Corporate Culture and Personal Identity

I’m not sure when Corporate culture became a thing – it certainly goes back to the eighties; you could spot IBM employees from 100 metres away, the confident swagger, fresh-pressed clothing and overt conversation.

Somewhere along the line ‘we all fall into line’, well, actually, no.

If our corporate culture and management style doesn’t recognize the individual we have neither an enviable culture nor a valid management style. Just because you have a great corporate culture doesn’t mean it’s a place all the people you ‘need’ are going to love it.

I'm still not sure if this was serious?
I’m still unsure if this sign was serious!

I predict the next big movement will be ensuring personal identity is built into and supported by corporate culture.

This will be a ‘thing’ because increasingly companies are realizing they need all manner of personalities and styles to make their company hum and high turnover of staff in any single area is a significant problem. If, however, they can embrace differences in individuals while integrating the corporate culture and company objectives then rewards will follow for everyone.

In the early stages of my own career, I was wooed by employers who thought the best way to retain my services was simply to pay more. The answer to keeping me happy was much more complicated – the mentoring I craved and the engagement I sought with senior management was most of what was required.

I stayed with and worked hardest for those where my identity was strongest – provided the basic culture was aligned with my values in the first place – though mostly I expect those things to go hand in hand (if the ‘outside appearance of the culture of a company doesn’t align with your values, don’t go there).

If you believe in your staff you need to feed them, and when you do, be aware that while some want steak and chips others want flowers or simply someone to listen to them. Almost anything can actually be accommodated with all but the very worst of corporate cultures and/or employees if you just take time to lean in and learn.

Collectively the individual identities in your organization will always be bigger, stronger and more enduring than your corporate culture, just imagine the strength of what that would create if they could all fit together in a dynamic ‘living’ organization.

Dance like no-one is watching

Tensions
Making choices to do new things

This graphic is a simple illustration of why some things never see the light of day.

The return to my blog while not “new” is a new beginning. It is a true reflection of the tension illustrated here.

We can spend much of time answering questions that haven’t been asked or answered other than inside of our own heads:

why

Why do this?  Will anybody follow or benefit?

…and the answer to almost all of these types of questions – is that other than yourself

“Who cares?”

  • If you’re not doing it, nothing is happening.
  • If it’s not out there, nobody is judging you, nobody is looking.
  • If you’re not speaking with an independent voice, then how are you relevant?

To paraphrase Seth Godin – don’t keep waiting for the perfect horse on the carousel – just get on they are all going to the same place.

So here I am.

I’ll be reflecting on many things, and hopefully doing it in a way that reflects an attitude of dancing like nobody is watching.

I will be dipping into:

  • How and why we change
  • What we say and how we say it
  • How we respond and how we react
  • What blindsides us and what truly motivates us
  • Assumptions we make
  • Things we fail to challenge, and those that we do
  • Challenges we fail to take and those that we choose to pursue

I beleive:

  • That we care more deeply about each other than most of us care to or know how to express.
  • That community is at the core of humanity.
  • That we all wish for a better world – the world that we share, but at present not so well.

I hope to bring something to that discussion

My primary motivation is that this blog may change somebody’s life for the better – bring more clarity, more insight, and more reflection at a time when they need it, now or in the future. I also hope people will use this to look back and reflect on their own experiences and take the learning forward.

Being a father of 2 wonderful daughters this also serves as a capsule for them to understand me and perhaps even themselves better in years to come when I can’t be around to explain myself.

I’m on this blog knowing that it makes me more real, more vulnerable, more reflective and considerate.

Thank you for giving me your time.

Richard

I was taught by the woman who cleared my table

Travelling recently reminded me very much about my post on “Where you belong”.

It is an odd thing to be in a business lounge in Dubai which is bigger than Wellington’s entire airport.

It brings home “them and us” and illustrates how many there are of both; though what determines who sits in each camp is not always clear.

My first instinct with inequities like this is to struggle – that I should be a ‘have’ when many others, like the woman, with her ear missing and ‘half’ her jaw removed, clearing tables, have not.

Then without wishing to sound pious or arrogant, nor excesively “Ayn Rand”, I realise the best I can do is exactly that – to do the best I can do, be the best I can be, to honour those who cannot or will not, or won’t be given the opportunity.

If I squander the opportunties I have been given, then it is another matter.

Dan was part of my inspiration to do this blog. He is a great example of my point with this post. He cares deeply for others and honours everyone by putting himself out to the world and to his communities (blog, church and local); by leading, by being courageous.

Even great researchers can’t lead by keeping their work to themselves. They can only lead when they open themselves to criticism, to challenge, to the possibility of being wrong and having more to learn.

Ultimately any true form of leadership is the same. If you don’t reach out with authenticity and allow others to reach in are you truly leading?

The despots of the world past and present, are unfortunate examples of only reaching out to manipulate others and fuel their own egos, there was no reaching in.

Great leaders reach out and simultaneously reach in, and allow others to do the same, and their work is transformed when they do.

The thought of leaders emerging at any stage from anywhere, and in any number of ways, excites me. Reaching both out and in and sharing this with the world is not an exclusive domain. Anyone can achieve this.

There are some extraordinarily positive examples of ‘ordinary’ people providing outstanding leadership.

As has been commented upon by my readers – Swami/ Guru’s search within themselves for many many years before ’emerging’ as leaders.

Leadership can be quiet, subtle, loud, colourful, intense, effortless, sudden, short, prolonged, recognised, ignored, delivered by the young or old, etc.

I realise now how much leadership is about being open, putting you hand up, letting others see a little of what is inside you. It is not being right, being brilliant, being special or better than.

It is nothing more than being gifted and gifting.

And what really excites me is this personal insight not only improves my leadership but allows me to see far more leaders than ever before.

If this posts means there is one more leader ‘caught’ in the act by you, my readers (not excluding seeing yourself as a leader), it has been a success.

Today, look for the beauty in what many ordinary people do and support this as leadership.

It can be as simple as saying (with a smile):

“Thank you for clearing my table.”

I am Miroslav Klose

The football world cup has been interesting to casually observe. Other than playing socially, football has never enthralled me. Now with the world cup I think I finally understand why it attracts so many people as fans and spectators.

The skills of the premiere players are quite remarkable, but importantly games can go ‘any way’ and more so than most of the other major codes. This is also why England’s FA cup works- the underdog really can go all the way – and not infrequently they do.

What continues to attract me to sports however is the mental edge. Belief in ‘superiority’ has as much to do with a players/teams conquest as their skills. Golf is a classic illustration of this, and cricket is not far behind (strangely I have little patience for either as a player).

The Football World Cup demonstrates the mental set-up of underdog (nothing to lose) vs favourite (everything to lose), and in part this explains New Zealand’s ‘success’’ (well we didn’t lose).

So here is my punt for the future:

Any small country can produce top quality sports people and top quality teams and in any code. A country of 4 million can compete with a country of 400 million.
The professional sports platform has meant boundaries are no longer confined and a player base of only a few thousand in any country should be sufficient to get anyone off the ground and into the stratosphere in any code.
There is nothing to support that any one country has some pre-destined or hereditary right to having a distinct mental and physical edge over another. It is simply the application, discipline and belief that gets them across the line.

So sports competitions will become more global and more competitive for two reasons

    1. commercial, and
    2. the realisation of individuals that it matters not where you are brought up

What has this got to do with leadership?

    • Hone your mental edge, don’t rely just on functional/tactical skills.
    • The boundaries of leadership are changing. Don’t assume what’s defended you in the past will protect you in the future.
    • Seize the opportunity to think global, if you or your products can thrive here you can thrive anywhere. Don’t limit yourself.

Execu-cise

A perfect combination
Robert Winston said in a recent interview the single best thing people can do to improve their lives and health is exercise.

I am often disappointed by the number of out of shape executives I see.

I am being a little harsh because anecdotally I expect healthier people, committed to looking after themselves, will be disproportionately represented in the upper echelons of management.

I know many executives who compete successfully in Ironman’s, Multisport, Marathon’s etc., I feel such activity provides an insight to what got them there.

Seeing 30 year olds struggling to walk up hills or run after their kid’s makes me wonder “Why make this a battle for the rest of your life? Why set a poor example for your family to follow?”

A quick internet search turned a credible list of 21 proven benefits (I have issue with those items starting “may…”but I guess it’s still proven that it ‘may ‘) those I think most relevant in a leadership context are ( I can attest the last 5):

  • New brain cell development
  • Cognitive and mental function enhancement
  • Prevention of cardiovascular disease
  • Stress management
  • Strong immune system
  • Blood pressure lowering
  • Cholesterol lowering effect

So my question is why wouldn’t you?

I’m not saying everyone should start training for the New York Marathon (there’s better ones!), an hour or two a week of serious exercise is all that is needed.

Everyone can do something. For example I can only run infrequently as I have broken both ankles and legs in the past but I can still meet my goal of the last 16 years (running 10kms in fewer minutes than my age in years).

Some options:

  • Mountain bike
  • Swim
  • Walk (as in WALK not stroll)
  • Cycle/ indoor trainer
  • Play lunchtime soccer or other sports
  • Refereeing

I realise a high percentage of my readership know/do all of this, so here’s some thoughts on what could be done in the workplace:

Company sports teams/ running or cycling groups at lunchtime (for bigger cities)

  • Paying entry for selected events (declare this on an annual basis for simplicity)
  • Bike storage facilities that cost almost as much per bike as per car (kidding, but you get my point)
  • A room with exercise equipment. or partnering with a local gym ( I hate gyms but many love them)
  • Team events where “I’m scared of…” “I can’t.. “ is countered by “We’ll support you and help you.”(And quell all the show offs – they are counterproductive)
  • Recognising best effort not best ’performance’
  • Decent changing rooms and showers

    And the best method of all

    Leading by example

Always the optimist

At times being an optimist can be a costly exercise. Is optimism a high risk / high reward lifestyle compared to playing safe? Or does playing safe carry greater risks with fewer rewards? Unfortunately the way many organisations are structured rewards the latter rather than the former.

Surely optimism is the only way we can truly hope to move forward. If we cannot imagine a brighter future surely we can’t attain one? And if we are not in pursuit of a brighter future, then?

The alternative to promoting a brighter future: To not see a future, or to promote a worse one? By my book that leads to followers who will either be inert or doomsayers, and an outcome I don’t wish to be part of.

Must Leaders actively promote a better future? I contend this is one of the most valued, but unrecognized, parts of the role.

Leaders must be optimists and must share the optimism with their followers.

In researching this post I came across strategic philosopher Max More who kindly gave me permission to reference one of his essays from 1991.

I have redrafted his list of characteristics of a ‘Dynamic optimist’ as follows (download Max More’s actual list here)

    INTERPRETING EXPERIENCE POSITIVELY:

  • Selective Positive Focus
  • Refraining from Complaining
  • A fundamental creative openness to possibilities.
    [pullquote]Merely believing that everything will work out fine without taking action makes one a foolish optimist, not a dynamic optimist.

    For optimism to give us the power to overcome the limits in our lives it needs to fully recognize reality, not hide from it. Max More[/pullquote]

  • A Sense of Abundance
  • Constructive Humor

    INFLUENCING OUTCOMES POSITIVELY:

  • Reason, not fear or desire
  • Seeking continual self-improvement
  • Experimental and fresh
  • Self-Confident.
  • Self-Worth
  • Personal integrity and responsibility.
  • Creating positive environments

I think this is a timeless and tremendously inspiring list and recommend placing it prominently in ‘your head’ or in your office. It also measures well against those leaders (in all walks of life) I most admire.

Its relevance for the current times is absolute. We need optimism desperately (is that oxymoronic?). True leaders must step up and lead the ‘dynamic optimists’ charge, with a keen eye for the others in their midst/teams.

Nothing in Max More’s list is kooky or too new-age, it is concrete and actionable. Anyone can do this, in any occupation or lifestyle.

The worst part is it’s harder than it looks.

In the mode of dynamic optimist it is however easier than what the alternative will create. I’m an optimist but now I’m going to be more actively so.

Are you willing to give it a whirl? My prediction is this will improve your future as a leader and as a human being.

I’m printing this out now, by the time this post is launched (one week hence) I’ll give you an update of the impact.

Note: I also urge you once more to visit Max More’s site for a great mind workout.