By Juliana Scarpa, FALCONI partner
A successful organization is a lasting organization. It generates sustainable and growing results over time and is capable of facing difficult times by means of innovation and capacity for execution. In the face of every new challenge it reinvents itself and becomes even more efficient, changing its performance level.
In a globalized and digital world, challenges are increasingly complex. Changes occur at high speed, market boundaries are becoming increasingly reduced, and knowledge, which is available to all, is affordable and easily accessible. In this scenario, what are the common and critical factors in the success of companies?
We know that there are three critical elements in the success of any organization: leadership, managerial knowledge (systematic planning), and technical knowledge of the business. In the course of 16 years providing consultancy to companies in different industries, we have realized that, among the three factors, leadership stands out as the most important one.
Vicente Falconi, in his book True Power, teaches us that being a leader means “achieving goals with the team in the correct manner”. Let us see how a simple and direct definition involves all crucial elements in the success of a company and how leadership is the key feature making the other critical factors viable.
A company’s ambition corresponds to the size of its leaders’ ambition in times of growth and especially in times of crisis. What are we trying to say? What is the long-term goal and how much of it should be attained now? Which knowledge, technology, and product gaps should be filled in order to reach a new level? “Thinking big” – a major characteristic of leaders – projects the size and continuity of a company, but thinking big and setting challenging goals is not enough to deliver performance and result.
Execution transforms inspirations and dreams into results. Execution is the team’s role. Results come from everyday operations. Leaders are people who inspire, motivate, and energize their teams: they promote a transparent and trust-filled environment where everyone can develop and use their full potential and their belief in a greater dream to challenge and lead people. Competent people love overcoming challenges! Challenges cause people to outdo themselves and certainly very few things bring more happiness than excelling oneself!
Reaching new result levels means facing the unknown and doing groundbreaking things. Right now, new knowledge is required. After all, the same path will lead to the same place. Leaders’ greatest task and challenge consist in developing their team and training them to face problems, whether good (such as, for example, achieving even better results) or bad (regaining performance in times of crisis).
With the target and proposed direction in mind, leaders will make viable the managerial knowledge (how to solve problems) and the technical knowledge (business-specific) in order to attain goals. In this way, teams can build the pathway to be followed. Goals and systematic planning are the pillars to promote meritocracy, which is crucial in creating a culture of ethics and transparency that values and cultivates fact- and data-based discussion.
Thus, training the team in the problem-solving method is essential to creating a culture of overcoming challenges. Technical knowledge can be acquired. The use of networks and technology, as well as the access to information, make this acquisition viable. Right people in the right places, independence, and knowledge make it possible for the team to reach their maximum potential. Leaders, who always want more and the best for themselves and for all, develop this ambition on their team.
Leadership shapes the culture and establishes a company’s values by means of ethical behavior, which is represented by the “walk the talk” stance on any occasion. In high-performance cultures, in addition to meritocracy, values such as the focus on results, transparency, ownership attitude, simplicity, and quick constant learning are cultivated to a great degree. The role of leaders is to disseminate them throughout the organization by setting an example. The question is: how to do it?
Cultures like this one require clear and sustainable reward and impartiality rules in which everyone knows what is expected from them; meritocracy is an endless quest and transparency is a key element. In the search for settings where people are dissatisfied with results, in which people feel like the owners and pursue excellence in everything they do, leadership fosters culture, valuing the diversity of opinions, fact- and data-based positions, and the facing of problems.
Encouraging people to ask questions and to express opposite viewpoints shows that the important thing is the search for the best pathway. A client, the CEO of a successful company, once told me: “Discussing with my team is really necessary; my decisions are better after discussions. If I wanted like-mindedness, I wouldn’t need a team”!
A culture of learning requires humility and simplicity and leaders open to learning show values in a rapid and efficient manner and seek solutions focused on essential factors. I have seen prominent leaders, at the start of meetings, talking about the need to discuss a problem they could not fully understand and, after all discussions, coming to the conclusion that they really needed external help specialized in the question at hand. Those teams spared no efforts, learned, and surpassed expectations. Attitudes like this one show the “walk the talk” behavior, and it is not by chance that successful leaders adopt this attitude, thereby generating results by means of pleased, focused, and committed teams.
Culture and values do get people involved. Involved and challenged people generate results that ensure a company’s continuity. Leaders are chiefly responsible for this process.
Published in the september issue of O Papel magazine.