Archive for the ‘ Relationships ’ Category

Strategy: Ignore Culture at Your Peril

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It’s December – not only is it peak Christmas shopping time for some (I am completely unprepared!), it’s also when leaders are formalising their strategic planning for 2016 and beyond.

Organisations are thinking about strategic change; whether this is incremental or a larger scale transformational change.

If your organisation needs to make some difficult choices for the year ahead you should ensure close attention is paid to culture.

‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ – Peter Drucker

We regularly review our corporate, regional and departmental strategies, but how many of us also take this time to review our culture and it’s alignment with strategy?

Perhaps it’s because the perceived ‘emotional’ side of culture seems at odds with the more ‘rational’ side of strategic planning.

Culture impacts the way employees react and behave to any change in strategy, so ignore it at your peril!

What is Culture?

According to Segal-Horn and Faulkner, in their book Understanding Global Strategy, culture includes:

‘knowledge, values, preferences, habits, customs, practices and behaviour’

Which…

‘have the power to shape attitudes and behaviour’ within organisations.

Culture can be created, written down and driven formally by an organisation; the values may be developed collaboratively with employees, communicated by HR or the leadership team and ‘lived’ daily within the workplace.

However, there are also assumptions made by employees and ways of working that have developed over time. How many times do we hear it’s the way we work around here…?!

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Working with Culture to Facilitate Change

Creating a Forcefield analysis is an ideal way to ‘view the forces at work in an organisation that act to prevent or facilitate change’ (Johnson, G et al, Exploring Strategy).

Forcefield Analysis.png

This kind of analysis requires us to ask ourselves tough questions on what can block (resisting forces) or aid (pushing forces) change when creating a strategy.

Culture can be a fundamental catalyst for change and can be used as a vision for what change would look like once the strategy is implemented. However, it can also be a barrier.

A forcefield analysis can shine a light on the potential for resistence to a change in strategy. This in turn can lead to initiatives that are introduced in-line with the new strategy to:

  • Build trust
  • Break down any negative power structures within the organisation
  • Address information concerns and ‘fears’
  • Improve and increase lines of communication between management and employees

Barriers to strategic success must not be ignored and culture is a crucial factor that can make or break new policies.

I think of the aspects of culture like waves in the sea – work against it and you will struggle, take it into account and you can use them to your strategic advantage.

Remember Your Worth

Self Worth

I first heard this story a few years ago – my Granddad sent me it in an e-mail. He sends me a lot of things, as it’s his way of letting me know that I’m thought about, but for some reason, this story stuck in my mind.

I can’t be sure who this should be credited to – I’ve seen this shared in a few places, but if anyone knows the author I’ll be more than happy to add credits.

I don’t know whether it’s a true story, or if it started out as a made-up tale, but either way, the author inspired me, with this thought-provoking, and touching piece:

————————

One day, a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.

It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.

That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.

On Monday she gave each student his or her list.

Before long, the entire class was smiling. “Really?” she heard whispered. “I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!” and, “I didn’t know others liked me so much,” were most of the comments.

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. The teacher never found out if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn’t matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another.

That group of students moved on.

Several years later, one of the students was killed in Vietnam and his teacher attended the funeral of that student.  She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. He looked so handsome, so mature. The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to bless the coffin.

As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her. “Were you Mark’s math teacher?” he asked. She nodded: “Yes.” Then he said: “Mark talked about you a lot.”

After the funeral, most of Mark’s former classmates went together to lunch. Mark’s mother and father were also there, wanting to speak with his teacher. “We want to show you something,” his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. “They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.”

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times.

The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark’s classmates had said about him.

“Thank you so much for doing that,” Mark’s mother said. “As you can see, Mark treasured it.”

All of Mark’s former classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, “I still have my list. It’s in the top drawer of my desk at home.”

Chuck’s wife said, “Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.”

“I have mine too,” Marilyn said. “It’s in my diary”

Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. “I carry this with me at all times,” Vicki said.  Without batting an eyelash, she continued, “I think we all saved our lists.”

Tears rolled down the eyes of the humble teacher.  We encounter so many people in our lives, and it’s a precious joy to see the good in all those journeys.

————————

I shared this story, and my thoughts, with my team in the office – and we had a go at the activity in the story; and what we found in doing so was that people valued the things about us that we often overlook in ourselves. It reminded us all to take the time to appreciate our cooperation, and remember our own worth at the same time.

This story always reminds me that it’s important to value the small things that you like about individuals – we don’t always get along; tensions appear, and friendships can be frayed – but it’s important not to let what’s happening in your life to overshadow, or even color, the way you view other people around you. It reminds me that, even where people don’t get along, you can find something good in someone’s personality; and it also reminds me that sometimes, we’re so busy focusing on doing our jobs, trying to please other people, that we forget to take a step back and see our own value.

Top 5 Things People Don’t Know About Virtual Workers

Can women have it all?

Millennial+working+woman+xxx

When is it the right time in a woman’s career to have children? Is there a right time, and can women (dad’s too) still have a career? (I am very much counting on it).

To set the scene, I am a 30 year old woman who recently finished my MBA currently working in sales for a leadership consultancy firm. I would say I’m career driven, and really like what I do but I am only really at the start of my career journey. I am getting married next year, and the first question everyone asks is… When are you having babies? I would like to have them straight away but what does that mean for my career? Is there a right time for me to have a baby/babies, will others judge?

One of the best articles I have read recently around this subject is by Katharine Zaleski’s . In this article Katharine confesses how she used to criticize working mothers, and mentions about firing women before they ‘got pregnant’. I have also heard from friends that they have taken off their engagement rings so that companies don’t know they are engaged, as they felt companies wouldn’t employ them if they thought they were getting married soon.

Then you read about superstar women like Marissa Mayer taking 2 weeks maternity leave, is this what women need to do to ensure they stay on the career path? In reality she has a nanny who can help her out, with rising childcare fees if you have more than 2 children it often isn’t cost effective for both parents to go back to work.

When talking to working mothers (and fathers) they often feel like they can’t give 100% to their job and 100% to their child. Why not? In this day and age surely working parents can have it all? I think a large part is companies setting the environment to retain working parents and top talent.

What do companies need to do to retain mothers/fathers who want to give 100% to home and 100% to work?

  • Create a culture where people don’t feel uncomfortable about asking for flexibility or taking time off for their children.
  • Managers need to have open/honest conversations about supporting new parents.
  • Focus on results/productivity rather than the time spent. Just because some people work extra hours, it doesn’t mean they are more productive.
  • Make it easier for fathers to have time off to support their children too.
  • Be flexible – This is give and take from both sides. For example if you have a 35 hour week, make those hours count for work and for home life. We work in a global world with multiple different time zones, it would benefit the company and home life to flex the working hours throughout the day/night.
  • Allow working from home days.
  • Flexible benefits – Childcare help.
  • Social events during breakfast meetings or work lunches rather than evening events.

With a supporting partner, and a company who are willing to look at the work you do rather than when you do the hours I think women can have it all.  It would be great to hear of your experiences in the workplace, having a baby is daunting enough without the worry of your career.

Top 3 Reasons Why Being a Great Leader Isn’t Easy

A few months back, I asked a group of leaders for a show of hands on who had experienced either oversupervision or undersupervision. Almost every hand went up. But then I asked how many had themselves oversupervised or undersupervised their direct reports. Only one or two hands shyly peeked out from the crowd.

So what’s going on? Well, leaders can sometimes be unaware of what they should and should not be doing. And this lack of awareness separates good leaders from great leaders. Great leaders know that leading is a never-ending journey that can be filled with treacherous obstacles.

So what do you need to know to become a great leader?
 
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