Is Your Culture Getting The Attention It Deserves

Culture is a hot topic.

Every leader talks about it. But very few are successful at building one that is distinctive and long-lasting.

This is a problem. For most companies, the only real differentiator is the productivity of the people who work there.

Culture makes the biggest difference to productivity.

It’s the intangible that defines what people feel and how they behave. It’s what dictates how much of themselves people are willing to give.

Yet it’s the least understood and almost definitely the least professionally managed part of any business activity.

In most companies culture is left to develop by itself. And like a garden without a gardener it takes on its own shape and form.

This is risky.

Left to its own: you still have a culture. But it may not be the one that you want!

Hit Refresh Book Company Culture Organisational HealthThese thoughts were on my mind as I began reading Satya Nadella’s excellent book, Hit Refresh.

In 2014 he became only the 3rd CEO in Microsofts 40 year history. In the beginning, Microsoft was a speedboat. A lean competition machine that was at one time the world’s most valuable company.

Over time it lost its mojo. When Nadella took over many believe the company was sliding towards irrelevance.

Its competitors had gone mobile and were using the cloud for most of their software. Microsoft had failed in every new thing it tried.

Insiders described the culture as toxic. Fiefdoms and power struggles were the order of the day. Mastering the political game was the way to get ahead. The company had turned in upon itself and away from the customer.

Nadella had a massive turnaround on his hands. His job was to get this huge organisation of 120 000 people sprinting in the right direction.

Where did he start? Where would you start?

In Nadella’s words, “I put the company’s culture at the top of our agenda. We need to rediscover the soul of Microsoft, our reason for being. My primary job is to curate our culture so that 100 000 inspired minds – Microsoft employees – can better shape our future.”

He started by converting the intangible into future success for the company.

A new purpose andvision came into being.

To empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve moreand to thrive in a mobile and cloud-first world.

This challenged them to leap out of their comfort zone and to start winning in new areas. It led to a resurgence of innovation and new partnerships with old enemies.

Then they developed a clear connection between their mission and the culture. They sought to build a culture of leadership that encourages people to take risks and inspire innovation.

The growth mindset became an anchor.

Satya Nadella - Is Your Culture Getting The Attention You Deserve

As Nadella says; “we had to go from being know-it-alls to learn-it-alls. To not to have to put on an act of knowing everything, but to be curious and learn”.

They also got specific about what culture they wanted. To establish a growth-mindset in 3 distinct ways: To obsess about our customers, to actively seek diversity and inclusion and to act as 1 company.

And then the 3rd big anchor was Leadership – the right people on the bus at the top to lead the culture.

He built a team at the top of one mind on mission, strategy, and culture. A team whose actions declared what kind of behaviour was no longer required. Leaders who would model the change.

As they progressed they had to pay special attention to the middle managers.

This group went backwards initially.

As in every large organisation, the ‘middles’ are sandwiched between the top and the front line. They experience unique pressures that are often ignored or underappreciated. They required special tools and support to make the transition.

Fast-forward to today, 2019 and Microsoft is back!

They were a company frozen in time. Now they are leaders in the new era of artificially intelligent cloud computing. Some even describe them as a cooler company than Apple.

I found the story engrossing and fascinating.

Being intentional and resolute about your culture is not a nice to have.

Nor is it to be delegated or delayed. It must get deliberate attention.

The wise executive knows that culture – that which shapes and forms the way people think, feel and behave – is the real work in an organisation.

Satya Nadella knew this. He chose to harness the power of this intangible force when he started out as CEO. It has produced rich rewards.

What about your organisation? Are you being deliberate about your culture? Is it getting the attention it deserves?

We love hearing from you. Please comment below.

The-Power-Of-Relationships-Alex-And-Renias-Walk

The Power of Relationships

Renias Mhlongo and Alex van den Heever are from two completely different worlds.

Over 25 years they have built a relationship of deep respect and mutual reward.

I listened to their story this week. It moved me and it got me thinking.

Alex is of 14th generation Afrikaans heritage. His great great grandfather introduced Afrikaans into the Cape Colony in the late 1800’s. Renias is an 18th generation Shangaan. His family was painfully evicted from the Kruger National Park in the 1960’s.

It is unlikely they would ever have met.

But Alex went to work at Londolozi Game Reserve as a safari guide. He was paired with Renias, who was by then a seasoned and experienced wildlife tracker.

Alex was 19. He was enthusiastic but inexperienced.

He needed Renias.

He needed to learn from him to be any good at his job. But he was also curious. He wanted to learn about Renias’ culture and the Shangaan way of life.

His interest was genuine.

Renias was skeptical in the beginning. Alex was not the first guide he had worked with. There had been many over the years. He admits to losing faith that white people would want to learn about an African culture.

Early on an experience shaped their relationship. It built trust and confidence.

They were tracking a mother leopard together in a donga. She had cubs and charged them fiercely. Alex tripped and fell in the commotion and for a while was in great danger. Renias took control. He became the protector and got Alex out without harm.

This cemented something essential in their relationship.

Alex learnt that Renias could be trusted.

The-Power-Of-Relationships-Alex-And-Renias

 

In time, Renias invited Alex to stay at his home in Dixie, Mpumalanga.

Dixie is a small Shangaan community of 400 people on the edge of the Kruger National Park. Like every other village in the area it has no running water and electricity. The houses are made of mud walls excavated from termite mounds.

Alex turned him down.

Not once, but many times. He admits to being afraid, unsure of this step into the unknown. Renias too had concerns. He was unsure what the community would think. Bringing a white person into Dixie was not common at the time.

Together they were breaking new ground.

In the end they both took a risk.

What followed sealed their relationship. Renias not only opened his house. He opened his heart. He moved out of the main bedroom so Alex could sleep in comfort. He arranged for the Londolozi chef to cook a gourmet meal for him. A steaming hot bath was prepared in a community with no running water.

In Alex’s words, “The spirit of hospitality was extreme. It was the ultimate form of giving.”

Deep into the night they sat around the fire.

Under bright shining stars they opened up to each other. They spoke about what mattered to them. What was troubling them. A spirit of empathy entered their relationship and they began to identify at a deep level with each other.

Many adventures followed. All are beautifully told.

Notable to me was that Renias began teaching Alex Shangaan or Tsonga. To learn someone’s language is to enter a rich new world of meaning and relationship. Alex was an eager student. He persevered and now speaks Shangaan fluently.

The benefits of their relationship began to flow.

They loved their work and being together.

In turn their guests loved being with them.

Their personal chemistry was energizing. Guests spoke highly of them. Many would return, year after year. Not only to be in that special place again. But to see Alex and Renias, with whom they had formed a deep bond.

Perhaps the greatest fruit from their relationship is the Tracker Academy.

Founded by Mrs Gaynor Rupert, they started it to train disadvantaged rural people in the ancient art of tracking.

For the past 10 years, 136 unskilled, unemployed people have had their lives changed by the Academy. 94% of them now have full time employment in the safari / ecotourism industry.

The story of Renias and Alex is inspiring and simple.

They took a risk. They got to understand each other’s life circumstances. This built empathy, which led to trust and respect. Benefits flowed for both of them and others that have been rich and long lasting.

It’s a wonderful legacy. A legacy which flows from the Power of Relationships.

Please comment below. We love to hear from you!

Priceless Lessons from a Business Legend

Herb Kelleher passed away in January at the age of 89.

He was the co-founder and long time CEO of Southwest Airlines. A pioneer in a difficult industry littered with failures.


From humble beginnings, Southwest Airlines has flourished. It now flies 120 million passengers a year and employs more than 58 000 people. It’s been profitable every year since two years after it was founded. Every year!


In 2016 it received 178 299 resumes from people who want to work there.


The company is an inspiration.


It’s changed the lives of millions of people. Has an eye-watering reputation for customer service. And it’s created incredible economic value. A $10,000 investment in the Southwest IPO was worth $10.2 million thirty years later.


What lessons can we learn from the life of Herb Kelleher?


1. Build a cause.


The goal was not just to keep fares low, fly to more cities and make money. It was to “democratise the skies”. “Give America the freedom to fly” was their mission. Inside the business people thought of themselves as “freedom fighters.”

Flying then was only really accessible to the business traveller and the affluent. A fact that’s hard to believe now. Thirty years later, three out of four Americans have flown at least once in their lives.


2. Simplify.


Low cost, on time and customer satisfaction. That was it. A simple, efficient operating model and a culture unique to air travel was the formula.


To beat the competition, he boiled the business down to these essentials and stuck to that. Employees could easily understand the strategy and play their part in delivering it.


Keeping it simple also made decisions easier. For example, which planes to fly? It was only ever the Boeing 737. Why? One plane makes training of pilots and mechanics easier and simplifies fleet operations.

3. Treat your employees like customers.


To deliver efficiency and a truly unique customer experience, people were the key. His logic was simple. Happy workers lead to happy passengers, thus giving the airline a competitive edge.

He said in 2001. “When you treat people right, then they will treat your outside customers right. That has been a powerful competitive weapon for us.”

4. Instil a sense of fun in the culture.


He lived by the mantra, “we take our jobs seriously, not ourselves.” At company meetings he would often dress up like Elvis Presley. Maintaining a sense of fun in the workplace was as important to him as anything else the company did.

And he set the example.

Herb Kelleher Southwest Airlines 2


Once the company got into a dispute with a competitor. It was over an advertising tagline, “Just Plain Smart”. Rather than litigate Kelleher suggested an arm wrestle with the other CEO.


They went through with it. Mr. Kelleher lost. But it was such a good experience that the CEO let Southwest keep the tagline.


5. Be obsessive about hiring the right people


This, he said, was a leader’s most crucial task. He put a premium on temperament. “If you don’t have a good attitude, we don’t want you, no matter how skilled you are,” he once said.


Attitude mattered. “What we are looking for foremost is a sense of humour”. One pilot never got the job because he refused to put on a pair of casual shorts during a group exercise. Another was dismissed for being rude to a receptionist.


They built this obsession into their recruitment. Even inviting longtime Southwest customers to help screen job candidates.


They had standards and they were serious about them.


6. Stay close to customers


Getting into the field to have direct contact with customers was important to him. He would often board flights to chat to passengers. By doing so he also set an example to his executives. This made it important to them too.


He knew that never losing touch with the customer was the lifeblood of the company. He once said, “customers are like a force of nature: You can’t fool them, and you ignore them at your peril.”


7. Make more leaders


Ensuring that Southwest was successful without him was to me his greatest achievement.


He did this by building leaders. Leaders with breadth and depth, able to make the business grow and thrive, even into middle age. Under Gary Kelly, the current CEO, Southwest has done exactly that! It has navigated fierce competition, a massive merger and changing customer expectations.


It’s true that Herb Kelleher was a leader of rare energy and abilities. One of a kind.


But from his big life we learn priceless lessons. They apply to any business large or small.

I hope they apply to yours? Good luck and please comment below.

We love hearing from you!

grant@leadershipworks.co.za

Resolutions Really Worth Making

Resolutions Worth Making

If you have a desire to get new results this year I offer 8 things. Eight behaviours. Five to start and three to stop.


These come from our direct experiences with leaders. Listening to them share what they most want for their businesses.


All want to unlock the potential in their organisation.


To break down silos. Foster a culture of experimentation and to give people the courage to try new things.

They want to tap into more of what people have to offer. To build organisational cultures of ownership and initiative. To end passivity and fear.


The behaviours you will read about are tried and tested. But they are not always applied.


The pressure and the pace of daily business push them to the side. So they get relegated. Old habits kick in and each year seems to roll by without much change.


No breakthroughs. No shifts. People lose hope and feel disappointed.

It does not have to be this way.


Let’s begin with the START

1. Create clarity. Cut through the noise and simplify your business.


Define a purpose, course of action and goals that people understand and believe in. Concentrate precious effort, attention and resources only on what matters. Beware the trap of too many priorities. Too many mean none at all.

2. Generate energy. Charge up the spirit of your organisation in 2019.


Not only in your own area but across the organisation. Inspire hope and confidence. Encourage. Support. Raise the standard. Assist people to grow. Your personal conduct matters too. No business will ever rise above the passion of its leaders.

3. Build an awesome team. Transform your team into a performance powerhouse.

Teamwork is widely spoken about and admired. But remains untapped and elusive. Make your team stand out as exceptional. It takes courage and persistence, but in one year a team can be totally transformed.

4. Over communicate. Be the Chief Reminding Officer.


Life is busy. There are distractions and problems. People need reminding. Reinforce, over and over again, what is true and important about your organisation. Your purpose, your goals, your vital behaviours. Make it a two-way thing. Listen. Ask questions. Involve. This builds trusts, generates commitment and inspires confidence.

5. Obsess about the details. Yes the details!


I don’t mean micro managing (see below). The best leaders I know intimately understand what makes their business tick. This keeps them awake at night and inspires them during the day. Own the details more than anybody else in the business. The when, the what and the how. Assume nothing will happen unless you kickstart it and see it through.


And now 3 to STOP

1. Stop avoiding difficult issues. Sweeping difficult issues and conversations under the carpet is tempting.


But never advisable in the long run. Fearing conflict and wanting to be liked is a strong human driver. But it leads to problems. Poor performance and behaviour are high stakes issues. So are unmet expectations. Make 2019 the year you confront issues early and tell the truth kindly.

2. Stop micro managing. Doing the work of others is not a good idea.


For you and for them. It robs people of the opportunity to learn, grow and make mistakes. And it stops you from working on the greater challenges that lie ahead. Get out the way so that others can start proving themselves and you can leave your comfort zone.

3. Stop admiring the problem. It never takes a genius to point out the problem.


It takes a leader to do something about it. Closely related to admiring the problem is complaining. It’s a cancer that spreads. Attacking the immune system of your business. Solving problems is how you create value. It’s the reason why you’re there!


These behaviours lie at the core of what it means to be a healthy business.

Becoming responsive, agile and innovative is not a nice to have. Something you hope for.


It’s a strategic imperative to stay alive.


A choice you make and ultimately a set of behaviours to embrace.


Here’s to a healthy new year!


Grant


Please comment below. What are you doing to get new results this year?

Setting Goals, Building Trust and Catching Buffalos

This is the final video in the series. Ian and I have been talking about the process of building a high performing team.

In the beginning it starts with decisions the leader must make around team membership and size. The qualities and skills of the people on the team define what kind of team it will become.

To be high performing you need people who are hungry. People who want to achieve and who have the discipline and endurance to actually carry out the tasks required for success.

But as Patrick Lencioni writes, they must also be humble and smart.

This means they are open to learning from others, place the team above themselves and show good judgment when dealing with people. Leaders of high performing teams are both wise and courageous with team selection.

They know this is their most important task.

When it comes to team size, between 5 and 10 is the ideal number. Too big and you lose the ability to meet often, to go deep into issues and to be agile and responsive.

Clear Goals and Trust are the next big building blocks.

We talk about these in the video and once again we turn to lions to bring lessons back into business. In particular we draw our biggest insights from those lion prides who pursue big, dangerous quarry like the African Cape Buffalo.

Goals create focus and they concentrate effort. Skilled and committed people concentrating their effort on a few big things leads to breakthroughs.

But often in teams there is the temptation to have too many goals.

I come across teams with as many as 10 or 15 priorities. Our adage is too many priorities mean none at all. By clear we mean the few vital things the team must achieve with excellence or nothing else it achieves will really matter.

Trust relates to team members’ confidence to speak up, to disagree, to own up and to be vulnerable.

Despite being so obvious and widely spoken about, many teams still struggle with both of these concepts.
Not only have most teams not clarified the few vital things, but there is also not the level of trust in place to have the kind of open, free-flowing, often heated and spirited debate, so necessary for making decisions that generate commitment.

This mixture of goal confusion, ambiguity and low trust is a proven recipe for mediocrity and low morale. The exact opposite of high performance one is trying to create.

High performing teams have mastered this challenge. Not only can people accurately describe the goal, they can also describe in detail their part in achieving it too. And they are not afraid to speak up, to disagree when it’s required and to encourage others to speak out too.

Not that they are disagreeable, quite the contrary.

It’s that they are so committed to the team and so badly want the best for the business that they are slightly paranoid that something important will be missed.

Building a high performing team is easier than it seems.

It does not require a new theory or great intellectual insights. But it does ask for courage from the leader and a real commitment from the whole team to doing something special and in the process avoiding the well-worn path of playing it safe and mediocrity.

We hope that you will enjoy this short video … as much as we enjoyed making it.

We also always love hearing from you.

What question would you like answered when it comes to building a great business culture, leading an organisation, or setting up and sustaining winning teams? No question is too big or too small. We will do our best to answer all of them in a meaningful way or at least to point you in the right direction.

Please comment below. We would love to hear from you!

To view the full series, and for more articles and resources, please visit www.leadershipworks.co.za or www.ianthomas.net.

Or you can follow us on our travels on Instagram @grant.ashfield | @ian_s_thomas.

What do lion prides do with passengers?

Tackling the thorny issue of poor performance and unmet expectations is vital if a business team wants to be successful and breakthrough to the next level.

Ian Thomas and I discuss this question in the 2nd video in the series.

The key is to deal with these issues early, directly and of course kindly. It’s a mistake to wait.

Waiting does everyone a disservice. People want to know where they stand and they rely on you to tell them and guide them.

I am a beneficiary of this. Ten years ago, after a consulting session with an Executive Team the CEO invited me for a chat. He got straight to the point.

No elaborate preamble or attempt to soften what he was about to tell me. I recall his words clearly. “We like you. We want to work with you, but today you disappointed me. We have not hired you to tell us what we already know. Your job is to bring us deep insights from your experience, to challenge us and to force us to talk about the things we would rather avoid.”

That was it. Simple and clear. I had to get better if I was to keep working with them. It was a turning point for me and our business.

This was unusual. Mostly senior leaders allow too much time to pass. The real issue I think is the discomfort with the conversation. We hope that the other person will somehow gain the insight by themselves and take the steps to change, without us being in the uncomfortable situation of having to challenge them.

In a lion pride the issues are so much sharper and real.

Here if you don’t contribute you don’t share in the rewards of the hunt and ultimately you fall out and die. It’s stark but its true. The sustainability of the pride relies heavily on the contributions of each individual but the individual is not more important than the pride.

Contribution and performance defines membership.

Are you moving too slowly to tackle behavioural and performance issues on your team?

Are you avoiding the uncomfortable conversation about someone’s performance or behaviour?

Take action today!

Begin by writing down what you expect. And yes, write it down. It’s important to be specific. Avoid generalising. This is not about their character. It’s about their contribution and behaviour – be crystal clear before going on.

Check your intent. You are doing this out of love and respect. The other person wants to grow and improve as much as you do and you are a necessary part of this process for them.

Don’t sugarcoat. Be direct and sincere. Offer help and support but don’t take on responsibility for their choices and actions.

Then follow up and follow through with rigour.

In the next video, Ian and I talk about building trust and goal setting. These are the next vital steps in building a great team.

For more articles and resource visit www.leadershipworks.co.za  | www.ianthomas.net. Or you can follow us on Instagram at @grant.ashfield | @ian_s_thomas.

matches pass passion along leadership works top teams

Do you have a real team at the top?

Last time I promised to write about how to start to tap into the gold mine inside your organisation.

The first step is to build a real team at the top.

When your company’s executive team are not on the same page about what’s best for the whole organisation and they put their own interests, needs and functional areas before the priorities of the larger organisation there is a problem.

A bank executive told me recently, when there is no cohesion and unity at the top, the stage is set for interdepartmental rivalry, backbiting, confusion and infighting everywhere else. This behaviour he insists does not serve the overall best interests of the bank and neither does it help the customer.

The journey to a healthy organisation begins then with the Executive Team.

When your executives, the people with the greatest influence on behaviour in your organisation, start sharing information, support group decisions, dismantle the walls that once protected their turf and outlaw political games and hidden agendas, the message about how to behave is clear to everybody else.

How your leaders behave plays a vital role in ensuring that people don’t turn instead to cynicism, apathy and escapism.

Almost every employee has a deep need and desire for a cohesive and unified team at the top. They want to be inspired, to respect their leaders and to not have to take sides and fight unwinnable wars on issues that should have been resolved above them.

For many this deep need remains unmet and it’s a huge contributing factor to why large numbers of people are not emotionally engaged in their work.

At the initial offsite with the top team the first really difficult question we ask executives is, which team is your first team?

It’s not a trick question.

Which hat you wear as you sit around the Executive table is vital to how you show up and behave. Surprisingly, many Executives have not thought much about this.

For most it’s first their functional area or business unit – the team that they lead – that gets their main loyalty. This is where they are most comfortable. Where their knowledge and power base is.

Yet in a healthy organisation – there needs to be a clear Team Number One.

This is a small group of people – the Executives – who have the total interests of the business at heart and who are guided by one overarching leadership question, “How do we unlock and release the future full potential of the whole business”.

This means they are also completely dedicated to stopping the turf wars, ambiguity and every other barrier and bad behaviour that gets in the way of survival, growth and winning in the market.

They know that the stakes are high.

They know that the competition is organised and that every ounce of human creativity and intellect has to be focused outward and not wasted on internal struggles and needless empire building.

An executive I worked with – a very straight and direct man – used to challenge his team by asking; “do you want to be Executives or do you want to be Branch Managers?”

A stinging question, not intended to demean the latter but to remind his Executives of their main purpose … to build a real team at the top.

A Team Number One, that positions the whole business to meet customer needs and to set the example for getting people to submerge their egos and co-ordinate seamlessly. This team works tirelessly to make sure they don’t squander more human capability and goodwill than they actually use.

This is the first step to building your healthy organisation.

Next time we will write about the actual characteristics your Executive Team needs.

In the meantime please visit our Resources Page and download “Do We Work Well Together?” Ten questions that will make you think deeply about your team and what you look like to the people around you.

As always we love hearing from you.

Please comment below. We’ve just received fresh copies of Patrick Lencioni’s best-selling book, The Advantage and will give away three copies to people who comment.

Leadership Works 2017

What is your most important priority as a leader in 2017?

Every business we work with today is experiencing major competition and change. Under this constant pressure everyone is striving to stay ahead.

Despite this, many leaders still limit their search for competitive advantage to conventional and largely exhausted areas like marketing, strategy and technology.

It’s not that these aren’t important. They are and always will be. But the obvious is being ignored. In every organisation there is an untapped gold mine sitting right beneath every leader.

Becoming a healthy organisation is how to access this gold.

As Patrick Lencioni asserts, instead of trying to become smarter (most organisations have enough of this already) leaders must shift their focus to becoming a healthier organisation, allowing them to tap into the more-than-sufficient intelligence and expertise they already have.

One of our clients is a well-known South African company.

They have great marketing, a distinctive strategy and the very best technology and systems in the world. Their products are stunning and they have terrific employee benefits and perks.

Yet there is also mistrust and fear. They are bedeviled by silos, turf wars and internal competition that wither away goodwill, damage trust and cause good team members to disengage.

In their marketplace there is what they describe as ‘hyper competition’. It’s real and it’s relentless. Areas where they have dominated for many years are for the first time being seriously challenged by global players. Yet just when they need every ounce of resourcefulness, initiative and commitment on the inside, people are holding back,

Morale and productivity – which should be high – as it is when people pull together to unify against a common threat, is low and in its place is ambiguity, victimism and interdepartmental rivalries.

This is only good for their competitors. Good people are leaving (or thinking seriously about it) taking valuable skills and years of hard earned experience with them.

They are also troubled by a recent survey that reveals that very few people in middle management aspire to become senior leaders in the organisation. This gap between top management and those close to the front line is worrying and has a big effect on productivity.

Ironically the leaders are really great people. I know them personally – predictably they too are also not having much fun.

It does not have to be like this.

For this organisation the warning bells have sounded and they have begun to take action.

What is your most important priority as a leader in 2017?

Will this be the year that you tap into the gold mine inside your organisation? Take up the challenge and use 2017 to defy and attack the root causes of dysfunction, politics and confusion inside your organisation?

  • Imagine if you got everyone rowing in the same direction?
  • Imagine if everyone was crystal clear on the goals and what your business needs to do to succeed?
  • Imagine teams where people submerge their egos, co-ordinate seamlessly, support each other selflessly and do whatever it takes to succeed?
  • Imagine too a genuinely cohesive team at the top. Where all the executives are on the same page, setting the tone, standard and pace in a credible and unifying way for every other person in your organisation.

Nothing about this work is touchy-feely or soft.

It is as tangible and practical as anything else a business does, and even more important.

When politics, ambiguity, dysfunction and confusion are reduced to a minimum, people are released to concentrate on the customer, empowered to design products, solve problems and help one another in ways that unhealthy organisations can only dream about.

Yes it takes hard work, commitment and courage – anything that’s really worthwhile does. The rewards for everyone are immense and when you do you will be satisfied that you have fulfilled the most important leadership responsibility of all – to create an environment of success.

Next time we will write about how to start.

We love hearing from you. Please share your thoughts on this post with us below. Do you think building a healthy organisation is the most important leadership responsibility of all?

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Four Disciplines for a Healthy Organisation

Most organisations that want to get better are not struggling because they lack good products, market opportunities or clever people.

Rather they are struggling because they are unhealthy.

A healthy organisation has minimal politics or confusion and sets high standards of performance. Here talented people work together on common goals while success is measured not by personal victories but by the progress of the joint plan.

It’s the polar opposite of a company fragmented by internal strife and paralysed by its own poisoned culture.

In these unhealthy cutthroat places, infighting at the top occupies more time than solving problems on the ground. Serving the customer comes second to securing one’s turf. Sometimes people worry more about enjoying their perks than the real problems facing the organisation.

Henry Ford once said; “the internal ailments of business are the ones that require the most attention.”

Fortunately, these ailments have a remedy. Like most things worth doing the remedy involves disciplines. Four actually and each one is essential.

Discipline 1: Build a cohesive team at the top.

This has nothing to do with touchy-feely exercises or theoretical discussions.

Rather it involves the team committing to collective results and then building the trust and commitment necessary to have direct, open conversation with each other and to hold one another accountable.

Discipline 2: Create clarity for the organisation.

Most organisations have a deep and unmet craving for clarity.

Healthy organisations meet this need and minimise the potential for confusion by clarifying the answers to a few simple questions that deal directly with why the organisation exists, how people must behave and what is most important.

Discipline 3: Over-communicate clarity.

This discipline is the key to dealing with the disconnect between executive leadership and the rest of the organisation – a problem that plagues almost every business we work in.

It involves the senior leadership conveying what’s most important to the business and doing so over and over again.

The best leaders build commitment not only by conveying clarity but by personalising it too.

These leaders build emotional connections by telling stories, constructing metaphors and making themselves vulnerable. They constantly repeat the same messages so people believe they are sincere.

Vitally they understand that it is essential to not only communicate information but inspiration too.

The payoff is massive – building a community of people who want to perform together is the key to having a distinctive competitive advantage for a long time to come.

Discipline 4: Reinforce clarity with human systems

In healthy organisations systems are in place to ensure:

  • People who are hired also fit in.
  • Successful performers are rewarded.
  • Underperformers are managed.
  • New hires are effective right away.
  • The right people are promoted.

This is about institutionalising clarity and making sure it is actually embedded into the fabric of the organisation.

These disciplines take both effort and time. But less time than you may think.

With commitment and persistence from the top along with a willingness to courageously confront the issues, an organisation will succeed in becoming healthier.

Very few organisations are truly dysfunctional – most just need the leaders to boldly set the tone, create the clarity and be an example for everyone else.

These disciplines are the blueprint for doing so. They are not a nice to have, they are in fact the most important strategic choice your business will ever make.

We love hearing from you. Please comment below – which discipline do you feel would make the biggest impact on your organisation right now?

patrick-interview-leadershipworks

The Ideal Team Player

Teamwork is a subject that receives so much attention.

Almost every organisation wants more of it and is willing to invest in getting it – especially at the top where it is often in the shortest supply.

But do we know what qualities to look for in someone who will make a good team member?

The Ideal Team Player Book Patric Lencioni

Well this month Patrick Lencioni released his latest book, The Ideal Team Player.

It’s written in his usual style as a fable and it’s a wonderful read. In the book he describes the qualities of an ideal team player. I had a discussion with him about these qualities.

Question: Patrick what is your latest book all about?

This book is focused on individual team members rather than the dynamics of the team as a whole. I wrote it because while I’m confident that almost any group of people can become a team with the right amount of guidance and support, there are some individuals that greatly accelerate the process because they share three distinct attributes.

Question: What are these attributes?

The first and most important virtue of an ideal team player is humility.

A humble employee is someone who is more concerned with the success of the team than with getting credit for his or her contributions. People who lack humility in a significant way, the ones who demand a disproportionate amount of attention, are dangerous for a team.

Having said that, humble team players are not afraid to honestly acknowledge the skills and talents that they bring to the team, though never in a proud or boastful way.

The next virtue of an ideal team player is hunger – the desire to work hard and do whatever is necessary to help the team succeed.

Hungry employees almost never have to be pushed by a manager to work harder because they are self-motivated and diligent. They volunteer to fill gaps, take on more responsibilities and are eagerly looking around corners for new ways to contribute to the team.

The final virtue of a team player is not about being intelligent, but rather about being wise or smart in how to deal with people.

Smart employees understand the nuances of team dynamics, and know how their words and actions impact others. Their good judgment and intuition help them deal with others in the most effective way.

Question: What is the payoff for the team of these attributes?

The impact of ensuring that members of a team value and demonstrate these attributes cannot be overstated. Most teams that struggle are not lacking in knowledge or competence as much as they are unable to access that knowledge and competence because of dysfunctional behaviours.

A team full of people who are humble, hungry and smart will overcome those dysfunctions quickly and easily, allowing them to get more done in less time and with far fewer distractions.

Actually I’ve come to the conclusion that these three seemingly obvious qualities are to teamwork what speed, strength and coordination are to athletics—they make everything else easier.

Question: Of the three do you think any is more important than the other?

Yes, undoubtedly for teamwork the most important of these virtues is humility. The ultimate foundation of being a team player is a person being willing and able to put the team’s interests above his or her own. Only a truly humble person can do this effectively.

Question: Finally Patrick how do managers cultivate these qualities in their teams?

The most reliable way to ensure that teamwork takes hold is to hire only ideal team players. Of course, that is neither possible nor practical, especially considering that most leaders don’t have the luxury of creating their teams from scratch.

But all leaders can certainly do their best to try to recruit, select and hire people who are humble, hungry and smart when an opportunity arises to bring on someone new.

In my book I’ve outlined interview questions and assessment resources that can help managers and leaders mine for the qualities in potential job candidates. By interviewing thoroughly and checking references with an eye towards a candidate’s reputation and behaviour, a manager can hire people with a high degree of confidence that they’ll be good team players.

Patrick-Lencioni Interview LeadershipWorks

This book is a must read for any organisation that’s serious about teamwork.

All too often an organisation launches into the team building process without first thinking about this critical piece of the teamwork puzzle – the individuals and the qualities they possess.

We still have a few copies of the book to give away.

Please comment below – tell us what individual qualities are important to you in the members of your team and we’ll send a copy of the Ideal Team Player to selected contributors.