After more then 35 years as a management consultant, I have learned that to make any real difference to an organisation you must start with the top person.
You can deliver seminars and training to employees. You can work one-on-one with the senior executives. You can do all manner of things but to be of real benefit to an organisation, you must handle the organisation’s leader.
It is the personal problems and difficulties of the leader that they have with the organisation or its personnel that determines the success of the organisation. Examples of this are many. Leaders worry about things like, “Why can’t I get others to do what I want?” “Why do I have trouble confronting one of my key employees?” Sometimes leaders have problems with their personal ethics. They can lack some important bit of management know-how but don’t realise that they do so continually feel inadequate. Many times, over the years, I have been asked, “What’s wrong with me? Why is it harder for me than other business owners?” If only they knew that just about every business owner asks themselves those same questions.
I realised that a company is a reflection of the CEO’s or owner’s thoughts concerning the organisation. It is, or becomes what he thinks it is. Those thoughts materialise into the company itself. Unless those thoughts change, the company will not experience any lasting improvement.
When I first began consulting I was unaware of the vital importance of this datum. I would try to make the place “better organised” or “more financially sound”. These were often my own fixed ideas of what needed to be done. I’d spend most of my time working with middle managers as the boss “was far too busy to spend much time with me” and I felt it safer not to disturb him or her. I’d develop a wonderful organisation structure for the company, write up job descriptions and issue these to the relevant employees. At other times I’d set up the company’s financial controls more effectively. The top man or top woman would apparently be delighted, pay my bill and the employees seemed happy. Sometime later I would return to find the job descriptions decaying in a drawer and the organising chart crusted with dust behind a cupboard or the financial systems again in disarray. Nothing had really changed.
Investigating further I’d discover that the CEO or owner had, through neglect, direct order or suggestion set aside all the changes I had implemented, putting everything back to how it was – including all its problems. The company was again something he or she “could think with”. Really it had just aligned itself again with the top person’s unchanged thoughts.
Now, by working with the top person, getting them to freely choose to change their ideas about organisation and then educating them on how to organise correctly, I found that they would make the needed changes themselves. They would originate the needed changes that, in the past, I would have told them to make. When it happened this way I could leave the company and come back year’s later to find the beneficial changes not only still in place but expanded and re-enforced.
A key aspect of any help delivered to the top person must be to have them formulate a clear and definite personal goal and then formulate a clear goal for the company that is in alignment with their personal goal. Once those are in place all future efforts are linked to making those goals real.
There are times (with very big companies) I have worked at helping only the CEO for up to one year before anyone else in the company even knew anything about my consultations.
Always work to change the mind at the top. This is the only completely workable way.