29 Oct

Corporate Culture – The Invisible Side of an Organisation

›Company A and Company B both spend thousands of dollars on planning new initiatives and rolling out marketing campaigns to drive their businesses forward.  Company A’s results are dismal and Company B’s are a roaring success.

Why are some companies more successful than others?

There are many reasons for performance variance, but it is increasingly clear that a major component is their corporate culture.

Company A’s initiative came face to face with a culture barrier and failed. Company B’s initiative on the other hand was carried through by a high performance team and succeeded in meeting it’s targets.
What is corporate culture and how can it have such a powerful influence on your business?

Corporate culture is often described as the invisible side of the organisation, or the atmosphere of an organisation. Kennedy and Deal describe it as the perception of “The way things get done around here” .

Ravasi and Schultz (2006) say that organizational culture is a set of shared assumptions that guide what happens in organizations by defining appropriate behavior for various situations. It is also the pattern of such collective behaviors and assumptions that are taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving and, even, thinking and feeling.

Following on from this definition and looking closer to home, what defines the behaviour in your own business? What kind of behaviour is taught to new members entering your business?

If you are the boss, then the buck stops with you! In Tom Peters’ book In search of Excellence he says that changing a culture boils down to the “100 little things” that take place in a day. Everything we do as leaders communicates a message. If we are to change a culture, we must become acutely aware of what we do and the message it communicates. We must get off of autopilot.

So if you are banging your head against the wall and feeling frustrated about failed initiatives, high employee turnover or poor follow-through, think about your corporate culture. Are you greeted everyday with a motivated team who shares in the company values or do you walk into a working environment that feels tense and breeds conflict, where lack of communication is a common complaint amongst employees?

To understand what your companies current culture is, look out for the following:

  1. What gets attention in the business? Is there a common thread of what gets attention and what get’s sidelined?
  2. Take notice of people’s behaviour. How do your employees conduct themselves around fellow colleagues and visitors? What are the dominant management or leadership styles?
  3. What are the hero stories? What do your employees talk about? What behaviour, values and actions are seen as important? Remember, there are company values and then there is reality. Don’t be blindsided by what things should look like, but look at what is the reality.
  4. Employee turnover figures. What are your exit interviews telling you or should I say not telling you? What are the common threads running through the feedback?
  5. Employee satisfaction surveys. Does your business do them? If not, how do you know how your employees are feeling about working for your business?
  6. AAR – After Action Reviews. Is reflection time encouraged and set aside everyday? Are  behaviour, actions and decisions made in line with the company values and desired corporate culture?
Corporate culture is not something to be shelved and ignored. It is an integral part of your business. Corporate culture can very easily make or break your business.
23 Oct

Taking back control

Many years ago someone taught me that of the 4 key management functions of planning, organising, leading and control, the weakest function was in fact control.

Apparently we are on average very good at planning, organising and leading, but we fall short at keeping it all together. We fail at controlling and following through on our plans.

You might have witnessed this in your business or in your personal life. So how do you overcome this weakness?

Here are some suggestions:

Tip #1 – Ensure there is a direct motivator.
In Shane Parish’s article The Reasons we Work he features the book Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation. Authors Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor say that there are six reasons why we do anything. There are three direct motivators and three indirect motivators. By questioning and then ensuring that your motivators are direct, you are confirming that you enjoy your work, that you find purpose in carrying it out and that the outcomes align to your value and belief system.  Direct motivators or intrinsic motivators help you to maintain the desire to continue. Besides the end result, engaging in the actual work is a motivating factor.
Tip # 2 – Ensure your goals are realistic.
The planning and organising phases can be extremely exciting and you can conjure up the most dynamic and elaborate plans, which in the moment seem very practical and doable. However, once the brainstorming dust has settled you may be left with a complicated and senseless plan. This plan then lands up in the bin and you are back at square one or, you start working the plan but give up after a short period due to frustration. So, always ask yourself if your plan is realistic. Does it key into your original vision?
Tip # 3 – Ensure your plan is part of your daily/weekly routine 
This is done by breaking up your plan into easy to manage pieces and scheduling daily and weekly actions for yourself. Essentially you are creating short term goals. Depending on your workload you can keep the actions down to 2 or 3 for the day or week. Always ask yourself, “Can I comfortably complete these tasks in one day or in one week?”  
By incorporating your new actions into your daily and weekly schedule it will become part of your workload and not seem like “something extra to complete”.
Tip # 4  – Ensure key players are part of the planning process
By involving all relevant parties in the planning and organising exercise you build more buy-in. A deeper connection and need to achieve is created. It moves from “the plan” to “our plan”.
If you have a team of employees, bear this in mind. By including your team in the planning and organising process they start to take ownership and feel more accountable for the results. Rather have the team players wanting to achieve the end results, vs. having to achieve because they were given a plan to implement and drive.
I have no doubt there are many other tips and techniques of how to take back the control. I would be interested in hearing yours.
15 Oct

Do you listen to your gut?

As they say, hindsight is twenty-twenty. Life would be so much less complicated and less stressful if we could see the results before they happened. When things don’t turn out the way we planned, we often blame the fact that we were short of the facts, that we should have researched things better or should have taken more expert advise. Should have, would have, could have. We tend to look outwards for the answers.

When we are faced with a very important life-changing decision or even just a run-of-the-mill everyday decision we often base our decision on rational thinking by using cold hard facts and intel. This is a good practise to adopt and should never be discarded. However we do have other resources at our disposal that are often forgotten. How often do you include your gut feeling or emotional mind into your decision making calculator?

I am sure you’ve heard people or even yourself say “I had a feeling that it was the wrong decision” or “I knew I should have chosen the other option!”  It’s a funny thing, we place huge importance and rely so much on external expertise or solid facts to help us in our decision making, that we so often ignore or doubt our own instincts of how we feel about the decision.

Consider the following research and learnings from Daniel Goleman:

“Lower in the brain, below the limbic areas, lies a neural network called the basal ganglia. This is a very primitive part of the brain, but it does something extraordinarily important for navigating the modern world.” (The Brain and Emotional Intelligence, 2011)

“The basal ganglia extracts decision rules: when I did that, that worked well; when I said this, it bombed. Our accumulated life wisdom is stored in this primitive circuitry. However, it turns out also to have very rich connections to the gastrointestinal tract – the gut. So in making the decision, a gut sense of it being right or wrong is important information, too. It’s not that you should ignore the data, but if it doesn’t fit what you’re feeling, maybe you should think twice about it.”

The next time you have that heavy feeling in the pit of your stomach, don’t brush it off as a physical ailment. Stop, think and listen to what your gut is telling you. Consider your feelings about the upcoming decision at the same level of importance as the expert advise and research facts you have gathered. By creating a happy balance between your instincts and the facts you might be pleasantly surprise. If not, you will always only have hindsight.

09 Oct

Thank you!

It doesn’t matter who you are a multi-millionnaire business tycoon or the bloke next door, we all need to feel appreciated in some shape or form in our personal and professional lives.

So with that said, can you remember the last time you were thanked or the last time you thanked someone? I’m not talking about thanking someone for opening the door for you or passing the table salt. I am referring to the type of thanks where you tell a person that by them being who they are, their efforts and how they have positively impacted your life, personal or professional, is greatly appreciated and cherished.

In today’s world, we are so busy trying to keep our heads above water and keep our own lives on track, that we often slip into that dangerous mode of assuming that people know how we feel. We often hear people saying, “he knows he is doing a good job”, or “no feedback is good feedback”.  I find that incredibly sad and depressing, that a simple act of thanks, which is so powerful, can be overlooked so easily.

Think back to the last time someone told you how much they appreciated you. How did it make you feel? How did that compliment or acknowledgment impact the rest of your day or week? It probably made a huge impression in your life and left you smiling for quite some time. Now, think about your next engagement straight after that affirmation. How did your positive mood influence that interaction?

This kind of feedback makes both business and human sense. Building up your team by showing your appreciation through honest positive feedback is priceless. This type of behaviour doesn’t just build loyalty and team strength, but it teaches people to appreciate who’s around them, not just in the workplace, but in their personal lives as well. This type of behaviour is adopted by your employees and is re-created in their own lives.

So a challenge to you – Are you able to communicate your appreciation to just one person everyday? This person could be in your personal or professional life. They could be the barista at your local coffee stop who makes the best espresso you have ever tasted, or the cleaning lady in your office who always goes the extra mile. Tell that person “thank you” and how they make a positive difference in your life. Your words are a priceless gift, not just to them, but to yourself as well.

01 Oct

When last were you hijacked?

Emotional hijacking can either save our lives or cripple them, depending on the situation and the emotional trigger of either fight, flight or freeze.

The problem we face today according to Daniel Goleman, is that our brains and specifically the amygdala cannot differentiate between actual physical threats and complex symbolic threats. In other words, to the amygdala there is really no difference between the fear of being eaten by a hungry predator, and the fear we may feel towards a demanding, dominating and over-bearing boss.  The overall feeling is fear and the amygdala goes into over-drive, attempting to hijack us in order to save us from this scary situation. Do we run, fight or freeze?

It is probably safe to say that most of us will not be dinner for hungry predators any time soon, but the threat of a dominant, terrifying boss who triggers stress and fear in us can be very real.

With both scenarios mentioned above we narrow our attention and fixate on the emotion. Our thoughts become pre-occupied with the emotion of fear. The danger is when we act on that emotion. Unfortunately applying any of these actions of fight, flight or freeze towards the scary boss would probably cause more harm than good, especially the fight option. Therefore, what we do during this hijacking phase can redeem us or damage us.

We do thankfully have the ability to rationalise these impulses and control how we act. It is  our choice on how we act. How self-aware we are will decide the final outcome.

Viktor E. Frankl stated in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

So the next time you feel a strong emotion taking over such as fear or anger try asking yourself the following questions.

  1. What would the consequences of my actions be if I acted without thinking them through?
  2. Would those consequences “save” me or damage me?
  3. How can I eliminate that feeling of fear or anger? What would I need to change about myself to move past this emotion?
  4. Is there a common trigger in my life which evokes this emotion? What measures can I put in place to control my reaction?

Don’t allow the emotional brain to manage and control you. Focus on being more self-aware and learn to self-manage and use the space to process your response. In this awareness you will find a happy balance of emotion and rational thinking.