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.
This post is the last in a series of five articles describing a major arts-based leadership development programme at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, designed and run over a four-year period by Dr. Mark Powell, one of the authors of this article. Previous posts have looked at the way in which delegates to the programme worked with dancers, actors and jazz musicians. This final post explores the most ‘hands-on’– and for many delegates the most emotional – element of the programme: the experience of conducting a small chamber choir.