Coming Down the Mountain: Coming Out Of This Crisis Stronger

Breakthrough technology, uncertainty and the unprecedented and ever-increasing speed of change demand an organisation that is a fit for the challenges of the 21st century. We are describing not just a better, but a very different kind of way to operate. An organisation built to change; one where disruption, agility and speed of learning dominate the leadership conversation.

Which brings us to the COVID-19 crisis. A crisis has three stages. Stage one: acceptance. Stage two: survival. Stage three: growth. And the winners will be? Those who come out of this crisis stronger.

Amid the veritable avalanche of "me too" advice on how to get through this crisis it is easy to overlook two central questions:

  1. "How will your business come out of this stronger?"
  2. "As a leader, how will you personally come out of this stronger?"

"Part One: Coming Down the Mountain" looks at how to come out of this crisis stronger:

  • The Three Stages of Crisis
  • Letting Go of Our Past
  • Following a Script From a Different Century
  • The New Normal
  • Coming Down the Mountain
  • Why Culture Matters
  • Next Steps
  • Appendix one: 3 X 3: Crisis, Culture and Change
  • Mindset Assessment: Will You come Out of This Crisis Stronger?

Download your complementary copy today »

Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis

"Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis" is a complementary book series, specifically aimed at enhancing how leaders respond to times of crisis.

The books cover concepts such as how to come out of this crisis stronger, culture, leadership agility and learning, what makes great teams. Also included are essential skills to enable us to start having conversations about moving forward while taking appropriate actions.

Read on for more information about the book series:

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Coming Down the Mountain

Part One, Coming Down the Mountain, looks at how to come out of this crisis stronger:

  • The Three Stages of Crisis
  • Letting Go of Our Past
  • Following a Script From a Different Century
  • The New Normal
  • Coming Down the Mountain
  • Why Culture Matters
  • Next Steps
  • Appendix one: 3 X 3: Crisis, Culture and Change
  • Mindset Assessment: Will You come Out of This Crisis Stronger?

The Culture Conversation

Recognising, as we move forward, how important organisation culture is, Part Two outlines the Culture Conversation:

  • The Culture Carriers
  • Look, Listen, Learn
  • The Building Blocks
  • Culture Is A System
  • Is the Organisation Managing Its Culture?
  • What Makes the Business Special?
  • One Culture or Many?
  • Measurement
  • Strategy Versus Culture
  • A Team of Teams
  • Without Leadership You Ain't Got Much
  • The Orxestra Change Model
  • Culture Assessment

Leadership, Learning and Agility: The Way Of The Dolphin

Part Three explores the need for leadership agility and what that implies: Leadership Agility and Learning - The Way of the Dolphin:

  • Agility is a Way to Think
  • Bass and the Shark
  • Agility and Speed of Learning
  • The Way of the Dolphin
  • Conclusion
  • Assessment: How Good a Coach Are You?

Great Organisations Are Built Around Great Teams

Drawing on the reality that tomorrow's organisation will be a team of teams, Part Four examines what it means to be an outstanding team - Great Organisations Are Built Around Great Teams:

  • Who We Were is Who We Are
  • It's All About Culture
  • Organisational Lessons from Nature
  • The Organisation of Tomorrow
  • Building a Great Team
  • Team Assessment

When the Trees Get Bigger and the Forest Gets Deeper - It's Time To Sharpen Your Saw

Part Five moves beyond leadership as a philosophy and drills down into essential skills - When the Trees Get Bigger and the Forest Gets Deeper, It's Time to Sharpen Your Saw:

  • Are You The Leader They Need?
  • Assessing Your Organisation's Leadership Balance
  • If Ever There Was a Time to Listen - It’s Now
  • The Listening Tree
  • To Lead Is To Care
  • 50 Ways To Say You Care - In a Covid World
  • If You Are Not Living Your Own Story, You Are Living Someone Else's
  • Resilience Assessment

Download your complementary copy of "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis" from TRANSEARCH Downloads.

Tomorrow's Leaders Are Culture Savvy

Culture is a complex system that is only as strong as its weakest parts. Moreover, if a piece is missing it doesn't work. An engaged workforce doesn't mean you are heading in the right direction. Organisation values are essential but on their own they are not enough.

Conventional wisdom suggests that culture follows strategy. The dilemma is that in a world where strategy is persistently under attack, "the plan" has to be constantly revisited. The new dictum is culture enables strategy. What endures, what provides the platform for growth, what shapes future performance, what enables different strategic scenarios to unfold … is the organisation's culture.

The challenge, of course, is not merely to possess a strong culture but to build a business environment that shapes how people act and, at the same time, supports emerging strategic scenarios. This speaks to changing the patterns of play, measurement, the ability to shape the culture conversation, bringing middle managers on board and inspirational leadership.

Even where all the building blocks of culture are in place, if the leader in question lacks the ability to take people places they otherwise would not go, you still don't have much!

Our own research - and that of others - suggests that only 20% of organisations manage their culture. Power moves into a vacuum. If you are not managing your culture someone else is! And if those at the helm lack culture savvy take it as a given - the future of the business lies in the wrong hands.

And the difference that makes a difference: Recognise that culture is managed from the outside-in but demands leadership from the inside-out; provide structure and guidance into how to have the culture conversation; become a storyteller; measure culture and work diligently to uncover (global) best practice - then improve on it. Our species are, above all else, copying machines with an inherent desire to be better than all the rest.

Insights from "Tomorrow's Leadership Will Be Different".

What Do I Need To Do Today To Make The Business Better Tomorrow?

Talent acquisition is about managing risk. Risk, in turn, is about fit. As disruption, uncertainty and new technology impact how business does business … culture is destined to become evermore important.

Technology, being customer-centric, leveraging big data, agility, reach, responsiveness, innovation, collaboration, coaching, succession, attraction and retention … are all wired into the organisation's culture.

Get culture wrong and many of the building blocks of a successful business amount to little more than a spin of the roulette wheel. Success is about both results (strategy) and people (culture). Both are essential. Both are hard.

All that said, for a leader one question always has primacy, "What do I need to do today to make the business better tomorrow?" No matter the size of your organisation or the sector you operate in, if you really think about that question … culture will figure prominently in the answer.

The tools that TRANSEARCH International (powered by Orxestra®) uses provide a unique perspective regarding culture, performance, leadership and team 'fit'. Visit our website to learn more about our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment https://www.transearch.com/

Do You Measure Culture?

The disruptive dynamic currently battering business negates the naïve notion that change can be managed, translated into a series of workshops or framed as a program. To lead is to learn to ride the waves of change. Change thus has to become a way to think … a mindset grounded in a resilient and adaptable approach to interruption and ambiguity.

There are four levels of change:

  1. Transactional – do more of what we have always done better.
  2. Transitional – significant change but we have time to evolve.
  3. Transformational – reinvention and do it now.
  4. Exponential – a tsunami that is merely an introduction to the next and greater tidal wave.

Culture plays a key role in change no matter the degree of change envisaged. Both transformational and exponential change are literally about reinventing the culture. The engine of culture change? A leader who knows how to successfully introduce the culture conversation.

Ongoing and unprecedented uncertainty, meanwhile, demands a culture that is both strong and agile (StrAgility). Strong enough to build commitment to the organisation's mission. Agile enough to "enable" the right strategic scenario to unfold. As to the future, the only thing you can count on is that it will be different. 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).

Here we face the reality that if you don't measure culture, you can't manage it. Intellectually appealing as many of the sociological approaches and those focusing on values congruency may be, if the cultural journey isn't described in business terms, the top team - keeping in mind that most senior teams have a notoriously short attention span - will quickly move on to the next topic. If the language employed to assess the organisation's culture sounds as if it were drawn from a psychology textbook, then that's where it belongs. No less important, culture is strategic. We need to understand both where we are and where we need to be.

It's not a matter of one-size-fits-all. An interactive conversation with the Board on culture invariably demands a different way to present - and thus measure - the organisation's culture. Similarly, transactional versus transformational change are different challenges … a difference that has to be reflected in how the culture journey is presented to those whose support is needed.

Culture Imperative: It's tough to manage what we don't measure.

The tools that TRANSEARCH International (powered by Orxestra®) uses provide a unique perspective regarding culture, performance, leadership and team 'fit'.

Culture Question - Are Middle Managers Fully In The Game?

No organisation of more than 150 or so people has one single and unified culture (often referred to as "The Dunbar Rule"). The challenge becomes one of tight-loose leadership: allow local differences to flourish (for example the term "team" means something entirely different in Seoul than it does in Syracuse) 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.

The group that binds everything together is the "middle managers". Moreover, they are the only group that can! And the straw that stirs the middle management drink is inspirational leadership, especially from the leaders who are expected to inspire the middle kingdom - leaders one level up! Leaders who inspire do four things extraordinarily well:

  1. Through imagery, symbolism, metaphor and story they make tomorrow come alive in the room today.
  2. In addition to agreed goals and scope of responsibility, they ensure that everyone on the team fully understand their role on the team.
  3. They see coaching not as a nice capability to have but as central to what it means to be a leader.
  4. They bring out the best in people and treat team members with dignity and respect. Always!

If the middle managers in your business are sitting on the sidelines … if the middle kingdom isn't fully in the game you don't have a strategy you have a problem.

Insights from "The 7 Questions Every CEO Should Ask About Culture".

Culture Question: 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 outward-looking (why buy from us?) and the inward-facing value propositions (why work for us?). Of the two, the latter is the more important.

If the brand promise doesn't live inside the organisation it can't live in the marketplace. If employees don't support the organisation's promise within the customer space, it doesn't matter how strong the product or service offering is. A disappointed employee is a disappointed customer. And based on the business sector, the multiplier effect (number of customers a market facing employee can influence) may well be 50, 100 or even 1,000 to one.

Culture isn't an adjunct, a sideshow, or a sandbox for those with a love for all things abstract. Culture is real, practical and central to what makes a business endure. For the business to sustain, the culture has to attract top talent, retain outstanding leaders, provide the agility needed for different strategic scenarios to be realised, create the space for innovation, move best practice across the organisation, accelerate learning, nurture risk, empower those closest to the customer to make key decisions, ensure that the environment is a priority and align the organisation's resources with why the customer buys - today and tomorrow.

Results will follow.

Insights from "The 7 Questions Every CEO Should Ask About Culture".

The Benefits of Virtual Employment

"Virtual employment" has been embraced enthusiastically by some. Others have found it to be an unwanted intrusion into their lives. One study in Canada, the "11th Annual Salary Guide," found that two in five employees (43%) believe their companies have failed to provide measures that support their well-being throughout the pandemic. The lack of social interaction (45%), isolation/loneliness (27%) and increased workload (25%) being the main reasons. What can be said for sure is that things will never return to the way they were.

The virtual workplace has four major benefits:

  1. Cost savings. The obvious saving being significantly reduced office costs. Meanwhile, wage and benefit costs - especially if a large number of administrative staff can be recruited from low wage areas of the country or even offshore - can be trimmed. If you are based in a high-cost city such as San Francisco, London or Sydney this is no small thing. There is evidence that remote employees work an additional 1.4 days per month than in-office employees. (Inc. Magazine, October 2019.) The same source suggests that remote workers save over $4,000 per year on travel costs (compared to in-office employees).
  2. Lifestyle. There are an increasing number of city dwellers who - for lifestyle, the cost of housing and family reasons - would love to replace concrete with grass, a high-rise balcony with a garden and a seat on the subway with a quiet cup of coffee at home. Family health is especially impactful. Even after a workable COVID-19 vaccine is available, what will continue to be an emotional burden well into the future is the sense of vulnerability, the feelings of helplessness and the fear that accompanies a pandemic.
  3. Monitoring performance. Remote work is relatively easy to monitor. Tracking ongoing productivity and key outcomes is invaluable. Expect the technology in this respect to advance in leaps and bounds.
  4. Organisation agility. When fixed costs are replaced by variable costs, additions - or reductions - in the workforce become easier to manage. Moreover, having developed the tools to support a virtual workforce - webinars, products, video meetings, distance learning - greater value can be derived from the established training and development budget.

The benefits of remote working as decribed are far from the end of the story. Beyond this crisis lies, what well may be, an even bigger social upheaval. Many of the positions currently being moved away from the traditional office represent exactly the type of work that technology will disrupt/replace tomorrow. While employees work to become proficient in Zoom and other video-based communication tools, an army of technologists are working on Artificial Intelligence, algorithms and alternative ways for "the machine" to make further inroads into routine work.

Extract from "Virtual Employment: Don't Assume One Size Fits All" Orxestra Inc., © 2021

Story is Culture and Culture is Story

Tomorrow's successful leader will be someone who can slalom through the white water of unanticipated disruption and culture change. To that end, little is more important as a navigation aid than the organisation's story. That story has five essential building blocks:

1) Where are we headed?
2) What do we believe in?
3) What makes us special?
4) What is our brand promise?
5) How do we make a difference in people's lives?

Story is culture and culture is story. Yesterday, strategy informed culture. Moving forward, culture enables strategy. If you are not measuring culture ... you are not managing it.

Insights from "Speed of Learning: The Ultimate Competitive Advantage".

Six Fundamental Hiring Building Blocks

Uncovering, informing, involving, inspiring and successfully bringing on board great candidates draws on six fundamental hiring building blocks:

  1. A winning hiring value proposition - people don't join your organisation, they connect with your story.
  2. The means to define and measure both the organisation culture you have and the culture you need.
  3. A robust performance scorecard.
  4. The means to define the emerging role-specific leadership competencies.
  5. The tools to measure and assess future team fit.
  6. An integration process that provides the structure, support and tools to enable newly hired executives to take a leadership role in their own integration.

The tools that TRANSEARCH International (powered by Orxestra®) uses provide a unique perspective regarding culture, performance, leadership and team 'fit'. And our integration methodology ensures that new leaders are integrated quickly and successfully without breaking stride.

Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition.

For more on the six building blocks of talent acquisition see The Empty Suit by John O. Burdett (2016).

Insights from "Great Candidates Ask Great Questions" by John Burdett.

Virtual Employment: Don't Assume One Size Fits All
bedfordgroup.com

The COVID-19 crisis has changed, indelibly, our assumptions about leadership, the nature of work, what it means to be an employee, the hiring process and business travel/training. It has also shaken the very pillars of the so-called 'modern organisation'. When large numbers of employees are asked to work remotely we are redefining both the organisation's culture and what it means to be an organisation.

With today's challenge in mind, John Burdett outlines a simple workforce matrix to segment the work population and highlights five central questions that, as you come down the COVID-19 mountain, are worthy of reflection.

Read "Virtual Employment: Don't Assume One Size Fits All" leadership insights

Project: Core Strength
sladegroup.com.au

"It's no longer candidates who are nervous at interview; it's now hiring managers who are anxious about identifying the character traits they'll need to survive and thrive beyond the impact of COVID-19. This is as true for Boards and CEOs as it is for recruiters and line managers."

This study uncovers the employee attributes that will enable organisations to thrive in uncertain times.

Read "Project: Core Strength" leadership insights