In a previous blog post on this topic, I outlined the problem of CEOs mistaking compliance for commitment. In this next post, I show the profound difference that owning the commitment problem makes, by comparing two CEOs of $1+ billion-plus organizations, leaders in their respective industries, one a manufacturer and the other a services firm.
Both had significant commitment issues to deal with – weak trust and alignment between levels and functions that were undermining ambitious growth plans. The CEO of the services firm, who rose to his position after having been one of its best salespeople, was a proud but arrogant leader.
Despite repeated attempts by senior managers, including his direct reports, to convey to him the high levels of politics, distrust, and lack of commitment throughout the organization, he wasn’t moved, insisting that employees were “just whining and not doing their jobs.”
As a result, his aggressive cost reduction and productivity improvement initiative gained little, if any, passion and ownership among his leaders, achieved far less than he had hoped, and was an uphill struggle with many excuses and explanations along the way.
The CEO of the manufacturing company was also a proud and tough leader. He rose to his position by having turned around two other divisions in his company. However, when his management team criticized him around the lack of trust and collaboration across departments, he listened – not immediately but over several weeks. He decided the commitment problem was serious enough to launch a process to resolve it.
Admitting the depth of his company’s commitment problems was not easy for him, given his command-and-control style. The results of his growth initiative, however, were spectacular, both in terms of meeting the performance objectives as well as creating a strong platform for cross-functional collaboration and partnership.
Two CEOs. Two commitment problems. Two approaches to solving them – one discounted it, the other admitted it and fixed it. Most important, two very different outcomes in terms of both business performance and organizational morale.
Are you paying attention to indications of commitment problems, or blaming “whiners?” These problems don’t go away by ignoring them.