallinckrodt in the role of Vice President of Marketing.  Over the last seven years, I have had roles as Vice President of Sales and Marketing, General Manager in the U.S., and currently Global Business Unit President of Imaging Solutions. 

Q:  How has your leadership style changed over the years?

A:  As I have moved to different jobs at higher levels, I found I need to articulate a vision and communicate what I see as success.  If there is an approach that I hope has improved, it’s to give feedback more often and to embrace conflict so that it can be resolved early. 

Q:  What role does feedback play for you?

A:  It’s how we develop talent.  I understand it’s not a novel thought, but it is sometimes difficult to execute – to reaffirm what our employees are doing well and also give feedback in areas to improve. People want and deserve feedback. If you take for granted that you don’t have the responsibility to give feedback, you are making a mistake. We are able to coach our employees on smaller issues early and avoid some of the bigger problems in the long run.

Q:  Were there any critical experiences that shaped your approach to leadership?

A:  I have lived in four different areas of the country to take on new roles with the Covidien family of companies.  In each one, I had to reestablish my credibility with the group I was working.  Those times shape your ability to establish your leadership quickly, to give direction to the teams that you are working with, and to set the culture and tone that you want to operate in.  When you encounter challenging times, how you respond in those situations either fortifies you as a leader or goes in another direction. In our business, we have had manufacturing challenges and product availability problems. In all of these situations, I had to demonstrate leadership and confidence.  I had to learn how to manage in that kind of environment where being visible, upfront, and transparent is especially critical. 

Q:  Have you had any mentors to whom you can point that have helped you along?

A:  In 17 years, I have had several mentors.  Most would be considered informal mentors and many lead other functional areas.  I would look to them for advice and counsel.   I have been fortunate that my last two bosses played both the boss and mentor role.  In my case, one had more operational experience and the other has both a financial and strategic background.  It is an example of how having different mentors can speed development because of the diversity of perspectives.

Q:  What role does mentoring play in your leadership in how you approach your role as a leader?

A:   If developing talent is one of my critical tasks, mentoring is essential. There are two areas that mentoring helps development.  The first would be to accelerate growth, where the insight given by a mentor enables one to more quickly adapt and learn. Secondly, I think that mentors increase self-awareness. Good leaders need the ability to know how they are perceived. It is critical that mentors give candid feedback in a way that doesn’t have the attachment of a supervisor (“Am I going to keep my job?” “Am I going to get a promotion?”).

Q:  How you would describe the leadership culture of the Covidien Imaging Solutions?

A:  We have accountability and integrity as core to our culture.  It is a challenging environment where we are expecting more and more out of everyone in the organization. I hope it is seen as a respectful environment that regardless of your responsibility people know what they do is really integral to the success of the organization.  Where we want to go and where mentoring will help us is being more creative, taking more risk, and being innovative. If you have really trusted mentors they can help evaluate opportunities and encourage risk taking.  If we don’t punish people who fail, the mentoring environment allows you to take more risk and to be more creative. 

Q:  What sort of impact do you think that has on your business?

A:  I think it’s dramatic.  Our culture will help us recruit and retain top talent. 

Q:  Are there other things that the organization does to build and maintain its culture of leadership?

A:  We have Individual Development Plans, which isn’t really a novel approach. But, in Imaging Solutions, we have asked all of our salaried employees to hold quarterly individual development meetings with their supervisor.  Each quarter the employee is accountable to achieve these goals and to receive feedback from their supervisor how they are tracking against objectives. 

Q:  Earlier, you talked about the ability to fail. What does that play in both the leadership in the organization and the culture you are trying to create in the organization? 

A:  I believe that innovation and creativity will come only with risk taking. How the leadership team responds to individuals who took chances with understood risk is important. If they managed that program well and took the risk that was articulated, we need to not have negativity attached to it, but give another opportunity to succeed.  Encouraging risk taking without taking away accountability is challenging.

Q:  Is there anything else you want to add about leadership or the role developing leaders plays in your organization?

A:  Mentoring is about accelerating development.  We recognize that building a bench is critical. The benefits we get from developing leaders help improve the culture and creativity, and they increase our ability to improve performance in the long run.

Leadership in Practice: Sally Roth of Regions Bank

December 16th, 2008   •   Comments Off on Leadership in Practice: Sally Roth of Regions Bank   

Leadership in Practice: A Conversation with Sally Roth, President of Regions Bank, Greater St. Louis and Area Executive for the Upper Midwest Region.

Q:  Can you give me a two minute synopsis of how you got to where you are?

A:  Well, it is a second career. I taught secondary education, which was a terrific experience, but I was drawn to banking as a profession, understanding that really nothing happens in a community without a bank somehow being involved. When I quit teaching to begin raising a family, I took accounting courses, and then a part-time job working for a small bank. When our youngest started school, I started at Mercantile Bank in the commercial lending division.  From there, I went on to run Large Corporate for Mercantile, and then was president of their West County banks.  In the middle of all of that, Mercantile sponsored my MBA at Washington University, where I got my formal business degree.  From there I went to Bank of America, and then ultimately came to Regions Bank six years ago. Regions is the eighth-largest bank in the United States. In greater St. Louis, we have 60 branches and hold  number one market share in the Metro East market. I initially joined Regions to run the wealth management area. When the leadership position for the commercial division opened up, due to my background, I was put in charge of that area as well. When my boss, Mike Ross, was made regional president, his position opened up and I was lucky enough to be named to that position. I am what they call an area executive, which means  I am responsible for  Iowa, Missouri, and western Kentucky.  I also serve as president of the greater St. Louis market.

Q: How has your leadership style  changed over the years? 

A: Early in most individual’s career, leadership style tends to be more tactical because you are not in a strong position to influence strategy. As you move up the leadership lifeline, responsibilities become more strategic; as such your leadership style needs to become more reliant on the people that work for you to execute. It is all about the quality of people that you have on your team. I tell each of my managers that they are the CEO of their own subsidiary. They run their lines of business as if it is their own business.

Q:  Are there any critical experiences that have shaped your approach to leadership over the years?

A: The banking environment is ever-changing.  It went from being a regulated industry to deregulated industry.  There was meaningful consolidation for some banks and expansion for others. I have been on the acquired side and the acquiring side. It used to be that banks only took deposits and made loans.  Now we own a number of financial services businesses such as brokerage and insurance companies.  As an example, Regions owns Morgan Keegan. As I went through all of this recasting of the industry (which continues), I have learned that flexibility is absolutely key. Also, knowing the business is very important too. You have got to know as much about the business as you can, so that people know that you know what you are talking about.

Q:  Have you had mentors along the way?

A: Tom Jacobson, chairman of Mercantile Bank, was kind enough to select me as the Bank’s candidate for Washington University’s Executive MBA program.  Being selected was a big deal and I appreciated that.  Another mentor was Lee Kling, chairman of one of our predecessor banks.  He recently passed away.  He had an incredible knowledge of the St. Louis market.  He would share his knowledge and perspective and that was very helpful for me.  I also have learned a lot from Mike Ross who is our regional president.  He has a really  great leadership style and is very respectful of other people.  You can learn from somebody like that and I have. 

Q:  Does mentoring play a role in your leadership?

A: I have very talented people working for me. I encourage them to run their groups as if it is their own business and have them coach their own associates.  By doing this, the mentorship cascades  through many layers.  I tell them they need to do three things in order to be successful…get to know as much about your business so you can serve as a resource, let people know that you care about them by being proactive and follow through on your promises so that people know you can be trusted.

Q:  How would you describe the leadership culture of your organization?

A:  I think you have heard that a company’s culture starts at the top.  Our chairman, Dowd Ritter, embraces Regions’ core values.  He is very consistent in demonstrating this and that flows through every layer of our organization.

Q:  Does that culture then have an impact on the business and how you are perceived by your clients?

A:  Yes, our core values are “do what is right”, “put people first”, “reach higher”, “focus on your customer”, and “enjoy life”.  Our tag line is “Make life better”.  It is all designed to better serve our associates, clients and the community.

Q:  What do you do in the organization to build and maintain a culture of leadership?

A:  Communication. Our chairman hosts a webcast once a month. It starts with a video highlighting an associate who lives our values. This reinforces their importance. My boss has meetings with us continually where he is passing the same message down to his management team.  I host town hall meetings to ensure that the same message is heard. We also survey our associates to see how they are doing, how they feel about things, making sure that we are underscoring the importance of those core values and living them.  Ongoing communication is paramount in maintaining a consistent cultural message 

Q: How do you actively develop the next generation of leaders?

A:  We have an active testing program. Anyone entering a leadership level will get tested. Every year a talent assessment is done on each associate.  The assessment covers everything from commitment, to knowledge of the business, to being able to influence others. Each manager does an assessment on his people and then we talk about it.  From that, there is a dialogue between the two as to opportunities for improvement.  The whole process is designed to help each associate get to the next level.

Q: Do you have anything else to say about leadership?

A:  People who are successful leaders are those who are able to influence others within the company.  Whether it is within a peer group, being able to problem solve and being able to influence the outcome, or representing the interests of your line of business to upper management.  Of course, it goes without saying that you have to be considered knowledgeable to be able to persuade.