I found Stephen’s post (below) to be a welcome challenge to accepted wisdom. Our brains are highly efficient and look for patterns and the short path to understanding. Sometimes this means that it is easy to become entrained, through habit and pattern, into accepting rather than challenging the status quo. And how fantastic is it when someone does challenge you, when someone argues or comes into conflict with you? I generally look on such conflict as a highly positive signal and embrace it. Usually it means that there is new learning here. Consider how leaders in organisations would truly benefit from this frame on conflict. And conversely, consider the reality of this. Many leaders discourage challenge and conflict out of insecurity perhaps, fear even. But surely this is to the detriment of organisational success.
I lecture at a leading University on a professional postgraduate marketing Diploma; my specialism takes me into the realm of strategy, culture, business orientation and analysis and evaluation of business performance and strategic options. The theory is clear: have a clear mission i.e. goals and strategy of where you want to be and how you are going to get there. Make your strategic intentions clear, but as Stephen alludes to, not blinkered by too narrowly defined vision. The leadership vision may capture employees minds but perhaps not their hearts.
(diag compliments of Hooley et al from ‘Marketing Strategy and Competitive Positioning’)
This requires a looser style of communication, a more collaborative approach that taps into the social networks that are the powerhouse behind organisational communication. But it is a braver and rarer type of leader who is comfortable letting go of the command-and-control style of communications leadership. All well and good to have a well-founded strategy, but how many of these strategies have you seen fail? For me, its a lot. The virtuous relationship between the 3 components of strategy, leadership and culture is critical in successful implementation of strategy and organisational change. Leadership and culture are intimately related. More often than not, culture operates at an unconscious level, and at an unconscious level these two elements influence and drive each other.
But culture can be consciously adapted and shaped. Both as part of my lecturing work and as part of organisation facilitation sessions around culture and organisational change, I use a very effective simulation exercise. (I have the great Judith DeLozier, one of the founders of NLP, to thank for this). This exercise brings to life how culture is essentially collections of behaviours. Of course these behaviours are influenced by values, beliefs, structure, norms, processes etc etc, but it is the behaviours themselves which are the biggest influencing factors in culture and certainly the most visible elements. During the exercise, delegates have a direct experience of how behaviour shapes culture; and also how it serves strategic intention, for better or worse. Through raising awareness of the power of behaviour, delegates can then start to work on the ‘intention’ gap and the behavioural change required to move to a better way of working.
Perhaps through a more ‘embodied’ style of leadership (more next week) a platform for a more collaborative culture can be developed. I have certainly seen this in a few organisations i have worked for and with. One example is at Briggs Equipment, where CEO Richard Close, effected cultural change almost overnight and is co-creating a market oriented company. Click here to hear a recent podcast that I did as part of internal and external comms programmes with Briggs Equipment.
As you know, I am up for a challenge. Argue with me, take me to task. Comment on this post or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next post – Embodied Leadership.