In our previous article, Developing A Performance Culture, we explored what business can learn from the performing arts. We asked you to think about a time when you perhaps sang in a choir or played in a band or orchestra; performed in a play or musical or did a stand-up routine. When we perform like that, we are fully engaged. Our energy is our performance. It is impossible to deliver a disengaged performance. (Well, it is possible, but the performance will bomb and the fear of ‘dying’ usually energises us!)
We also talked about the ensemble mindset of all great performers: the way they know that the quality of their own performance depends on the quality of the support that they get from their fellow artists. Great performers actively want their fellow performers to be great. They work hard to help them put on a brilliant performance of their own so that the whole ensemble can feed off the resulting energy and new ideas.
We imagined how well businesses could run if they developed a ‘performance culture’ in which team members behaved like a top-flight ensemble, pouring their energy into a barnstorming performance, with everyone working together to put on the best show they are capable of.
HR has always appeared to be the natural home for the mechanics of leading culture change. In recent years, however, I’ve observed another human resource in the executive team. A person whose influence over culture is potentially the most powerful of all: The Chief Financial Officer.
It’s time to turn the culture world upside down and explode many incorrect notions that are preventing meaningful culture change for organizations and society. We’ve reached a critical point where most leaders are aware culture is important, but they range from being confused to intentionally uninformed about what culture change is all about. This culture awareness-education gap appears to be growing, with a proliferation of over-simplified or incorrect education, unreliable surveys and analytics, so-called experts at every turn, and leaders seduced by the latest trend or silver bullet.
Dr Mark Powell, one of the co-authors of this article, is an unusual beast: a dancing management consultant. Mark has worked at partner level at several consultancies, including Accenture, KPMG and A.T. Kearney. He is also a world championship-winning Latin ballroom dancer, winning the WDC Open World Over-35 Latin Championship for two years running while he was a partner at KPMG.
Workplace culture is shaped from the top down. One of the costliest mistakes to organizations is the inability or unwillingness of its leaders to successfully facilitate difficult conversations. The difficulty may lie in the manager’s skill level. He or she simply doesn’t know how to coach an employee on a performance issue. Or a leader may be embarrassed to talk with an employee about careless social skills. Or the difficulty may be a more complex cultural issue that goes unseen until the problem becomes national news.