Why Orientation is So Important as a Leader and Organization

Growth Compass
6 min readNov 24, 2020


Author: Dr. Simon Raby

Bringing you a behind the scenes look at the Growth Catalyst program!

Last week we delivered the first module of Mount Royal University’s Growth Catalyst program. Over a full day, participants worked on their leadership and team effectiveness and organizational purpose and vision.

Here are 3 key insights to the conversation in the room.

1. The Authentic Leader

“We all have the capacity to inspire and empower others. But we must first be willing to devote ourselves to our personal growth and development as leaders”

George, Sims, McLean and Mayer (2007)

By articulating their individual brand statements, leaders were challenged to reflect on their own style of leadership. This led to an analysis of their current state of leadership and areas for future development, with participants sharing:

  • No one size fits all: “What I see as a challenge for someone else is a strength. The awareness isn’t about only about where we fall short but can mean we undervalue our strengths”
  • It’s a journey! “It is critical to be able to clarify where you are in your leader development journey, to recognize your strengths as well as areas of future development”
  • Part nature, part nurture: “Accessing a support network, an outside council will help to develop your leadership approach”
  • Be aware: “We all rate ourselves differently, some are more critical than others. It is easy to consider strengths, but often harder to understand what our weaknesses are”.

“91% of leaders overestimate their abilities” Tasha Eurich

❔ Questions To Ask Yourself

  • What tools do you use to become self-aware? What are the moments when you say to yourself, this is the real me?
  • What kind of support team do you have? How should you diversify your team to broaden your perspective?
  • What steps can you take today, tomorrow, and over the next year to develop your authentic leadership?

📓 Try These Exercises

Create a personal support network image. Place yourself at the centre. Who are the individuals who support and surround you? What support do you need from them? What support do you currently get? Where are the gaps?

Write a postcard from the future. Write the postcard to yourself 12 months from now. 4–5 sentences, no more than fits on the postcard. What are you doing? What will be different? What will your impact be? How will you know if you’ve been successful? ? What are direct reports saying about you?

To access the editable postcard, click here and download the PDF to edit.

2. High Performing Teams

“What got you here, won’t get you there” Jim Collins

In this section, each Strategic Growth Team (SGT) received a team assessment output. Modeled from Patrick Lencioni’s “5 Dysfunctions of a team”, the assessment explores the behaviours of highly effective teams. High performing teams build trust, master conflict, achieve commitment, embrace accountability, and focus on results. A team discussion of their assessment results led to participants sharing:

  • No surprises! “We were not surprised by the results, as they accurately reflect our team and the way we work. If this is the case, however, why are we not changing our behaviour?
  • We struggle with accountability: “We can see that this originates from a lack of understanding as to each other’s roles and responsibilities. We find it hard to ‘call people out’ and give honest, open feedback”.
  • Promote attitude not experience: “we elevated someone in our team, they had been with us for a while. We realized they were not a people person to lead and it nearly cost us the loss of members of our team”

❔ Questions To Ask Yourself

  • How does your team create vulnerability and build trust?
  • Does every team member prioritize team needs above individual needs?
  • Do you often see team memes ‘call’ peers out on their inaction?

📓 Try These Exercises

Next time you need to give feedback, use the Situation-Behaviour-Impact (SBI) Feedback Tool. SBI™ stands for: Situation (provide a clear context, using examples); Behaviour (discuss the behaviour, using verbs); Share the Impact (for the organization, team, for you). Feedback will never be easy, but over time you can build confidence and comfort with the process.

Meet with your team and review the Functional Accountability Chart (see ‘Growth Tools’ at scalingup.com). We often find that teams can struggle in role demarcation. This can lead to tasks falling between the cracks and accountability becoming challenged. A tool that can be helpful for this is the Functional Accountability Chart, which helps a team identify areas of accountability. It is essential that you review this chart on a regular basis as roles are not status, they always evolve.

3. Orientation

“Most executives believe purpose matters…but only a minority say their company currently runs in a purpose-driven way” (Beacon Institute, 2015)

Orientation is one of the four strategy challenges that leaders need to embrace and work on (Cunningham and Harney, 2012). Orientation refers to the overall direction of the organization and can be found through agreeing with your purpose and vision. Purpose is the reason why you choose to exist together, beyond financial gain. Vision is an ambitious yet achievable position in your market or your customer’s lives, that recognizes your purpose.

For example, take AMEX. Their purpose is “We believe it is noble to serve others” and their vision is “To become the world’s most respected service brand”.

Research shows that organizations that embody purpose see significant measurable impact in the following areas:

Talent (The Energy Project, 2013)

  • Employees are 3x more likely to stay.
  • Employees are 1.4 times more engaged and 1.7 times more satisfied.

Customers (Edelman, 2013)

  • 72% of global consumers are more likely to recommend a company with a clear purpose.
  • 84% of consumers make purchases based on purpose.

Shareholder Returns (Sisodia, 2007)

  • Purpose-led companies outperform the S&P 500 by 10x.
  • ‘Meaningful brands’ outperform the stock market by 120%.

❔Questions To Ask Yourself

  • Do you have articulated purpose and vision statements?
  • If you asked a random member of staff in your organization what your purpose and vision was, would they be able to clearly articulate this and explain how it is linked to their daily work activities?

📓 Try These Exercises

Download the Massive Transformative Purpose Tool. Meet as a team to address the questions in this tool, and shape your own MTP.

Read “How to Define Your Purpose, Vision, Values, and Key Measures. Meet as a Team and align your current understanding of these areas, and areas for development.

In completing the first module participants remarked:

  • We’re all trying to work this out: “It doesn’t matter how confident you think you are, you become more aware that everyone is trying to work this stuff out. We are not alone!”
  • You have to roll up your sleeves: “It is messy and you need to behave as leaders not consultants to others”
  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable: “You need to get comfortable walking in your uncomfortable shoes. You may end up with some blisters by asking yourselves tough questions, but the journey is worth it!”

Looking Forward

On December 10 we will deliver the second module of the Growth Catalyst Program. Here we will explore the ‘Customer’ — another component of the essential Seven Scaling Strategies to help organizations grow. Stay tuned to learn more!

About the Growth Catalyst Program

Led by Mount Royal University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Growth Catalyst is an intensive program designed to spark the creation and set the foundation for executing a growth strategy by CEOs and their senior leadership teams.

To learn more about the program and apply, visit us at: www.growthcatalyst.ca


Cunningham, J. and Harney, B (2012) “Strategy and Strategists”, Oxford University Press.

EY Beacon Institute (2015) “The Business Case for Purpose

George, B., Sims, P., McLean, N. and Mayer, D. (2007) “Discovering Your Authentic LeadershipHarvard Business Review.

Ismail, S (2018) “MTP: The Heartbeat of Every ExO”, Growth Institute.

NOBL Academy (2020) “How to Define Your Purpose, Vision, Mission, Values and Key Measures

The Energy Project (2013) “What is your Quality of Life at Work”

Edelman (2013) “The goodpurpose study”

Sisodia, R (2007) “Firms of Endearment”



Growth Compass

Growth Compass delivers evidence-based insights and intelligence on business growth and scaling