4 Things An Employee Needs From Their Immediate Team Leader
A consistent and compelling performance ethos, day-to-day focus, an engaged workforce, and a sense of belonging all draw heavily on four leadership domains.
Where are we heading? How will the business environment evolve? Where and how is technology going to change the business? What will tomorrow look, sound and feel like? What is our unique point of differentiation? Who is tomorrow's customer?
A cadence, a rhythm, a regular and continuing pattern of behaviour where the agreed outcomes and feedback regarding those outcomes are always in sharp focus.
It's about an organisation that, by way of design, is agile enough to support tomorrow's needed speed of delivery. In performance terms, it's the need for everyone on the team to know where they stand.
Mentoring, coaching, stretch, building the team, a focus on learning how to learn. Currency in the job market.
Consistent, authentic, affirming, displays humility, keeps people informed, is tough-minded when they need to be and, regardless of the circumstances, they listen … really listen.
The remote work trend that caught fire with Covid will get even hotter in 2022, especially for more lucrative positions. To put the magnitude of this growing shift in perspective, prior to the pandemic, only about 4% of high paying jobs were available remotely. Today, it's 18%.
Chris Swan and John Ryan share practical strategies to help you successfully recruit and hire the best remote talent from around the world.
Does Your Team Regularly Have A Vibrant Culture Conversation?
Culture is the often overlooked, all-pervasive, enterprise-wide, organisational DNA that dictates whether your strategy lands or if your brand sustains. It's "a way to be" shaped by the past but continuously honed by the emerging business, social, economic, political and customer context.
Cultural pillars and organisational values
Where many teams struggle is that they either take a simplistic approach or don't know how to have a rich and vibrant culture conversation. Culture is managed from the outside-in but demands leadership from the inside-out. There are four essential, supporting pillars of culture:
The four pillars act like the foundation of a house. If they are poorly constructed nothing will stand for very long. And miss one out – or any of the other building blocks of culture covered in the next paragraphs for that matter – and constantly recycling the past is the best that can be hoped for.
Those four pillars are braced by the organisation's values. An organisation without values is a ship without a rudder. Values give people permission to act. The values represent the CEO's and top team's leadership point of view. Co-creating the values – involving as many people as possible in drawing up the values – sounds like a good idea but there is a reason the expression "a camel is a horse designed by a committee" came into being.
Ask, involve, confer and listen but don't abdicate. That said, the organisation's values must hold meaning for all of the stakeholders, especially the customer. It should be added that in a multicultural environment the term "values" comes with a good deal of baggage. "Why is the organisation telling me what my values should be? That's very personal?" The confusion between organisation and personal values is overcome if we think of the organisation's values as "guiding principles".
The four pillars, when married to the organisation's values, frame the context – the cultural canvas if you like. The most forceful elements on that canvas being:
technology (quickly becoming an irresistible force).
Bringing culture to life
Bringing the intended culture to life means also working on:
the nature and degree of freedom to act (how decisions get made and who makes them); and
how people learn (learning how to learn, speed of learning).
Meanwhile, if the "culture anchors" don't "introduce" the culture the organisation needs … stasis is assured. Leaders who stumble tend to focus on the drivers without, at the same time, addressing the cultural anchors:
A cultural anchor is so called because it describes behaviour that, unless reframed with tomorrow in mind, puts a brake on progress like an anchor thrown from the back of a car. Addressing the white space on the organisation chart – the informal organisation – completes the picture. That white space isn't a vacuum, it's full of noise; a cacophony of often confused and conflicting babble … that you need on your side. If you don't manage the informal organisation it will manage you!
Your Organisation's Story
All of the elements described come together to shape the organisation's story. You are your story. Culture is story and story is culture! We are the storytelling apes. Story touches a part of the brain that nothing else can. Customers don't buy your product … they buy your story. They buy why you do what you do.
When top talent is evermore difficult to find and attract – as it is – a winning story is essential. Talent isn't attracted to your balance sheet; they want to join your firm because they love your story. And they stay – not because they swoon over your strategy – but because they are a happy captive of your culture.
It's not enough to have a great story – you need to know how to share it. A great story has five parts:
Why do we do what we do?
Where are we heading?
What do we believe in?
What makes us special?
How does what we do make a difference in people's lives?
Recognising that millennials and iGen employees will soon be the bulk of your workforce – make sure that number includes giving back, building community and the environment.
When the road ahead is uncertain, speed of learning becomes the ultimate competitive advantage. Best practice (improved on), listening, story, symbolism, creative tension, a great question, challenging the status quo, risk, leadership reach, comfort with ambiguity, coaching, catching people doing it right, reflection and language become the oxygen upon which learning how to learn thrives.
What we observe shapes what we do. Until we listen to others – really listen – we can't listen to ourselves. The stories we share influence how we think. A compelling symbol cuts through the clutter. A great question makes people think slower … in order that they can act faster. When the status quo remains undisturbed … opportunity remains unfulfilled. When we coach others we tap into the best of who we are. In affirming others we give them permission to act. Wisdom is insight tempered by experience. Without reflection there is no learning. Language isn't important; it's everything. We navigate "what's possible" through metaphor. Same old language, same old behaviour!
Culture is a system. If you leave something out expect unintended consequences. Do you separate from the organisation those who don't live the values? Are language, imagery, metaphor, story and symbolism central to how your team seeks to create tomorrow today? In difficult times, how people learn is more important than what they learn.
1. Does your team regularly have a vibrant culture conversation?
Culture is the often overlooked, all-pervasive, enterprisewide, organisational DNA that dictates whether your strategy lands or if your brand sustains.
It's "a way to be" shaped by the past but continuously honed by the emerging business, social, economic, political and customer context.
2. Do you spend as much quality time on culture as you do on strategy?
It's become popular to use the expression "culture eats strategy for breakfast." It's colourful, catchy, engaging, provocative … and wrong!
In a world of uncertainty, the only thing that is predictable is that your strategy will be "subject to correction". Long after the strategy has been shredded, what will endure is the culture.
The new reality … culture enables strategy.
3. Is there clarity around what has made (and makes) the business successful?
A business exists primarily to create tomorrow's customer. Profit is obviously important but it's ultimately the outcome of doing the former well.
The organisation's culture delivers both the outwardlooking (why buy from us?) and the inwardfacing (why work for us?) value propositions. Of the two, the latter is more important.
If the brand promise doesn't live inside the organisation it can't live in the marketplace.
4. Are middle managers fully in the game?
No organisation of more than 150 or so people has one single and unified culture. The challenge becomes one of tight-loose leadership: allow local differences to flourish while, at the same time, develop an overarching 'meta' culture that ensures common values, consistency, connection, collaboration, caring for the customer and an unrelenting commitment to the whole.
And the group that binds everything together is the "middle managers". Moreover, they are the only group that can!
5. Do you measure culture?
If you don't know where you're going … don't be surprised if you don't get there. What we don't know we can't address. It's difficult to raise the bar if you don't know how high it is. It's essential, however, that the culture measurement express, in business terms, where the organisation's culture is (roots) and where the organisation's culture needs to be (wings).
If you don't measure culture, you can't manage it. No less important, culture is strategic. We need to understand both where we are and where we need to be.
6. Are all of the communication channels fully brought into play?
Today is the slowest things will ever be! Culture and change serve and support each other. In the midst of this ongoing tumult the question becomes "Who owns the culture?" The obvious answer is "everyone". A more considered answer might refer to the Board, the CEO or even the top team.
However, perpetuated through a need for inclusion, self-protection and loyalty to one's immediate group, it is the fluid and highly adaptable informal networks. And who "feeds" the informal organisation? Middle managers.
7. Do you hire/promote with "tomorrow's" culture in mind?
The world of work is changing and the very definition of "a job" is, perhaps, changing most of all. Into this maelstrom rides talent management. The metaphorical quarterback of talent management … who and how we hire.
Getting culture on the right track means identifying the right candidate. Not every now and then … but every time.
Who you hire determines what's possible.
John O. Burdett
John has extensive international experience as a senior executive. As a consultant he has worked in more than 40 countries. His extensive consulting around organisation culture encompasses, literally, some of the world's largest organisations. John's coaching work, meanwhile, embraces a number of international CEOs. His company, Orxestra Inc., enjoys a strategic partnership with TRANSEARCH International.
Brian Chesky, the co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, says, "It doesn't matter how good your original product is, if you can't build a great company around it, the product won't endure." When Satya Nadella took over as CEO at Microsoft, in 2014, he told employees that his highest priority was the company's culture. He refers to culture as "the soul" of the organisation.
For a great organisation, culture isn't an abstract or vague concept … it's real … it speaks to people. It's not a competitive advantage … it's a competitive imperative.
Many forms of culture
Culture is a complex word. Its first official mention, in English, was in 1430 when the Oxford English dictionary stated that it meant "cultivation." Somewhere along the line culture stopped being about tilling the soil. Instead, it became synonymous with "the arts:" music, poetry, dance, opera, literature, painting and the like. Tilling the intellect!
In a different guise, culture distinguishes one tribe from another. Think about the elite education, polished accent, prescribed dress and required etiquette of the English upper class; the tattoos and street argot of a LA street gang; the shirts, scarfs and chants of Liverpool soccer supporters; and/or the conflict resolution rituals of the Yanomami, one of the most primitive and remote indigenous tribes of Amazonia. Fertilising the closed mind!
In yet one more form of expression, culture describes the habits, values, norms, ethos, organisation and identity of a community who work together in pursuit of a common purpose. The tribe is about exclusion; everyone has to look and act in the same way. Taken to its extreme the tribe emerges as a cult. The psychological polar opposite is a community built on inclusion, shared values and a respect for individual difference. If you want things to stay the same … act as if you are part of the tribe (cooperation, consensus, build walls).
If you recognise and embrace the need for change, think and behave as if you were part of a community (collaboration, trust, sharing). Internal tribes at war with each other are the best thing the competition has going for it. Ploughing a new furrow!
The culture challenge
Culture isn't a plaque in reception, a consulting exercise or a memo to all employees. It isn't limited to the organisation's values, exclusively the province of HR, a repackaged engagement survey or something you "do" and then forget about until this time next year. If the term never passed the CEO's lips your culture would still define what's possible. And it will change … whether you want it to or not. As a business, you are your culture. It's the essence of who you are. The good news is it's the one thing the competition can't usurp.
Culture within a business setting is a container for diversity. Here, one is faced with the law of requisite variety. For a system to sustain itself, it needs at least as much internal variety as exists in the environment in which it sits (context). If you look around your organisation or team and, for the most part, those involved all look and sound the same, know that you are ill-equipped for a world where ideas are the lifeblood of tomorrow's success.
The challenge culture presents is that it is the behavioural equivalent of the water in a goldfish bowl. We mostly don't know that it's there but it, nevertheless, sustains life. Have you ever thought how remarkable it is that at the end of the day hundreds, even tens of thousands, of employees go home and, without thinking about it, are able to pick up exactly where they left off the next morning? That's culture!
For the last 21 months many companies and their staff have been through multiple periods of uncertainty, change, and general anxiety regarding the state of their companies and/or jobs. Covid forced a good portion of the American workforce home, many of them for the first time in their careers.
Senior leaders, managers, and supervisors were asking themselves: How will my staff and I focus and communicate effectively remotely? How much managerial oversight is too much? Too little? Can the company survive this? Can I survive this? A large swath of companies not only survived but saw their companies thrive!
Managing From The Outside-In. Leading From The Inside-Out
The harder the wind blows the more important it is that a successful business operate from a solid foundation. Mastery in technology is obviously a given … as is the continued drive to get ahead of the innovation curve. How solid is the business platform you are operating from? Will your business stand firm or will the winds of change sweep you away? Think about the following leadership questions.
Managing from the outside-in
Does your team fully understand the ways in which continued disruption, the speed of change, ongoing globalisation and meta-changes in technology will change the way your customers do business? Think globally; don’t fall into the trap of focusing on what's happening locally. Are you fully equipped to work with customers who are faced with the need to reinvent their business?
Can you clearly describe where your business is heading? What specifically does success look like five years from now? If you can't imagine it, you won't create it.
Your suppliers, business partners and customers know what you do and how you do it but do they know why you do it? In a great business the why is invariably more important than the what.
Is the business environment changing faster than your capability as a business? If that is the case … your future is dictated by what you have done in the past. What are you doing now that you were not doing two years ago? Doing what you have always done is the perfect way to enter a world of mediocrity.
On your team, do you have the technical expertise, agility, leadership reach and delivery ethic to meet emerging customer expectations? When digital direction defines success, are you playing catch up or are you ahead of the game? Do you have the talent to compete with the best of the competition? What's the worst thing the competition can do? Do it first!
Leading from the inside-out
The world is changing, the competition is changing, the customer is changing – in what ways are those on your team changing? How resilient are those on your team? How and in what ways do they invest in personal growth? Seminars, reading habits, access to an outstanding coach? Leaders are readers.
Do you measure (in easy to understand business terms) the culture you have … and the culture you need to be successful tomorrow? From our own research – less than 20% of organisations manage their culture. The speed at which markets are changing means that strategy is, at best, a work in progress. The inevitable outcome? Culture has primacy. Long after your strategy has been shredded what will still have currency is your culture. Meanwhile, you can't manage what you can't measure.
Do those in leadership roles, in your part of the business, truly inspire?
Are your core business competencies the basis of a world-class business? Do your core competencies introduce a conversation where the customer wants to partner with you more than you want to work with them?
Are your organisation's values clear? Do those on your team live those values? Evidence?
Do you have a world-class team … or a collection of talented individuals who meet regularly to solve problems? What will it take for that team to move to the next level?
Is the difference between cooperation fully appreciated? What more needs to be done to build a more collaborative culture?
At in-house meetings, do people bring candour to the table? What are you doing to build "psychological safety?"
Is leadership succession in place? How and in what ways are you "testing" that successor? "Test" implies stretch, challenge and generally uncovering what he/she is truly capable of. Are you equipped to succeed into the role you currently hold, three years from now?
Is coaching alive and well inside the business? If you can't coach, you can't lead! If you want to retain the services of the millennials in your business make coaching a way of life.
Do you have an attraction and/or retention problem? Why do your best people stay? Do you think you know, or do you really know? What are you deliberately doing more of, working to stop doing and about to start doing … to retain those you need the most? If you can't quickly and easily describe your retention agenda, you ain't doing much!
Bedford Group/TRANSEARCH's expertise in executive search and talent strategy solutions has provided first-hand experience with the trials, tribulations, challenges and opportunities that HR leaders faced over the past year.
This snapshot report provides valuable insight to help you approach and position your organisation for success in 2022 and beyond.
Right now in particular, with the pandemic, labour shortage, and the critical need for enhanced recruitment and retention, the spotlight on employee wellness needs to be shone more brightly than ever before.
Here are three tips on how to leverage health and wellness programs to attract and retain the best of the best.
Bedford Group/TRANSEARCH today announced publication of the 2021 Executive Compensation Report in the technology industry. This is the company's first annual industry-wide survey of compensation awards and practices of publicly traded North American technology companies.
This report is a precursor to an upcoming 2022 Bedford report that will analyse the compensation awards and practices of small, privately-held technology companies including tech start ups.
The power of human connection is paramount for people. That's why empathy is increasingly cited as a core skill leaders must have to drive success in organisations. But does this so-called soft skill really translate into results?
Wherever you look, demand is high, supply is constrained. Nowhere is this more true than in the hyper-competitive arena of executive and board search. And in no other sector has competition reached a higher pitch than in Healthcare and the Life Sciences.
Howard Pezim and Darren Raycroft have weathered the same uncertain times we all have. As partners and managing directors of the Bedford Group TRANSEARCH, and co-leads of the executive search firm’s Healthcare and Life Sciences practice, their time has also been spent in the eye of a hiring storm. Finding tomorrow’s Life Science leaders has never been so challenging, nor the competition more fevered.