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What Can Business Leaders Learn from the Leadership Failure in Washington?

While the more immediate issues regarding the debt crisis appear to be resolved, the recent events in Washington have illuminated the stunning failure of our country’s leadership. Never before have I seen from the various factions of government such a lack of collaboration and willingness to work together for the greater good of the country. Yet I choose to look for the silver lining in this challenging and disappointing situation with our government…perhaps there is something organizations can learn from this episode.

While many organizations have processes in place to encourage people to work together, most still struggle with the dilemma of collaboration between leadership levels, departments, genders, generations, and cultures. The culture of collaboration within an organization – or the lack thereof – starts at the top. Whether they realize it or not, the manner in which the leaders of an organization work together sets the tone for how everyone else in the organization will work together. If the vice presidents of sales and customer service won’t collaborate for the good of the customer, don’t expect their teams to work together either.

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Take A Deeper Dive

After presenting at a recent conference I found myself sitting at lunch next to a CEO who seemed anxious to talk to me. He related that although his company had made significant investments over the past few years in diversity training, lean six sigma initiatives and team development, he still wasn’t satisfied with the speed of transformation within the company. Women leaders were not advancing at the hoped-for pace, silo mentality was still rampant, and opinion survey results suggested that many managers and executives weren’t really listening to their employee; thus the employees felt disengaged and not involved in the important decisions and actions of the company. The CEO concluded with his litany of disappointing results from his training investments with, “We dove into these activities, but results so far we aren’t making much of a splash! What would you recommend, Becky?”

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