LEADERSHIP PART TWO - Why Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast...

As covered in Part One, see below for the eight critical areas and behaviours which I think a leader needs to focus on if they want to be successful in the 21st century. For this Blog Post I am only going to tackle the first point below on CULTURE, and I’ll throw into the ‘breakfast fry-up’ a little bit of the second and third points as well.
  1. Build and reinforce the right culture (promoting gritty and growth mindsets)
  2. Be authentic and have a purpose
  3. Aim for alignment
  4. Reinforce an open communication policy (internal & external)
  5. Practice active listening (be curious and empathetic)
  6. Do not be the smartest person in the room
  7. Support and promote the team over the individual
  8. Have a plan and take action 
NB: The majority of these practices are not mutually exclusive, and often the theories supporting the concepts either reinforce each other or are connected - much like bacon, sausages and egg.


A definition of culture:
“Culture can be defined as the values, ideas, customs, and behaviour of a particular group of people, an organisation or society.”

So, why does culture eat strategy for breakfast? Thanks again for that gem of a quote Peter Drucker! Why is it that having the right culture is crucial to deliver both short-term and long-term growth for organisations? 

I believe that there are a few key reasons which I will cover in the section below. An assertion to begin; unless you work on a production line, most likely you are in a role where you have some autonomy, your day-to-day tasks can change, sometimes you have to ‘think on your feet’, and you are not always in a position where you can ask your manager, or someone else, for advice about the best action to take. Considering that this type of environment is one that many of us operate in today, let’s expand on HOW ORGANISATIONS CAN USE CULTURE, whilst operating in such an environment, to improve alignment, trust and employee retention:
  • Make sure employees are ALIGNED with the organisation’s values, so that when decisions must be made without guidance, you have a high probability that they are in the best interest of the organisation. NB: Obviously an organisation’s values and culture should be aligned with and reinforce their goals
  • REINFORCE THE RIGHT BEHAVIOURS through your culture and communication strategy. Therefore, you do not need to micro-manage, or constantly be looking over your employee’s shoulders. You can TRUST that your employees will make the right decision, because they have seen and heard what behaviours are accepted and which are not
  • Understanding and promoting your culture is A GREAT EMPLOYEE RETENTION TOOL! Who doesn’t want to work for a company that has the same value systems and beliefs that they do? In addition, I believe that if there is ALIGNMENT between an individual’s and organisation’s beliefs and value system you will have a happier workforce. And not only do happy employees stay longer, they work harder, and promote a positive culture creating VIRTUOUS CYCLES*.
  • ‘WALKING THE TALK.’ I almost didn’t put this last one in because it’s so bloody obvious, however, surprisingly I still see examples of organisations failing themselves, their employees and their shareholders because their leaders do not ‘walk the talk’ – you know what I’m talking about!

*www.fastcompany.com/happy-employees a recent study by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive. 


GRITTY AND GROWTH MINDSETS

First a qualification; I have borrowed heavily from Angela Duckworth (GRIT) and Doctor Carol Dweck (Mindset) to draw inspiration for the following content. If anyone is interested in either of their philosophies I recommend reading both their books, rather than simply listening to their TED Talks or reading an article about it. Whilst GRIT and Growth Mindsets are mostly referred to when discussing individuals, they also can play a crucial role at an organisational level. I could talk about this for hours, however, for the purposes of today I will keep it short (sighs of relief from the crowd).

GRIT is all about being resilient, hardworking and knowing what it is you want. In Angela Duckworth’s words someone who has a lot of grit has both DETERMINATION and DIRECTION, the same can be said of an organisation.


A Growth Mindset is simply about believing people can develop their abilities, i.e. we can continue to grow rather then be ‘fixed’ by our genes and/or talent.

Both psychological concepts are related, and I will try to concisely explain what I believe having a gritty and growth mindset culture looks like:
  • Having a Purpose which is tied to the organisation’s Vision. By Purpose I mean something above and beyond just improving shareholder wealth
  • Clear organisational Goals which are also aligned with your Vision and Purpose
  • Being process as well as results focused whilst promoting ‘deliberate practice’ methods and ‘Activity Based Management’
  • Rewarding efforts as well as results
  • Reinforcing an optimistic learning-based culture where under some circumstances it is OK to fail (remember if you aren’t failing at some things then it is unlikely that you are stretching yourself!)

So, we’ve tackled the first of eight critical leadership areas and behaviours, along with a little bit of the 2nd and 3rd practices on my list. Hopefully, you got some value from that?

Thanks as always for listening and feel free to share, comment or contact me with any thoughts or questions that you have.

Cheers,

Gareth

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of any other person, organisation, employer or company. The author is a consultant and coach focused on improving performance. I draw on 25 years corporate experience, a Bachelor of Arts in Social & Cultural Anthropology and a Masters of Business Administration.

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