When do you work on alignment? When you are "in crisis" is too late. In the 1952 movie High Noon, Gary Cooper played a town Sheriff who finds himself needing help to face the bad guys, the town members vote with their feet, leaving him to face the threat alone. There are many interpretations of the movie and a great story about John Wayne (he hated the movie). Here is one from me... Don't wait to earn the vote from your employees on the day of the crisis.
I just returned from voting in the U.S. election. I flew back from our offices in Belgium just in time to cast my vote. Today is the day when candidates find out if they did all they could do to align an electorate behind their ideas and leadership. It is interesting to notice the activity today... rallies, television and radio ads, phone calls, and anything that will convince the critical voter to join them today. While I believe that you expend every effort to deliver for your customers...or in this case cause, the commitment you need to succeed is built upon relationships you have made long before the day of the crisis.
Political candidates are lucky. There is a regularly scheduled referendum on their leadership. Feedback comes on a regularly scheduled basis. For organization leaders the referendum comes unexpectedly... like Gary Cooper we find that our relationship building was not as effective as we thought - commitments are not where we need them to be. In the end, Gary Cooper resigns and viewers conclude that everything was the fault of weak--minded townspeople. But - how well had Gary prepared for that day?
New studies on organization networks reinforce things we already know...but need to hear again... the ability to move and influence people is based on the relationships you built over time - and relationships are the foundation of modern networked organizations. A recent article implied that Starbucks baristas are better at handling difficult relationship interactions than most technical professionals (Doctors). Ouch.
The lesson here is to start working on your relationships today. You may need the vote of your employees very soon.
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