Achieving, Relating, Culture, and Influencing: these four “systems” silently but surely surround us in any organization. Understanding each of them is key to maximizing your own contributions as a leader.
I share this because most of the feedback I hear on the up-front interviews I do about executive clients falls into one or more of these areas. If I did interviews about you—among your colleagues—chances are the same would be true for you.
As a result, I developed the “Leading With Savvy / Four Systems” model to give my executive clients a leg up. To show them in black and white the subtleties of what’s expected of them, regardless of what’s being said—or left unsaid—to them.
Four Systems Model for Leading With Savvy
1. Achieving (Delivering Results in a Sustainable Way)
Most people get to positions of responsibility based on their ability to achieve results, so I often refer to this system as the ante—the base price to be in the game. In other words, you can do the remaining three systems well, but if you aren’t able to achieve results, the chances are good the others won’t sustain you long term. If this article interests you, you are likely already familiar with this system, which includes:
- Getting your work done consistently and excellently.
- Being knowledgeable in your work.
- Delivering on metrics, numbers, goals.
- Running your enterprise effectively.
- Strategically using products, services, operations, sales, marketing, technology, etc.
- Recruiting and deploying your human resources wisely.
- Zooming in / out on details appropriately—neither micromanaging nor being too removed from the details.
- Being an engaging (and not de-motivating) manager or leader.
- Maintaining a strong and sustainable work ethic, which includes balance between work and home life.
2. Relating (Working and Leading with Self-awareness)
Knowing and being candid with yourself, and continuous learning, are proven paths to excellence in life and leadership, particularly in combination with the other three areas I’ve outlined here. My criteria for self-awareness include:
- Assuring you are happy most days at work, and if not, adjusting accordingly.
- Assuring you are doing your best work most days, and if not, adjusting accordingly.
- Working in tune with your professional purpose, and not against it.
- Seeking periodic candid feedback, and using that to clear your blind spots.
- Observing and minding your impact on others.
- Walking your talk / being in integrity / authenticity.
- Self-observing, learning, evolving your skills and leadership.
- Thinking and operating as an owner would do—that is, “If it were my company / my organization, how would I handle this? What would be important to me?”
3. Fitting well with the Culture.
Some have said an organization’s culture is what people know but rarely say—it’s what they may tell you over drinks—about customs and norms—your first week. When I evaluate an executive, I will always ask a question about culture synchronization—that is, in what ways is Jack in sync, and out of sync, with the Acme Company’s culture? The answers to that often fall in these areas:
- Operating within in your organization's norms.
- Being a good “fit” / “fitting in,” and being seen by others as a good “fit” / “fitting in.”
- Understanding unspoken rules, do’s and don’ts.
- Applying candor and consensus skillfully.
- Wields an appropriate style and approach for communication and presentation.
- Teaming and collaborating in ways acceptable to key people in the organization.
4. Operating with Influence
I use "influence" because"politics" in organizations, while always present, is an overused-and seldom well-defined term. (Example: "I love this company, but hate the politics around here.") It is, however, undeniable. It's the real-world (rather than what shows up on an organization chart) of power, influence, and scope of impact on events and people someone may have. Regardless of how kind and gentle the culture may be, political adeptness is key to getting harder things done. Consider the following as important factors to acknowledge and understand in the political system of the organization:
- Understanding and respecting power.
- Having gravitas and influence within the organization.
- Understanding whose stock is up, down, or sideways in the eyes of those with power.
- Knowing how and why things truly get decided.
- Knowing whom to trust among colleagues and team.
- Knowing who’s got your back, and who doesn’t.
- Deciding who you will and won’t watch out for.
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I hope you find this as helpful as have some of my best clients. I welcome your comments and thoughts.