“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Kevin Warren, CEO of Xerox, Canada
Leaders need to be concerned with the environment within which the organisation operates. It is therefore essential to analyse what the demands of the new world of work will be so that you can create the right environment and corporate culture for the organisation of the future. Attention must be paid to both actions and attitudes. A leader needs to provide the right environment for his followers, a friendly yet challenging environment that is tolerant of mistakes in which employees are empowered to make decisions, and employees are involved in the future of the company.
The culture of an organisation contains within itself a philosophy. It is like the personality of a company. A leader cannot control a culture, only a system. They can, however, create and shape a culture and with adequate attention, ensure that each person in the team allows the culture to develop. The culture, in turn, plays a role in shaping the future of the company.
Culture starts with the leaders, and it is their responsibility to provide an environment that fosters abundance, tolerance, security and stability, innovation and creativity, an entrepreneurial spirit and “can-do” attitude. The environment needs to allow a margin for mistakes and risk, and it needs to encourage the development of mutual respect and trust, tolerance, positivity, harmony, expression, ongoing learning and empowerment. That is then the corporate culture. At the base of company culture is how the leader treats the staff. A culture sits, like perceptions, in the hearts and minds of the team.
THE NEW WORLD
Team members now have different expectations from previous generations, when we were encouraged to get a reliable job (with pension and medical aid) and secure our futures. Now people are more mobile. They are happy to spend a year or two in a job (if that) and move on to new challenges. Head-hunting is more prolific so that people can get what they want. The workplace is far more diverse than ever before. Organisations are under pressure to re-invent, and they need to be fluid, holistic and sustainable. As a leader it is now the time for responding to people’s needs rather than meeting your own.
How often do we hear a leader challenging his team to “think out of the box”? I believe that before the leader can do that, he needs to create an environment of security and predictability. If the leader provides the box (boundaries), he can then ask his team to be creative and innovative and to think out of the box. Outline the parameters for accountability and responsibility. Only then can you stand back to breathe and give your team breathing space. An environment that is free from anxiety is crucial. When a team member is anxious, his or her brain closes down and this prevents expanded learning. When you are in flight or fight mode you cannot absorb as much information as when relaxed.
INNOVATION AND CREATIVITY
Innovation has been discussed as the number one challenge being faced by CEOs globally. If leaders do not provide the right environment, there will be no innovation. A company that cannot innovate has no future. Allowing staff to enjoy more right brain thinking, intrapreneurship and risk taking is one good start for encouraging innovation.
Right brain thinking is essential in business. Explore whatever options of creativity are available to you. Try thinking back to when you were a child, uncluttered by negative thoughts, the worry of risk and responsibility. What unleashed your creative spirit, made you happy and feel free? Often the responsibility of work can negate all the happiness that you feel in your private life. If you are not happy at home it is unlikely that you will be happy at work. Can you remember what gave you joy? What gives you joy now?
We have already acknowledged that creative isolation is essential. Encourage right brain thinking. Take a break, take a breather, call it a head holiday, label it what you like, but take it. Inspiration will only come to a mind when it has been quietened down. Reflection is a good way of reconnecting yourself. Take your eye off the bottom line just for a moment. Work out what makes you feel good about your work, other than profits. Guaranteed you will feel more creative after a short break. Make short breaks a habit, and allow your team to take them too. There is merit in having a brisk walk halfway through the day. Try to vary the pace and place of your work if that helps you.
Get away from business if you can as it will allow you to take a bird’s eye view when you return. I maintain that during weekdays I access my left brain when logic is needed in my work, but over weekends I access the right brain when I enjoy creative pursuits. When I travel I live in all my senses. Attending a conference out of town or overseas is an opportunity for extending by just one day in order to expose yourself to new ideas and creativity. Work out what works best for you and bring it back to your workplace.
Jenny Handley is a brand, leadership and high performance facilitator. Her latest book, Raise your Leaders™ is available as an in-house leadership academy for companies. www.jennyhandley.co.za For additional to-do’s and debates to have with your team, visit the Leadership website.
Published September 2014