By David Casullo, President
Recently we installed Salesforce to organize and track all of our business development efforts. In addition to tracking our communication history with prospects and customers, Salesforce has already proven to be intriguing because of its dashboards.
Salesforce dashboards give you graphical representations of how you’re doing in any metric of your choice. At a quick glance, you can see your company’s revenues, proposal conversions, profitability, and so on. This is powerful. When you see that one area of a pie chart or bar graph is looking much smaller than you might have expected, you are moved to action.
The other day I was at the gym and started thinking about the fitness equipment “dashboards’ as well. You can easily monitor your pace, degree of difficulty, and time elapsed. Likewise with these metrics, you are motivated to make adjustments on the go.
This got me thinking: This could apply to our work in executive consulting as well. Wouldn’t it be powerful to have a leadership dashboard to remind you of where you need to focus your energy as you move from preparing to be a leader, starting off as a leader, and excelling as a leader?
Let’s see what that would look like, using the “Five C’s of Leadership” from my new book, Leading the High-Energy Culture.
When you’re aiming to become a senior leader, you need to focus most heavily on character, commitment, and competence. With character, your focus is both inward and outward. You look within to develop clarity on who you are, what you value, and how that connects to a business need. You also work on character by building a network of raving fans who believe in you and want to help you succeed. That happens when you help others by solving their problems.
With commitment, I’m talking about your ability to make sure that your direct reports are engaged and productive. This is a quality you can and must demonstrate as you move up the ladder, so it’s a priority at this point. Competence is also crucial if you’re going to be seen as leadership material: You get promoted on the basis of knowing your stuff, generally in one functional area.
So what happens to our leadership dashboard in the early days of your tenure? As you can see, your emphasis has already changed dramatically. Your character remains very important, as your words and deeds are under scrutiny at this point. People are studying you: Are you the kind of leader they want to work for? Courage and communication become more important here as well, but not in the way you might expect: Right now you need to be focusing on communication—but more on the listening side of the equation. Early on, you should be gathering information that eventually will lead to a vision and strategy. As for courage, you need more of it now—but it’s the courage to be a patient learner and listener, resisting pressure to make proclamations and snap decisions.
When you’re an established senior leader, all five C’s remain important… but communication emerges as critical to your success. At this point, you need to drive business results. How is that going to happen? There are all sorts of ways:
- Galvanizing people internally around your Big Ideas to convert vision into action
- Knowing how to develop and deliver messages that resonate powerfully with analysts, investors, prospects, the media, and customers.
- Developing a leadership team that understands how to cascade important messages and ensure that employees are engaged throughout the organization
- Setting a tone at the top that focuses on embracing change and emphasizing enterprise-wide success rather than politics and narrow functional perspectives
While your character, commitment, competence, and courage cannot be ignored as important factors, communication is the ultimate differentiator for established leaders. Great leaders recognize the need to change their focus as priorities evolve over time, taking whatever steps necessary to become great communicators. We see this all the time in our executive consulting work.
What dashboards are you monitoring right now? If you’re like most leaders, you’re focusing relentlessly on revenues, costs, profits, and so on—as you should. However, take some time to consider creating a dashboard that shows you where your priorities should lie right now, and then revisit that dashboard every year or so. Break out your time: What percentage should be devoted to communicating directly to your teams, individually or collectively? How much time are you putting aside for maximizing commitment and engagement from your teams? What percentage of your time should be put aside for doing whatever you need to become a competent, courageous leader?
Just don’t wait until you have a bright light flashing on your dashboard before you take action.