In an earlier post, we gave a very brief account of a major arts-based leadership development programme at Oxford University’s School of Business, designed to create new behaviors in a group of senior project managers in the oil and gas exploration industry. The aim was to create a new culture of ‘open-mindedness’: the ability to form more effective working relationships with the other stakeholders involved in major capital projects and an increased ability to ‘improvise’ – to react quickly and effectively to rapidly changing situations.
Innovation continues to be a hot topic. The Boston Consulting Group’s 10th annual global survey of the state of innovation shows that 79 percent of respondents ranked it as the company’s top-most priority or a top-three priority—the highest percent since the survey began in 2005. Whether in business, non-profit, sports, or entertainment, most organizations are continuously asking the question, “How can we become more innovative?” Leaders have quickly recognized that their organization’s competitive position largely depends on its capacity for innovation.
As a supervisor or mid-level manager in a global company, you may not have the power to shape the entire culture, but you do have the power to shape culture in your department, local office, or workplace. It is not a question of whether or not you shape culture, but whether you shape culture consciously or unconsciously. The way you speak, the language you use, and the behaviors you exhibit influence the culture whether you are aware of it or not. When obvious signs emerge that indicate workplace drama, such as absenteeism, turnover, negativity or low morale, the leader can start to shift culture by changing language and behaviors. Here are some snapshots along with the behavior and a communication example to help you shape culture and improve business results.
Everyone in the workplace knows that the bottom line matters, and that without a healthy bottom line, jobs are at risk. Everyone also knows that customer satisfaction matters, since without it there is no healthy bottom line. And everyone knows that quality of products/services matters, because without it the customers won’t be satisfied. And more often than not, this is where the conversation stops.
There is an up and coming leader in a global IT firm, Ray, who is known as the smartest guy in the room. He has been a top performer for years, is well known for his executive briefings of customers, and his solid strategic sense. In fact, he’s so smart that whenever he goes into a meeting with colleagues, everyone waits for him to weigh in on the issue of the day, since there’s no point in having a different view. You’re most likely going to be made wrong. He also has the ear of the Senior Vice President, so Ray speaks with power as well as smarts.