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“If 20th century leadership was about having the right answers, 21st century leadership is about asking the right questions.”

Marble Arch is a performance acceleration consultancy helping leaders take their business to the next level, finding long-term sustainable success.

Whether it’s a company with a 40-year history or a startup ready for growth, they bring evidence-based tools and external expertise for focused company change.

MO: Can you talk about your journey from being a CFO of a mid-sized construction company to launching Marble Arch? What did your turning point look like?

Jessica: In my time as a CFO I noticed financial indicators that showed reduced productivity and profitability in some areas of the business. I also observed that some employees were losing their connection to the business. It became clear through experience and research that numbers are just the scorecard. If we want to see higher performance from employees, we have to look at the systems the employees are working within, and at the relationships we have built with those employees. It is usually one or both that need to be refocused or reinvigorated in order to realize measureable performance increases.

MO: What are some of the most common issues you see your clients facing and how do you help them?

Jessica: We see three very common issues among our clients:

1. Financial performance is not where leadership knows it could be, or should be.

2. Employees do not seem as deeply connected to the business as they once did. They have lost some of their fire and passion for their work and the group.

3. Teams have gone from proactively planning and executing strategy to reactively putting out fires, moving from one urgent task to the next.

Each of these symptoms can have a few causes, both rooted in the company systems and relationships. We first help our clients by assuring them that these symptoms are very fixable. We work with the leadership of the company to complete an analysis including an in-depth discovery process that leaves us with a very clear picture of what systems and relationships need focused change.

We are a catalyst for focused change, leaving our clients with the skills needed to diagnose and address these issues themselves in the future.

MO: Can you elaborate on how after years of research and practice, you are distilling your findings into a simple, powerful 5-layer model for peak performance?

Jessica: Both myself and my husband and co-founder, Neal, spent years prior to Marble Arch implementing evidence-based practices within our teams and organizations. During my time as CFO, I obtained an MBA in Finance and Neal and I both obtained an MS in HR and Organizational Development. Somewhere in there we still found time to date and marry!

During this time, we relentlessly sought to improve the performance of our teams and other teams where our support was welcomed. It was incredible to see the changes in our employees, they absolutely began bringing their best performance. Our research paid off in the form of more productive, connected and committed employees. These employees began to exceed goals and even support each other with regular feedback and development.

When we began consulting, we first worked with organizations using only research and experience, knowing a model would emerge. It absolutely did. It became very, very clear that there were 5 distinct ingredients to increasing company and employee performance. Each ingredient is evidence-based and mutually reinforces the others. Not every company is missing all 5 layers, but all 5 are needed for the greatest efficiency, effectiveness and innovation.

MO: Congratulations on recently having your blog named a Webby Award Honoree, putting it into the top 10% of submitted business blogs. What do you think that you’re doing differently than other business blogs and what did this recognition mean to you and your team?

Jessica: Our blog is centered around problem-solving. We are happy to share the solutions to problems our clients are encountering so that others may learn and perhaps make a positive impact in their own organization. Many blogs out there offer something similar, but ours is differentiated by depth and even complexity.

The problems we are helping our clients overcome are complex, rooted in systems and relationships. Present are often multiple perspectives and even some high emotions. Real solutions to these problems require outlining possible root causes as well as various approaches. A simple boilerplate answer won’t help most people tackle these tough topics. It means our posts are longer than most, but are much more useful when it comes to making lasting change.

This honor meant the world to us. It was incredible validation that we are doing the right work and creating content that is useful and powerful. Sometimes we do worry about the length of a post, but we always want to leave our readers with tools they can use. The Webby honor was excellent feedback to keep us creating in-depth, useful content that helps solve real problems.

MO: What tips can you provide our readers for becoming more effective leaders?

Jessica: There are three tactics that a leader could implement today to become much more effective:

1. Increase the giving of specific, timely, truthful feedback. This type of feedback can have dramatic effects on an employee’s performance. Employees who receive feedback from their manager work up to 22% harder. For leaders just starting out, we recommend calendaring three pieces of feedback per week; it will serve as a great reminder and kick-off a habit. Start with positive feedback as it builds trust and openness for constructive feedback.

2. Increase curiosity. If 20th century leadership was about having the right answers, 21st century leadership is about asking the right questions. With increasing complexity and rate of change in the marketplace, supply chains and technology it is imperative leaders are very curious in order to stay ahead of challenges and navigate the right path. We recommend beginning this habit with 2 questions per week, each one seeking the perspective of an employee on a challenge the company is facing, or a particular process the employee is involved in.

3. The third tactic we learned from the United States Military. It increases team learning and agility like no other tool we teach. It’s called the after-action review. After any project or initiative, gather the team and ask three questions: What went well? What didn’t go well? What did we learn to apply to our next project?

After-action reviews allow a team to dive into a project with objectivity and less defensiveness or blame. Suddenly the team is learning and boosting efficiency, effectiveness and innovation.

MO: How much does the culture of a company help determine its success?

Jessica: Culture absolutely determines whether or not a company will be sustainably successful. Many brilliant start-up companies find early success without any intentional culture, but to sustain that success over the long-term requires that the entire organization operates with a certain set of behaviors that lead to the successful execution of strategy.

Without clear direction and expectations, employees set their own direction and their own expectations. Over time, this breeds competing priorities, clashing visions and wasted effort. People feel disconnected and start acting for their own self-interest instead of for the good of the organization as a whole.

Leadership can prevent this slow collapse of the organization by determining what type of behaviors lead to success then hiring, managing and coaching those behaviors.

We have seen over and over that culture does, in fact, eat strategy for breakfast.

 

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