Case Study: Laufer Group International Ltd.
By Gerard Hranek
Communication is the Problem
Mark Laufer is sitting atop the Tower of Babel. He says, “My biggest problem is getting communication among the disparate silos within my organization.” He knows he has smart, capable people, but their behavior leads to stress and ineffective execution of the company’s strategy. He is concerned by the behaviors he sees: mistrust, political struggles, passive-aggressiveness, forming silos, withholding information, and more. He is doing everything he can to get collaboration, but despite his attention to organizational structure, strategic focus, heart-felt meetings, and a variety of daily perks, everyone continues to speak a different language. He realizes that good management is not enough, but he’s not quite sure what to do next.
Culture is the Solution
“The number-one pain point for execution of strategy is the fact that it breaks down when it hits the people… I need a mechanism for getting these people to communicate effectively, and then collaborate with each other.” To move his organization to a higher level of performance, Mark now sees that his charisma and skill as a manager will not solve the problem: Behaviors and habits of the people in his organization must change, and a cohesive culture is the solution. He knows he will need help. Mark needs hard tools to solve this soft problem.
Diagnosing Business Culture
Through his association with Vistage International, Mark connects with Mark Taylor, who gives Mark a copy of the book, “Tribal Leadership.” In reading it, and subsequently attending the Tribal Leadership Intensive coursework, Mark discovers tools that help him understand the nature of his company culture, “I’m great,” and how to take it to the next level, “We’re great.” Mark continues to fill out his “next level” team by hiring expert sales coach Charles Bernard, who is also trained in Tribal Leadership. With Charles and Mark Taylor as advisors and confidants, Mark feels prepared to embrace the cultural change needed in his company.
Partnerships in Threes
Bob and John are senior managers on Mark’s team. They are polite, but don’t get along, and it’s hurting the team. “He just doesn’t get it,” John says, “He’s so much an obstructionist; he thinks my job is so easy…” Mark tells the story, “I would work with these folks one-on-one, thinking that would help, but in the end, it didn’t. I couldn’t do this by myself. I needed a different way.” Since then, Mark has incorporated the concept of “triads,” which allows him to leverage the power of the relationship between Bob and John. They work out their differences, and Mark supports them.
Leveraging Natural Groups
Mark recently had a breakthrough with his executive team. In a session solely dedicated to understanding how to communicate more effectively with one another, Ed, in a remarkable show of bravery, offered that he felt his ego was getting in the way of the team’s success. This solitary act softened the group and authentic communication began to flow. Now, the silos are breaking down, and groups are collaborating more naturally. “It will take time, but we’re well on our way.”