Article: The greatness challenge for a leader


The greatness challenge for a leader

In an exclusive interaction with FranklinCovey Global and Indian Management team, People Matters explores how organisations move from good to great and the role of a leader in this transformation

The real question is to ask your customer is: ‘how likely is that you would recommend our product or service?'


Every organisation has pockets of greatness and the idea is to find out where are these and explore behaviours that enable you to reach there


In an exclusive interaction with FranklinCovey Global and Indian Management team, People Matters explores how organizations move from good to great and the role of a leader in this transformation.

Excerpts from conversation with Robert A. Whitman (Chairman & CEO – Global), David M. R. Covey (Co-Chief Operating Officer – Global), Lavleen Raheja (Chairman & CEO – India & South Asia), Rajan Kaicker (Executive Chairman – India & South Asia), FranklinCovey

By exploring the definition of greatness, we have learnt that best performers are able to win the loyalty of ALL their key stakeholders whoever they are. For example, for a school to be great it has to win the loyalty of its students, teachers, parents and the overall community; for a company to be great, it needs to win the loyalty of its customers, employees, partners, et al. What we have realized is that even good performing companies are a long way away from winning high levels of loyalty.

In the Indian context, it is interesting to see how a company like Tata Motors has thought of ways to design a car that will delight its shareholders, customers, employees and the community by moving people from scooters and bicycles to a whole new experience - A car for the family.

Measuring Greatness

Greatness can be defined, in the customer loyalty sense, with a concept called “net promoter score”. Asking your customers how satisfied they are, is not enough. The real question is to ask them: ‘how likely is that you would recommend our product or service?’ It turns out that only those that respond 9 or 10 on a scale of 10 are actually loyal.
The greatness challenge is to consistently reduce variability and provide outstanding quality to clients to gain greater numbers of ‘loyal customers’. Every organization has pockets of greatness. Even in the worst hotel in the world there would be a check-in that is performed with perfection and even in the most outstanding hotel, there would be a lousy check-in. The idea is to increase the number of instances of perfection and to reduce the variability between customer experience. If you plot a graph with quality on the horizontal axis and frequency of occurrences on the vertical axis, you would want to see this chart going “righter and tighter” with more occurrences of outstanding quality and less variability.
Companies need to look at these metrics and make a conscious decision to move in that direction with all stakeholders. The overall objective of achieving loyalty with stakeholders is that they partner with you in your success. The difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer is that they buy more, they refer you, they give you feedback and they keep coming back. In today’s world, it is much harder to get a customer but much easier to retain them.

Every organization can choose to be great. And this is not related to size, industry or line of business. It is all based on the commitment to stakeholder loyalty and in aligning all processes to deliver performers ‘Righter and Tighter’.

How to move from Good to Great?

Every organization has pockets of greatness and the idea is to find out where are the pockets of greatness and then explore what behaviours led to these pockets of greatness. If you are able to understand behaviour, you would be able to understand performance because variability in behaviour results in variability of performance. If you want to reduce variability of performance, you need to reduce variability in behaviour. The question is how do you engage people to wake up in the morning and go to work thinking “I know what ‘great’ looks like,” “I know the actions that will lead me to it and we are going to hold each other accountable to do as perfectly as we can. If we do not do it perfectly, learn and do it over again.”

What we have learnt over the years is the uniqueness about those work cultures where people are fully engaged. We have identified the following unique traits of these organizations: Firstly, leaders themselves need to define what ‘great’ looks like and that definition goes down the organization. Studies show that only one in seven employees are able to articulate what ‘greatness’ means in their organization; Secondly, trust and accountability is the key to drive this change in behaviour. Thirdly, companies need to align this change to reward processes and systems. Companies that compensate people only for financial performance are missing on motivating the rest of the organization to align their behaviour to a common goal. And lastly, companies need to create freedom to unleash their talent, providing the opportunity for empowerment among the teams to perform at their best.

Bottom line: people know what the goal is, they know what they are supposed to do about it, the overall systems are aligned to facilitate, motivate and reward these behaviors and the whole team is engaged with accountability day after day to drive towards it.

What are the challenges?

All this seems common sense, but from what we have seen, not a common practice. The reason is that if changing one’s behaviour is a difficult task, changing someone else’s behaviour is even tougher. Once companies identify what great looks like, they need to institutionalize it, stay with it and make it ‘the done thing’. Companies need to understand that doing what you have always done will not get you what you want, likely you are going to get worse. If you want things to be different, then you have to do things differently and that is why we encourage companies to take up this challenge. This change in behaviour can only happen through buy-in and commitment, clarity, engagement and translation of the bigger goal to each employee’s area of influence, empowerment and accountability.

These principles apply to companies all over the globe. But what is unique about home grown Indian companies is that they believe they can grow all this knowledge at home. We have seen these trends in some industries in India. For example, the investment by pharma industry in India is mostly concentrated in the front sales capability development; they do not invest as much in leadership development and in building behavioral competencies. Some industries have understood the importance of investment in leadership and behavioral training very well like IT and BFSI. Some other industries are yet to reach that level of maturity.

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Topics: Leadership, C-Suite

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