Not too long ago, my team and I were working with an organization’s top 50 leaders when we were struck by a fairly stark realization.
All of these leaders were living working and living in their own little worlds, completely cut off from each other. As remarkable as it may seem, even though they had worked for the same organization for years, and in the same office building, many of these leaders were so focused on their departments and priorities, they rarely interacted with one another. In fact, a few of them had never met each other face to face. How is this even possible I asked myself?
After making this observation to the group, one leader admitted that during our session she was able to engage in a very productive conversation with a fellow leader who, despite working alongside each other for a decade, had never found the time to connect face to face.
They were not only able to connect, they were also able to see a myriad of ways they could work together to benefit their organization.
It seems like a pretty simple idea: great leaders reach out and connect with other leaders in their organization to drive success. Then why did it take a facilitated meeting with my team to start to get these leaders together?
The reality is that far too many leaders show focus only on their own little corner of the universe – focused inward on their role and department to the exclusion of others they work with.
How did we get this way? Many organizations inadvertently promote this tendency with performance measurements that are completely focused on individual or departmental priorities. Even though collaboration is important, we don’t measure leaders based on their ability to build networks and work in concert with one another.
Unfortunately, this internal focus doesn’t drive organizational success. When there is too much internalization going on, the silos within an organization can be working at cross-purposes. These are the organizations that spin their wheels and get stuck in the mud because everyone is going off in different directions and doing their own thing.
On the contrary, the most successful leaders I work with today are those who are more in touch with the world outside of themselves and their department. These leaders have a keen sense of what other leaders and departments do and how everyone in an organization needs to pull together to be successful.
But it’s even more than that.
The truly great leaders know they have to reach outside of their realms and to connect with customers to understand their needs and concerns. These leaders are all about building relationships with stakeholders, outside and inside your organization, to eliminate roadblocks, drive collaboration and innovation.
Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can become less internally focused.
- Establish a regular pattern of reaching out to your fellow leaders. Connect with a colleague outside your own department over coffee or lunch, or a Skype chat. You will benefit from hearing the reality being faced by other leaders.
- Invite leaders from other departments to come into your meetings to share what they do and explore how you can all work more effectively together.
- If you are a senior leader, force (that’s right, force) your leaders to get out of their box by convening events or meetings that require them to meet face to face. This simple solution will unleash new collaborative and creative energy within your organization.
This week’s gut check question asks: Are you stuck in your own little world?
About the Author
Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.Follow on Twitter More Content by Vince Molinaro