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.

Putting the big stick away

As I set out to write this post I know it is going to be hard and take a number of versions to get it right.

I have to find a way to get people who don’t usually listen to listen. Otherwise I’m wasting my time providing affirmations for those who already know. To make it worse ‘those who already know’ are the vast majority of my readership.

So that is the down side. The upside- just hitting home with one ‘stick wielder’ will be great progress.

I’ve been lucky to have some great bosses in my time and have seen some great leadership. I have also witnessed bullying, yelling , moody, childlike CEO’s who create only fear and fool themselves that they are liked and doing well.

The results indicate otherwise – high staff turnover( until they find enough terrified and insecure people to work for them), poor company culture, frequent under-delivery, average or below average performance in the companies they manage, limited responsibility, and no obvious successors on the horizon. Worse these CEO’s are stuck in the role because word is out and no-one with proper due diligence would employ them.

    • The message – the Big Stick doesn’t work.
    • You cannot lead by fear
    • You destroy your employees
    • You create a dead end for yourself (there is nowhere else to go)
    • You’re killing the company you have been entrusted with

Ask yourself – where does that fear come from? The answer is, it comes from your own insecurity. Deal with that not your employees.

You’re not a leader, you’re a relic.

Leadership is a privilege. I always approach the role mindful of the fact that others could do it. I always reflect that not just my employers but my employees trust me to do it very well.

Leaders are there to create leaders; people who see the right way for things to be done and begin to develop their own sense of vision, optimism and passion

Leaders have a focus centred on the growth of whatever they touch (not the destruction of others to fuel their own ego)

Be proud of yourself, the lives of others you are influencing and the work you are engaged in.

Grow it all with dexterity and subtlety.

There is no need for fear, or to be feared.

Simply earn respect and be human, everything else will follow.

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.

Getting Bumped

Yeah Right!

Got that important meeting lined up for later.

Sorted your day out, jobs done, head prepared.

Did the extra miles last night, canned some other opportunities in favour of this meeting.

It’s a biggie.

The phone rings, worse it’s an email or text.

“Can we reschedule, something important has cropped up?”

Actually, I’m not sure why that is a question, usually it is received as a demand, however gentle the delivery.

Why should people be upset at a re-scheduling?

Well, because they are people, and like to be treated as equal’s, and that means as equally important.

To blatantly deconstruct (Reframe) the original request:

“Fortunately something more important than you has come up so I’m going with the better option, and won’t be meeting with you as I said I would.”


“Yes fortunately. If it was unfortunately it would mean I was choosing to do something less important than being with you, that would be unfortunate for both of us, but this way it is fortunate for me (though unfortunate for you).”

(Insert whatever one or two syllable expletive you like at this stage)


I realise this isn’t the conversation which ensues. However I believe it is the essence of what happens inside many people when they get bumped.

They feel the emotion, and worse, they feel they shouldn’t be upset. And the deliverer of the message has little genuine emotion (and it seldom actually occurs to them that they should).

What I am trying to do with this post is reframe cancelling out.

I want to encourage people to get better at keeping contracts (appointments, meetings, coffee or lunch dates).

There is a lot of hidden relationship/ trust damage when you reschedule or cancel. This applies to co-workers, reports, bosses, children and partners, and of course friends.

Being sincere about the appointments you make and valuing them above all else is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and others.

Debate or dialogue

I Win!!!!

I’ve been there; the victorious debating team bludgeoning the opposition to death.

Then I stopped. What was the point in being able to win an argument from either side?

Of course there are some obvious occupations in which this comes in handy: lawyers, politicians, debt collectors and parents come to mind!

Many people continue to get better at this sort of verbal warfare long after college, and many of those become leaders and senior managers because they can win any argument, beat anybody down and defend the indefensible.

I wish I was joking. I’m not. And I don’t mean to sound bitter, I’ve been guilty myself (some might say even now).

I say this, because I feel strongly, debating is the wrong process to achieve a constructive way forward.

It’s win – lose, defend your position (right or wrong), destroy the opposition (Though re-living it, what fun that was as a teenager!).

Listen next time you reason someone into oblivion. What did it achieve? How did it help or build anything?

What can we do instead?

My pet concept is a school debating programme called ‘The constructive dialogue’. Where each party presents their case, then each side has to find ways to agree with the other side . Instead of Retort it’s Re-think. This would really get right brains flying.

In the work setting:

Relax you don’t need to be right. In fact there are many benefits in not winning.

Listen without preparing an answer. You’ll seem wiser and the other person will notice you have listened.

Agree. It doesn’t hurt. This doesn’t mean you need to provide the solution.

The magic paradox. A legal journal recently proposed this – rephrase what you have just been told or seen expressed and close it with a statement where they agree with you – like: “I expect you feel that the company hasn’t paid enough attention to its community, is that right?” What is ‘magic’ is the shift in demeanour of those with the issue, the instant they hear you understand them and that they agree with what you have said. (Which doesn’t mean you agree with them).

Close your mouth (last resort).

Read any publication by Peter Senge

What suggestions do you have?

How prevalent is the ‘debating syndrome’ in your work environment?

Can you begin to deactivate it?

Doing the Right thing


When the left brain meets the right brain – especially when it is someone else’s right brain, it can be a meeting of difficult progress.

I have a right brain bias. I enjoy the company of both and fortunately did a left brain/right brain based degree.

Logic is great for a lot of things, but I believe the spirit of the organisation is a right brain thing. And if you’re out of spirit you are out of business.

For those not familiar –

[pullquote]Right brain: Random, Intuitive, Holistic, Synthesizing, Subjective, Looks at wholes

Left brain: Logical, Sequential, Rational, Analytical, Objective, Looks at parts[/pullquote]

The right brain may be described as clockwise, it takes us forward, whilst most of the left brain functions take us back over facts, data, history etc. and is described as counter-clockwise.

To strong left brainers, right brainers can seem somewhat unhinged!

Many right brainers are now amongst the big movers and shakers out there. Richard Branson, (the late) Anita Roddick, Steve Jobs, Seth Godin and author and trained architect Arundhati Roy amongst them. Women are more predisposed to right brain (some would say that’s why they are – right!).

I agree with those commentators that predict right brain as the way of the future.

If you are not starting to give your right brain a work-out then watch out.

• Facts won’t keep pace with change. Paralysis by analysis will happen at light speed relative to the past.

• Movements will not be logical and sometimes those that are meant to be logical are destructive (the financial crisis was fuelled by a process built on logic).

• An increasingly selective consumer will not be wowed by a selection of 1 or a ‘me too’. Henry Ford’s Model T wouldn’t see the light of day. Creativity and innovation will rule.

Get amongst it. Learn how to engage right brain.

Start here and follow the links (I recommend Gorilla Blindness) and do this test.

Think about how you build yours and others ability and how you let those with natural right brain inclinations shine in your organisation.

Do the Right thing.