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How to Foster Corporate Altruism: Focus on Leaders First

How do leaders create a culture that features contagious corporate altruism?

Historically, shareholder capital return has been the holy grail of business success. Significant returns signal investors that the company believes in their future so much they can afford to buy back stocks and pay higher dividends, directly providing a return on investment. However, the rise of the social enterprise means changing expectations for what companies do with their profits.

In today’s business world, shouldn’t stakeholders (i.e., managers, employees) also reap what they sow?

Corporate Altruism: Demanded by the Market

Luckily, shareholder return and stakeholder return are no longer a zero-sum game. Institutional activism has made it impossible for big companies to hide from the social and environmental impacts of their business decisions, demanding transparency – at a minimum. Strategic companies are taking this a step further.

Companies that are keen to step up to rising expectations are actively looking for opportunities to take responsibility. And rightfully so: altruistic investments in their employer value, social justice movements, and environmental impact moves market price and boosts employee productivity. For example, the “Triple Bottom Line” equally prioritizes people, planet, and profit from an accounting perspective.

The case is clear: both the market and investors reward activities that improve the lives of employees, customers, and citizens. Why? Because it signals adaptable leaders who are responsive to the demands of the workforce. It is also a sign that our cultural values are also shifting.

Is it possible that the “good guys” don’t finish last?

Changing Expectations of Leaders

While this change is both rapid and significant, it is also true that we have grown accustomed to powerful leaders often being some of the least altruistic individuals we know. For example, historically, Machiavellian personality traits (e.g., manipulation) often still predict leadership effectiveness. Plus, according to the Paradox of Power, the skills that help us achieve positions of power and influence (i.e., humility and compassion) are the very skills that deteriorate once we get there – even if they’re the skills leaders need to leverage now more than ever.

Why does this matter?

Well, leaders are the “linking pins” of the employees to their perceptions of the organization. If you want to build altruism into your organization, it starts with leaders. They also happen to be one of the most significant predictors of employees’ turnover intentions and trust in the company. As the saying goes: “People don’t quit bad jobs; they quit bad bosses.” Correct: this isn’t the universal driver behind every departure. But if you have leaders with the “old guard” mentality who depend on dominance and coercion? It’s safe to say your employer brand – and consequentially market value – are at risk.

Contagious Altruism: Foster Trust and Purpose

If a company was not built from the ground up with their employer brand in mind, investing in their stakeholders can feel check-the-box-ish. The worst-case scenario (and we have all seen it before) is when an organization launches a new set of values and are caught in contradiction when their leaders are not living proof.  Indeed, the individuals who receive the most scrutiny (leaders and managers) also have the carrots and sticks to incentivize and reinforce change.

While there are many ways to continue building altruism into a shareholder-centric strategy, focusing on your leaders is one of the most worthwhile routes to change. Want to see results in both stakeholder buy-in and the bottom line?

Prioritize these four leadership behaviors:

Defining How the Business Has a Greater Purpose

One of the biggest predictors of employee satisfaction and engagement is the sense that their work is creating a positive impact. Leaders should have a strong elevator pitch about how the business emerges above and beyond the work itself. They must demonstrate how the company impacts the world in a responsible and meaningful way.

Empowering Team Members

According to Deloitte’s 2021 Human Capital Trends report, a decentralized workforce spreads ownership and engages employees in creativity and mastery of their craft. Leaders now more than ever must continue to focus on the division of labor and delegation. What can each of your team members do better than anyone else on the team? How can you leverage those strengths to improve employee empowerment?

Creating Choice in What and How Employees Contribute

The very same task can indeed be more effortful or more motivating, based on who is doing it. As you set the tone for corporate altruism, ask your team members what they enjoy doing and why. Then allocate responsibilities and opportunities accordingly.

Create a Superordinate Group Identity – A Sub-Culture

It can be challenging to unite your teams when distinctive subgroup identities exist and are conflicting (especially with the divisive political climate at play). So leaders must be explicit when defining a group identity that rises above individual differences.

There are many models for what it takes to be someone’s best boss. The overarching goal?

Ensure your organization sets the expectation that they become a social enterprise. Because two historically competing priorities – upholding employer brand and market value – are now the joint cost of admission to a future driven by contagious corporate altruism.

 

Creativity Managed: 3 Strategies for Leading Creative Teams

Creativity is only as good as the vision it’s funneled through, and a strong leader is the key to that vision’s viability. That’s what Ed Catmull, president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, suggested in his 2014 book, “Creativity, Inc.” — an insightful and inspirational work.

Founders and executives innately know that they must lead with confidence and acumen. Still, many of them stumble on the path to nirvana. From bad hires to wishy-washy decision-making, leaders who don’t overcome their challenges doom their people to a lengthy stint in team purgatory.

When our company set out to dismantle creative barriers and strive for team excellence over ease, we used Catmull’s strategies as foundational tenets and helped our people capitalize on their diverse personalities and skill sets. Our journey boiled down to building a team dynamic around two core principles: hiring great people and practicing candid leadership.

Who You Are

Unearthing employees who are true gems takes time and effort, but it pays off in the end. We take extreme care in hiring only the best fits for our company culture. If an otherwise qualified candidate won’t mesh with our team dynamic, we would rather say “no” than risk bad results. As bosses, we’ve all ignored red flags about drama queens or kings, only to kick ourselves later.

By focusing on how new hires will integrate seamlessly into the office climate, you can avoid costly employment errors that only harm the team’s efficiency. Every team has its own rhythm, and putting the wrong instrument into the mix — even for a short amount of time — can be very disruptive.

What You Say

After putting the right people in the right positions, a leader must guide them with candor and respect. In fact, Catmull calls candor a “secret weapon,” meaning that frankness doesn’t equate to flying in hot to every meeting with an agenda or a directive. Instead, use it to set the tone so that when something is important or time-sensitive, your team understands it’s a priority.

Our company quickly learned that authentic conversations promote high-level engagement among our employees and foster more productive meetings. Moreover, transparency puts everyone at ease, allowing ideas to bloom and issues to be resolved quickly and concisely. By taking the time to get to know your team members and allowing them to get to know you, you ensure that everyone’s perceptions will be realistic and that no one will feel patronized by an uncommunicative boss.

 

Lead With Passion and Purpose

You can empower your creative team using these three strategies:

1. Make it personal.

When directing your vision, find a way to truly speak to your teams so they know how they impact the overall success of the company and its projects.

As Catmull notes in one of his chapters, Pixar has taken the concept of communication to an exciting level. Its film studio’s “Notes Day” allows everyone in the organization to spend an entire day evaluating how the company can operate more effectively. This process builds a personal connection between Pixar employees and everything Pixar puts its name on. 

Although most businesses can’t take a full day to work on process improvement like Pixar, they can modify and implement this concept on a smaller scale. Our company hosts biweekly show-and-tell meetings so that we can display our work to others. These meetings instill pride in individual contributors and reveal opportunities for dynamic growth.

2. Be decisive.

Resilient leaders help employees own the choices they make, which encourages them to take bold, smart, and effective steps.

Our system is simple: We start every day with a quick meeting — called a “daily” — overviewing mission-critical items. These dailies make everyone aware of what’s happening in the organization and hold teams accountable for the changes they want to see in their respective departments. They also ensure that there’s not a lot of time for an important decision to sit on the shelf. Even if we make a wrong decision, our resiliency gives our company greater flexibility. We can quickly pivot and move in the right direction, opening the door to time, budget, and opportunity.

3. Show that you listen.

Employees who feel heard have higher levels of job satisfaction and can uncover ways for your organization to evolve. Listening isn’t always easy, especially for leaders who feel stretched. But just as soliciting feedback can show customers that you care, so can devoting some time to your team members.

When we have feedback meetings and postmortems, the collaboration doesn’t stop there. We take a deeper dive into each department’s needs and functions and lean on our teams when overcoming challenges and solving problems. Moreover, we don’t rely solely on annual performance reviews to measure our employees’ happiness. In addition to these reviews, we conduct regular check-ins, sitting down with each individual at least twice per year.

“Creativity, Inc.” helped us evaluate our own teamwork gaps and catalyze the drive of our passionate and talented employees. By taking the time to not only read some of Catmull’s advice but to also investigate your own creativity processes, you may quickly find that building bridges over those chasms is simpler than you thought.

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5 Ways to Earn Trust: The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

Are you looking for that leadership silver bullet that will propel you past the competition? You can take public speaking courses and enroll in an MBA program or you can attempt the single easiest feat for which an individual can strive, trustworthiness.

Leadership is built on one core concept—trust. Without it, you can forgo every other attribute espoused by management experts. Confidence without trust is an egomaniac. Charisma without trust is a charlatan. And vision without trust is a hypocrite. This was supported by a meta-analysis study from leading trust researcher and Georgetown University professor Daniel McAllister.

Published in the Academy of Management Journal, McAllister concluded that leaders viewed as trustworthy generate a culture where team members:

  • display greater innovation, agility, and responsiveness to changing conditions;
  • take risks because they believe they will not be taken advantage of;
  • do not expend needless time, effort, and resources on self preservation; and
  • go above and beyond to exhibit higher performing customer service, brand loyalty, and problem solving.

This leads to a competitive advantage through significantly higher commitment, satisfaction, retention, and performance. Similarly, research from the Ken Blanchard Companies found a strong correlation between trust and the behaviors associated with highly productive employees—discretionary effort, willingness to endorse the organization, performance, and a desire to be a “good organizational citizen.”

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”—Stephen Covey

Before you get insulted that I’m explaining something as elementary as the benefits of trust, have you heard of the Edelman Trust Barometer? The ETB has surveyed tens of thousands of people across dozens of countries about their level of trust in business, media, government, and nongovernmental organizations. In its 17th year, this is the first time the study found a decline in trust across all four institutions in all 28 countries surveyed.

For leaders, one of the more disturbing findings of the ETB is the shocking lack of confidence in leadership—63% of participants said corporate CEOs are either not at all or somewhat credible. That means only 37% maintained the credibility of CEOs, a 12-point drop from last year, and this is consistent around the world. CEOs are more trusted than government leaders (29%), but that’s setting a pretty low bar. Plus, with this “trust void,” only 52% said they trust business to do what is right.

So if trust is important and society is not feeling it, what can we do? Good news: you can (re)build trust. Here are five techniques to consider:

  1. Recognition, Recognition, Recognition. To increases trust between leaders and employees, nothing does it faster than acknowledging their achievements. It indicates you are paying attention and reinforces positive behaviors.
  2. Show Compassion. Did I say recognition is the fasted way to build trust? It won’t mean anything if you don’t already have a foundation of respect. Just try influencing someone who doesn’t respect you; see how engaged they are in your ideas. Treat your team like real-life people—listen to their ideas, care about their feelings, and empathize with their concerns.
  3. Keep to Your Word. You can’t build trust without following through on promises. Your team needs to believe that what you say is sincere, so follow through on commitments.
  4. Don’t Hide Your Humanity. Being human means showing your imperfections. Your ability to discuss your mistakes and share what you have learned from it makes you more relatable. No one is concerned with transparency for the good stuff; they need you to fess up to faults, so show your vulnerable side.
  5. Smile. If you don’t want to do something substantive to build your trust and would prefer a gimmick, consider a recent study published in Psychological Science where convicted murders with trustworthy faces received more lenient sentences then their peers with untrustworthy faces. The key, it seems, is that a gentle smile increases how trustworthy others perceive you. Keep in mind, that it needs to be gentle—too big can be seen as duplicitous or insincere, while too small may be seen as sarcastic or leering.

“I doubt that we can ever successfully impose values or attitudes or behaviors on our children certainly not by threat, guilt, or punishment. But I do believe they can be induced through relationships where parents and children are growing together. Such relationships are, I believe, build on trust, example, talk, and caring.”—Fred Rogers

We live in untrustworthy times, but that does not mean we have to lead in an untrustworthy manner. Generate a culture where honesty, transparency, and truth are the basis of your organization. This must start at the top of the organizational hierarchy with you. The team will trust you once you establish that you trust the team. It may take time, but as Seth Godin says, “Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest.”

Does Vision Make a Great Leader?

Many describe a great leader as one who has vision.

A leader who is able effortlessly to conceptualize what strategy and direction is required to meet the competitive and economic challenges of the day.

A leader who can integrate the various pieces of a complicated business puzzle in their mind and create a strategy of what has to be done to achieve success.

There is no question that visioning is an important ingredient of leadership, but it isn’t the characteristic that distinguishes the good leader from the bloody brilliant one.

It’s not what the leader THINKS that guides the organization through tumultuous times to survive and thrive, because thoughts and “brave ideas” are mere postulations of what SHOULD be done.

It’s what the leader DOES that is the deciding factor in whether or not the organization performs at it’s highest level.

The natural ability to execute will always in my view take the top position at the leadership table over visioning and ideation.

Does the leader who is remarkable in the skills of execution require an incredibly insightful vision to succeed?

Nirvana is leader who is both creative and possesses the execution DNA strand.

Breakaway businesses are created amidst this perfect storm. Leaders are, however, rarely good at both.

But success CAN be achieved without amazing visioning. A mediocre plan flawlessly executed can produce far more positive results than an ambitious plan poorly executed. That’s a fact.

So why all the fuss over the power of visioning in creating remarkable leaders?

“The vision” is definitely more sexy than the dirty, messy and inelegant task of getting stuff done in the trenches fighting internal politics and aggressive competitors that’s for sure.

And leadership pundits seem to be able to wrap their heads around ideation skills far more easily than trying to formularize the synchronized “pick and shovel” activities necessary to mobilize imperfect and biased human beings to deliver results.

The truth is (take it from someone who has been there) it is far easier to apply cognitive skills to the art of leadership than the practical operational skills necessary to transform the helium-filled plan into reality.

The application of cognition is orderly; leading implementation is anything but.

If you’re a leader looking to enhance your effectiveness, don’t fuss with getting more productivity from your mind, “get dirty” with your employees who are up to their asses in mud…

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Four Tips for Measuring Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is all the buzz, and rightfully so. When employees are engaged, they adopt the vision, values, and purpose of the organization they work for. They become passionate contributors, innovating problem solvers, and stunning colleagues. High-performing employees want to work in places like that. Smart employers want to cultivate that kind of environment.

So What is Employee Engagement, Exactly?

When employees are engaged, they’re satisfied and look forward to going to work. Engaged employees have a sense of meaning and purpose, and they’re proud of the organization, recommending products – and even employment – to their friends and family. They enjoy an environment where they can do their best work, so it’s not surprising that they plan to stay for at least two more years and they give extra effort to help their employer succeed.

While employee engagement is a relatively new concept, making its debut in the 1990s, the idea that employees can make more of an impact at work when they are engaged seems simple. All the same, various studies project that only 30 – 40 percent of U.S. employees are engaged. That means that the majority of employees in the U.S. are showing up to work disengaged. They’re not poised to put in extra effort for success. They don’t like going to work most days. They’re unlikely to recommend the products of, or employment with, their employer. The question every employer must ask itself is, “should employee engagement be central to our strategy for success?” If the answer is yes, then the first step you must take is to measure employee engagement at your organization.

Four Tips for Measuring Employee Engagement

Follow these four steps to generate reliable employee feedback data, the kind you can do action planning around.

  1. Use a Research Firm

The measurement of employee attitudes should always be conducted by a reputable third-party research firm, preferably one that specializes in employee engagement research. While there are many reasons for this, perhaps the most important is the protection of respondent confidentiality. Ultimately a subjective experience, the feeling of anonymity is what makes respondents uninhibited in their survey responses. Even if you know which questions to ask and how to generate actionable reporting, your ability to trust your reports hinges entirely on the validity of response data. If you hope to take action as a result of your reports, hire an outside firm.

  1. Don’t Just Measure Engagement. Measure Satisfaction, Too.

Second, measuring engagement is not enough on its own. Without the measurement of employee satisfaction, it’s impossible to determine why employees may or may not be engaged. For this reason, a well-rounded survey with core focus areas of both satisfaction and engagement is critical to your success.

  1. Have a Plan for Communication Before You Begin

No matter what kind of feedback you collect, outline a communication plan before you begin. Consider the following questions, as you map out your strategy. Will your top executive send out an email/video/note-with-pay-checks to emphasize the importance of employee attitudes? Will you be sharing findings at the upcoming annual meeting? How will the feedback affect employees? Will they be called upon to take further action?

  1. Enjoy the Ride

This process isn’t about being perfect; and it’s definitely not about being perfect before you survey. Over the years, we’ve talked with countless employers who wanted badly to get their hands on employee feedback, but were afraid to ask. Both Aristotle and Mary Poppins said, “well begun is half done.” Follow their advice. Congratulate yourselves on your boldness, as you take this important step of measuring employee engagement and satisfaction.

photo credit: Measure via photopin (license)

Your Employees Are Engaged…REALLY?

A while back, I dropped in on an innovative workspace for one of my software technology clients– it’s a very cool office space. An open-plan, communal space with worktables in rows, very low partitions between areas, and no private offices. Note that I said workspace, because it wasn’t very clear to me how a vast room offering little in the way of private work areas could become a workplace – somewhere to get things done.

Of course, I can’t forget the large sunny cafeteria and the designated area for Foosball table and other games. Ok, call me jaded but….this hip tech culture seemed a bit year 2000 to me, but which the office manager touted as contributing to a happy, productive and engaged workforce.

Part of me remains unconvinced. How can this be?

Some of the teams that I represent as a recruiter for technology talent have ‘thinking’ jobs in the software development realm, which means that they need time, space, and quiet to do their jobs. Sure, they collaborate as team members and absolutely love games and free coffee, coke and popcorn—who doesn’t? These bennies don’t, however, make them engage in their commitment to their employers. It would be great if employers could throw in a few video and board games and get happy employees and top productivity, but that’s not how it works.

Engagement is forged with different tools: trust, loyalty, open communication, clearly articulated goals and expectations, shared values and well-understood reward systems. It really isn’t about how the office is set up, or the toys gathered to distract restive employees, that build engagement. Turns out, employees engage with employers and brands when they’re treated as humans worthy of respect.

When companies like the one I visited tell me their workplace culture and trendy furniture builds employee engagement, I try to make them see that they’re focusing on the wrong part of the equation. They’re focusing on what, not why. What can tell you a lot about a company, but it’s why that tells you it’s a good company to work with. I consult with these organizations and hiring leaders to consider the whys of employee engagement.

Here are my top 5 questions which help construct the WHYS of employee engagement for leaders.

1) Why am I here? An employee will never get to an answer if you don’t communicate a shared sense of mission, vision and goals. Tell people why you want them to work at your company, and why you think they’ll be successful. Then you can focus on what they need to do to be successful.

2) Why should I trust you leadership? Open communications build trust, which is essential to engagement. Respect is essential to mutual trust, and also builds engagement. Communicate clearly and openly about goals and expectations. With open communications, you’ll be able tell the why, then move to the what: what are the tasks and actions necessary to be successful.

3) Why should I be loyal to your company? Engaged employees know why they’re loyal – they are treated with respect and honesty. Companies which rank mutual respect and honesty below procedural activities, such as tracking time, will see engagement and productivity drop. Tell employees why you’re loyal to them.

4) Why don’t you communicate your company values? Fail to show employees your organization has core values and you might as well forget about engagement. Even worse, if you talk about values and then behave in a vastly different way, you’ll telegraph just how little management actually believes in and practices those values. Explain why a value system is important to you, and the what – the actual list of values – will follow.

5) Why aren’t you clear about the rewards of working in this company? People need to know what to expect – not just what’s expected of them, but what they can expect in return. If you’re very clear and open about the rewards system – which includes everything from pay to benefits, bonuses, vacation, and the path upward in the organization. Explain why you have the rewards you do, and people will sign on and believe. Be crystal-clear, consistent and unambiguous in creating and distributing rewards, or engagement will go out the window.

Innovative workspaces have their own place and some employees that I’ve spoken with love these creative places. If you have a multi-generational workforce, focus on the whys of working for your company before you spend a moment on the whats: what desk, what chair, what computer. Engagement is innovative when it looks at why people behave and believe as they do rather than what might motivate them.

So break it all down—focus on the why, and the whats will come. If your employees cannot answer these five questions above all the cool workplace culture in the universe will not make a difference. Please let me know how it goes leaders and employees alike. I’m listening and engaging in the interim.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes.com on 10/14/12

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Social Leaders: The New Frontier for CEOs

Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln—all incredible social leaders who impacted the world in which they operated. Their success had nothing to do with being online, being on the right channels or knowing what time to post. It was about the ability to bring people together, facilitate agreements through communication, and collaborate to drive efforts towards one common direction. A social leader has the vision to bring about change and the ability to convince others that it can be done.

There are the traditional characteristics that make up a good leader. But to be a social leader, you need to have certain traits that make you enigmatic. These traits are what give some leaders an aura, a charm that makes other people want to work for them. They are the ability to:

  • Communicate
  • Collaborate
  • Be open-minded
  • Have confidence
  • Be proactive

If you’ve got the five characteristics above, then you can start focusing on the following actions to get things done:

Bring People Together

If you’ve ever worked with someone who’s great at disaster management, you know how powerful the ability to bring people together is. Bringing people together around a cause, be it to achieve a goal for the organization or to create a movement to drive a movement, is the most important action that social leaders can perform.

Action 1: Bring people together by following the ripple effect—reach out to your closest, most trusted network and have them do the same. The number of people you’re able to connect is directly proportional to the strength of your core group of people.

Facilitate Agreements

We all know that just because people are close-knit or are part of the same team doesn’t mean they have the same views. In fact, having a healthy amount of conflict is a defining factor of the strongest teams. As a social leader, you must be able to facilitate agreements as these differences arise.

Action 2: A social leader will never take sides. To get people to come to agreements, you must facilitate the communications and follow up on actions afterwards. Let people come to their decisions. You just have to make sure that they get there.

Communicate and Collaborate

Email, phone calls, meetings, just talking to someone while you get from point A to point B—it’s all part of the daily routine of a social leader. There’s usually no such thing as “it’s too late to talk now.” Social leaders will communicate and collaborate as the thought strikes when a personal drive is at the highest.

Action 3: Social leaders aren’t afraid of talking out half-baked ideas. In fact, they know that conversation and collaboration is one of the best ways to mold and grow a concept rather than thinking about it on their own. In short, many heads are better than one.

It takes a very special kind of personality to be a truly social leader. One who believes in the power of others, who knows they’re not always right, and who accepts that there is always something more to be learned. I think if you’re able to ascend to this type of leadership, you’ll probably have a lot more fun getting things done.

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How To Illuminate A Vision Your Organization Will Believe In

What’s with “vision” these days? It seems most leaders would rather focus on action and execution. Have you noticed that the most popular articles and blog posts have numbers in them? 3 ways to…, 4 steps to…, 5 tips for…

In our research and conversations over the years, Ken Blanchard and I have heard from thousands of people organizations that their number one concern is lack of a shared vision. Yet less than 10% of the organizations we’ve visited are led by managers who have a clear sense of where they are trying to lead people.

Doug Conant, Chair of Avon and former CEO of Campbell Soup, recently told me, “People today are less interested in the vision and more interested in ‘how to.’ They are trying to get a sip of water from the fire hydrant of life, and it’s washing over them. They are trying to push everything away so they can do their work, and they’re looking for ‘how to’ answers like time management tricks.”

Overused And Diluted

Unfortunately, people don’t trust the idea of “vision” these days. It’s meaning has been co-opted by:

  • Vision statements that are no more than meaningless marketing messages.
  • Using vision as an excuse to lay people off.
  • Not connecting the vision to the day-to-day work.
  • Leaders who espouse vision but do not model it or who act in their own self-interest.

What’s Important Is Not Only What It Says, But Also How It’s Created And How It’s Lived.

What it says. Vision is a picture of a desirable future you intend to create and that illuminates your underlying purpose and values.

For a vision to be compelling and provide ongoing guidance, it must illuminate all three elements of a compelling vision: 1) purpose (or mission), 2) values, and 3) a clear picture of a desirable future.

Take the Apollo Moon Project for example. It is often mistakenly used as an example of a vision. When President Kennedy set the goal to put a man on the moon by 1969, the technology to accomplish it had not even been invented and an exciting decade of focused, Herculean efforts resulted in success. But what’s happened with NASA since? It has never recreated these spectacular accomplishments. Why? Because there was no clear purpose to guide decision-making going forward and answer the question “what’s next?”’

How it’s created. Typically a management team goes off and creates a vision they are very excited about and then reveals the vision to the rest of the organization. Later they are surprised when they run into huge issues during implementation and set the vision aside.

It rarely works to just announce what needs to be done and expect people to follow through. Taking the time to involve others in shaping the vision will save a lot of time down the road. Through involvement, people develop deeper understanding and commitment. Unless people really understand the “essence” of the vision, they may make decisions that pull in the wrong direction. And even when they do understand, if they don’t believe it’s important, they will not act strongly and consistently in ways to support it.

How it’s lived. This is one of the biggest ways leaders torpedo their own efforts. The moment you identify your vision, you must start behaving consistently with it. People watch what you do more carefully than they listen to what you say. People follow leaders by choice. Integrity is the bedrock of leadership, and if people don’t believe and trust you, the best you will get is compliance.

Jesse Lyn Stoner will be a guest on the TalentCulture #TChat Show on February 25th.

About the Author: Jesse Lyn Stoner is a consultant, former business executive, and co-author with Ken Blanchard of the bestseller Full Steam Ahead: Unleash the Power of Vision, which has been translated into 22 languages. Dr. Stoner is founder of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership, which hosts her award-winning leadership blog.

photo credit: IMG_5063a via photopin (license)

How Would Picasso Design Your Org Chart?

We typically think of organizational charts as a set of vertically stacked boxes that represent people and their job descriptions. Additionally, the chart illustrates who reports to whom and the hierarchy of the company. And this is generally how we think about organizations: who is the boss and what are they the boss of?

I’m declaring my disdain of those charts and the vertical structures they represent. I am dedicated to the end of the org chart as we know it!

With that in mind, I’ve created the “Top 10 Reasons I Hate Organizational Charts” list:

Top 10 Reasons Why I Hate Org Charts

  1. They are vertical, not horizontal.
  2. People are represented as boxes.
  3. You can’t see the informal relationships of an organization.
  4. They are a myopic internal vision of a company.
  5. There are no customers represented.
  6. There is no community, social or otherwise, represented.
  7. You can’t see the stage or language of an organization.
  8. No core value, noble cause, purpose, mission, or vision is visible.
  9. They don’t promote leadership and mentorship, learning or teaching at multiple levels.
  10. They don’t support creativity, innovation, uniqueness, and greatness.

Check out this video to learn more:

Rebecca Onion wrote about what is considered the first org chart by New York and Erie Railroad on Slate.com. Besides being historically significant, the chart is beautiful to regard. Designed by McCallum and drafted by G.H. Henshaw, a civil engineer, the chart draws from the natural motifs popular in the Victorian aesthetic. Looked at from afar, the whole resembles a tree laden with fruit or blossoms. Up close, the individual “branches” illustrating groups of employees who worked on the trains have the rough, natural look of vines, twining alongside the straight lines of the tracks that they service.

Henry Mintzberg was the creator of the Organigraph. He was on the right path in terms of freeing us from hierarchy and silos. You can view his sample and see his liberating tool. But even dear Henry didn’t foresee our ability to be completely free to design our true vision.

Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to get out a gigantic piece of flip chart paper and redesign your org chart with great imagination and vision.

What would it look like if you used the following list as a guideline?

  1. Create a metaphor that represents your business. (What would Picasso do?)
  2. Draw your values, noble cause, and vision in this picture. Remember that your heart is central.
  3. How do people intersect with each other, customers, and your community?
  4. How do people REALLY (informally) interact?
  5. Are you cross-functional or departmental? Can silos be replaced?
  6. How do you make and spend money? Can you represent that in the nature of the drawing?
  7. What communal language do you speak? Are you talking about individuals or about groups, community or greatness?
  8. Where is your leadership or mentorship pipeline, and how do you illustrate it?
  9. How do you represent roles, titles, and hierarchy in the picture?
  10. Place yourself in the picture. Specifically, place yourself where you want to be rather than where you may find yourself today.

Is your picture different from your reality? Can this new org chart set the stage for your strategic plan? After all, a strategy is simply the steps you will take to make your vision come true. What will you need to think of, innovate, start, or stop to develop a strategy that represents the vision represented by your picture?

As of right now, let’s ban the traditional org chart and in its place put organizational vision. This is a critical step toward creating unique organizations that we want to be part of, rather than being defined by the hierarchy of an organization. As we design our organizations, let’s ask ourselves this question: “What Would Picasso Do?”

About the Author: Ruth Schwartz is an internationally certified business leadership coach, motivational speaker and author. She owns High Performance Advocates, a management and leadership coaching company.

photo credit: frankieleon via photopin cc

Transforming the Workplace: Charting a Path to a Better Place

Originally posted by Chris Jones, a TalentCulture contributing writer. He is an IT Strategy & Change Management consultant, with a passion for driving new levels of engagement and learning in the modern organization. His research areas include the dynamics of organization culture, and more recently, the importance and implications of critical thinking. Check out his blog, Driving Innovation in a Complex World, for more.

In my last TC post, we did a deep dive on critical thinking in the workplace.  We discussed ways to drive innovation in our day to day exchanges by tracing the value of engagement in the modern organization and focusing on the mechanics of collaboration as a more rigorous way to solve problems.

These are all core elements of a desirable future state culture.  If achieved, they could serve to foster organization-wide learning.

But what about culture change itself?

So often executives will speak of the need to drive a full transformation of the business or its culture. It’s not too difficult to imagine an alternate future state.  But it can be difficult to know how to get there.

The research I’ve done in this space indicates that culture change can be guided by leadership, provided there is a focused, coordinated, and ongoing effort to achieve it. Too often culture is viewed as a quick fix, a “memo” to the team (remember those?), or a simple expectation of management for the troops to ‘figure it out’.

Organization change is too complex for simple solutions. Learned behaviors run deep into the fabric of the organization, and are not easily changed.

I see value in attacking the problem at two levels simultaneously, a simple, high-level framing like the one recently popularized by Chip and Dan Heath in Switch (2010), supplemented by a more detailed approach, such as the one famously outlined by John Kotter in Leading Change (1996).  A combination provides a reinforcing framework, a ‘scaffolding’ of sorts, that will be resilient due to its diverse structure.

Let’s take a look at a synthesis of these two models, and outline what the core transformational elements might be:

Viability of an Organization’s Vision

Stakeholders must be able to see themselves in the future state, and will gain value from participating in the visioning exercises.  The vision must be achievable and actionable, and defined in a language recognizable to those who must seek it.

Ability of Leaders to Motivate

A guiding coalition must form around the change effort to create a believable, unified front to shepherd the changes through.  This coalition, representing elements of the entire organization, must be able to articulate a clear “value” story for stakeholders to rally behind. A “burning platform” is ideal to create a sense of urgency.  There must be an emotional appeal for an organization to be truly motivated, and a sense of empowerment that gets people engaged.

Ability of Managers to Clear a Path

Hurdles and roadblocks will invariably get raised, because human nature is to avoid change and maintain a status quo.  Pockets of resistance and politics will resit new approaches, and the guiding coalition must be sure that the team receives full support.  Communication will be critical, as well as establishing momentum, and, eventually, being sure to embed changes into daily operations.

Neither a checklist nor a new framework will be sufficient for an organization’s transformation to be successful.  It takes commitment and focus, and an investment of energy over the long-term.  Working together, stakeholders can build a transformation road map, charting a path to a better place.

Do you think these steps could serve as a means for driving change in an organization? Which of these steps have worked for you?  What do you see as challenges?

Let’s discuss adoption.  It would be great to compare notes, and to drive this thinking forward.

IMAGE VIA bbsc30