Five mistakes that sink your leadership framework.

Over the years, I have seen many well-researched leadership frameworks developed by hard-working clients make it to the document stage but fail to be adopted. Here are five strategies to overcome the common mistakes:  

  1. Simple  
  2. Owned  
  3. Connected  
  4. Spacious  
  5. Culturally coherent  


Often, I see frameworks trying to be everything to everyone. It might make sense on paper to define 24 success areas, six behaviours within each and then matrix this across five management levels. In reality, you create a complex monster people can’t remember and don’t use. Be clear about how you would like staff to use the framework and whom you would like to use it. The first rule is to make it as simple as possible so that the people you would like to use it might have a chance of remembering it without flicking through your well-meaning 30-page doorstop to find what they need. Is your framework able to be retained without reading?  


The second challenge is being clear that the document is not the outcome. Often frameworks are orphaned after the busy work of developing them has been completed. As a result, it withers in a drawer. Often process overtakes purpose. Remember why you are creating the framework in the first place; to guide people’s behaviour. The document is not the outcome. Aligning people’s behaviour to organisational goals and purpose takes time and requires stewardship. Are you clear on who will be the culture carrier, the person who demonstrates, reinforces, and champions the document’s intent? The more senior, the better!  


I have seen some fantastic, well-researched, and written framework documents that have no connection to the organisation’s purpose, strategy, hiring or onboarding processes. Remember you are trying to support the sustainable success of your organisation, with all its quirks, operational demands and unique needs. People should instantly recognise how the framework is embedded in ‘people’ processes and connects with the organisation’s needs. What anchor points already exist that you can tether to the framework?  


When considering all the things you want in your people across criteria you feel is essential, you can often squeeze out the space for people’s uniqueness. The more control you seek, the less innovation, adaptation and learning you might get. The second issue is ‘superhuman’ syndrome. All of the well-considered attributes in your 720 criteria boxes make total sense. The problem is that people are perfectly imperfect. While aspirational, the requirements are unrealistic, and no one will ever be able to live up to the framework, so once again, it will warm the bottom drawer. How might you be both aspirational and build in a little wiggle room?  

Culturally coherent:

As the old saying goes, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. Every organisation has a unique culture, which is likely how things get done. Why do frameworks seem to live in a vacuum and often seek to change culture without understanding how to engage with the existing culture? You know your culture. So what would the framework need to do to meet the current culture where it is at, before you try and change it?   

Related tag: Uncharted Leadership

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