But in spite of their best efforts and varying degrees of financial success, some observations that were common to all of them fascinated me:
- The companies and their leadership teams could execute a lot better.
- The level of engagement and commitment to succeed together could be improved significantly.
- The individual talent and brilliance doesn’t quite get translated to a peak performing team and organization.
- Even the best function well below their full potential; there is a great reservoir of creativity, innovation and productivity that could be tapped and put to use.
- These high-performing leaders very often pay a heavy price in stress and a lack of balance in their lives.
No wonder the #1 Challenge for Corporate and Business Executives today is consistent and effective Execution. The ability to execute effectively and consistently is a key indicator – perhaps the key indicator – of sustainable success. This may be self-evident to those of us who are dealing with the challenges of productivity and success on a daily basis, but there is also a growing body of empirical evidence to support this assertion.
According to the international research group, the Conference Board, a vast majority of CEOs from 40 countries ranked “Excellence in Execution” as their greatest concern among 121 different challenges. A wide range of other research on US organizations and their work force by Balanced Scorecard Collaborative, Gallup, Bain & Co., Strategy+Business, Towers Perrin, ComPsych, etc. indicates that:
- 85% of Organizations fail to execute
- 80% of Projects fail
- 75% of Mergers & Acquisitions fail
Research also presents us with these disheartening numbers on workforce engagement:
- 33% of employees are truly engaged
- 49% are not engaged
- 18% are actively disengaged
In addition, research corroborates the almost universal sense we all have that stress is rampant in the workplace and in society as a whole. One major study found the following:
- 55% experience high levels of stress with symptoms of extreme fatigue and the feeling of being out of control
- 42% experience constant but manageable stress
Ironically it is the most (financially) successful organizations and its leaders who recognize this phenomenon and admit that they could potentially be a lot more effective and execute much better. Most if not all of them feel that their financial success is being achieved at a personal cost – a lack of balance among physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual well-being.
Research and my own interactions with top leaders and organizations for more than twenty years suggests that at least part of the answer is an over reliance on intellect and the consequent neglect of emotional, social and visceral skills.
Organizational execution requires the ability to collaborate and to inspire people to perform. To truly collaborate requires us to connect at a deeper visceral level, to the heart and spirit. Team building, motivating, inspiring others has an intellectual component and may be partially based on learnable principles, but the human dimension plays a necessary part.
Some of the hardest things for human beings to do are also what it takes to build trust and inspire action and collaboration. What are they?
- Admit it when you are wrong – emotionally not just verbally
- Include the excluded – be inclusive and fair
- Accept criticism
- Be Transparent – Authentic
- Exhibit Unconditional Love
- Be truly Objective
- Perform Right Action – Detached from wanting to be right and detached from the outcome.
To demonstrate these human skills requires personal mastery. This goes beyond the domains of both IQ and EQ. These are qualities of being in higher states of consciousness; we could call the capability to perform and interact in these more evolved, more spiritually mature ways SQ (Spiritual Quotient). Being spiritual has no necessary connection with religion, nor does it imply being soft on non-performance, two common misconceptions. In fact, it is the exact opposite – SQ is about doing the right thing, taking the hard decisions in a truly objective manner. It is appealing to the innermost yearning for excellence, fairness, purpose and mastery that I believe is the common heritage of all human beings.
Being in higher states of consciousness is often considered the key to happiness and contentment in life. But what is rarely perceived is that it is also the single most important differentiation for Execution, Innovation and solving the most critical business challenges. Superior business and leadership skills are directly connected to Self Mastery.
The execution crisis is being exacerbated because of a significant shift taking place in the collective consciousness of humanity. The economic and financial models that we are utilizing do not fully take in to account the factors that motivate and inspire people in higher states of consciousness. In the past sixty years or so, our society has been gradually shifting from Level I to Level III:
- Level I – Security, Stability
- Level II – Prestige, Achievement
- Level III – Purpose, Mastery, Fulfillment
Living in a generally secure society with stable institutions (Level I) most of our business, financial and economic models are geared for a population whose values and motivations are characteristic of Level II. But as we evolve, it becomes very difficult to inspire people, whether employees or other stakeholders, with money, prestige and achievement alone when they are also seeking purpose and mastery (Level III). Therein lies both the problem and the opportunity. The fact that the existing models are not working very well certainly is a cause for concern, but the recognition that they are no longer satisfactory because we are evolving offers us hope.
How do we know this shift is taking place? There are two defining characteristics:
- Personal Growth: We are heavily engaged (more than at any other time in recorded history) in holistic development and holistic health – physical, emotional and spiritual. This is a $10B industry in the US and $100B worldwide.
- Concern for Universal Well-Being: We as concerned citizens are spending significant time, effort and money in alleviating universal challenges – Natural disasters, Energy and Environment, Health and Healthcare, HIV/AIDS, Employment Insecurity, Social Inequity, Extremism and Terrorism, etc. wherever the need is in the world.
I find that most organizations don’t perceive or understand the human dimension of the execution crisis. They recognize that there is a problem, but they interpret it as a strategy problem, a market positioning issue, a customer intimacy challenge, a project failure, or a sales management concern. But these are usually just symptoms.
In the attempt to resolve the difficulties that they do perceive, they frequently reach for a “fix” of some kind, often by bringing in external expertise, or by investing in a new tool or framework. They may offer various programs involving stress management, wellness, team building, and so on. These have their value, but there are two inherent difficulties with this approach:
- Most if not all of these programs don’t go deep enough to solve the “human dimension” issues and do not meet the needs of a sophisticated and evolving, knowledge workforce.
- These programs are rarely connected to the realities of business – strategy execution, market and sales positioning, customer intimacy, project management, etc.
Because these “fixes” are inherently insufficient to enliven the deeper human dimensions that alone can fully solve the problem, the end result is that the level of engagement becomes worse, and the attempted solution is seen to be yet another temporary band-aid.
Unleashing the Full Potential
Until recently, most leaders and organizations have relied heavily on IQ to solve business challenges. Then we learnt about EQ. While we now appreciate the role of emotional and social development, we still do not have a good understanding of how visceral and self mastery skills help us in enhancing leadership effectiveness and organizational execution. Now we need leaders and leadership teams who have high IQ, EQ and SQ. These folks are not only passionate, driven, analytical and accountable. They also possess additional qualities of mastery and collaboration. This group of people is increasing and will need to be tapped in organizations for improved effectiveness and execution. They are not only well trained and experienced in Business strategy, execution, operations and leadership but are adept at connecting at a deeper level and inspiring teams and organizations to superior performance. They integrate best practices in business with mastery.
In the next post I will give examples of specific business challenges that can be solved by utilizing this process. This integration is what it takes to build thriving business organizations, a prosperous economy, radiant health and a peaceful and harmonious planet.