As part of my participation at the Canadian Business Magazine’s 2013 Leadership Forum in November, I had the pleasure of engaging in a fantastic interview with Richard Warnica , during which, we talk about the vitality of middle management, the importance of followership, and Canada’s business marketplace/brand.
High-performance, highly effective teams do many things differently than the vast majority of others, including they way in which they interact and communicate with each other. They have learned how to avoid the headlong rush to premature conclusions and knee-jerk reactions. Instead, they hold themselves accountable for ensuring the thinking and dialogue process is rich with original insight and fresh perspective. The quality of the cultural environment within the organization really does matter, and senior leaders have the responsibility for shaping that environment. One good way to determine the health of the environment is to listen to the quality of the conversations, debates and dialogue taking place at all levels. Good leaders enable organizational dialogue and view it as a major component of ensuring they have a vibrant culture.
Leaders need to better appreciate the fact that while we are in the process of trying to resolve a problem or invent a new solution, dissent is the powerful lubricant that expands the creative potential but only if we embrace it, rather than shy away from it. Leaders must be willing to create a wild and exciting environment where good ideas come from a wide variety of different sources and are allowed to accidently bump into other good ideas. We need to create environments where, to quote British Lord, author and scientist Matt Ridley, new ideas are encouraged to have sex with one another.
Changes in the nature of employment can be seen in the shifting relationship between employers and employees. It can be seen in the changing attitudes toward the pursuit of professional careers in large organizations versus the advantages of choosing a more independent, entrepreneurial path. We can see it in the professional services markets amongst young lawyers and accountants, as well as dentists and doctors. We can see it in the manufacturing sector amongst young engineers, technicians and quality control specialists. We can see it in the retail sector amongst buyers, store managers and marketing professionals. We can see it in the young journalists, reporters and bloggers in the increasingly digitally oriented mediascape.
In a world where mindsets matter, and where our own view of the world determines our relevance and, hence, our success we need to examine just how mindsets are shaped. As the environment has changed around us, so too has the type of mindset we need from the leaders who will help guide us. There is a considerable body of evidence to suggest that one’s view of the world, and tolerance for the new and different, is directly related to the breadth, depth and diversity of our personal life experiences. The more varied your experience repertoire, the easier it is to make new connections. This is what allows the brain to form the unique new neural pathways that, in turn, allow us to connect the dots in new combinations for new solutions.
Credibility is not only poorly managed in most organizations, it is also poorly understood amongst the members of most senior leadership teams. This is despite the fact that credibility is essential to getting people to follow, to take intelligent risks, to innovate and to drive themselves forward aggressively, especially in turbulent conditions. Credibility is the essential lubricant of high performance and, while it can be influenced by any number of things, the two most important drivers of the credibility currency are the quality of the decisions made by individual leaders and/or the senior team collectively, and the way in which relationships are built and nourished, at all levels, over time.
Credibility is the currency we use to measure individual, organizational and leadership team effectiveness. Credibility is like a stock price. It rises and falls over time according to what the market (in this case, the people in the organization) determines it to be. Determining leadership credibility is not the result of measuring employee engagement or employee satisfaction. It is much deeper, much more complex and far more important. It is the implicit value attributed to the level of confidence the organization has in the leadership team’s ability. Specifically, it is the ability to navigate a chosen course to a safe and desirable destination, and the corresponding willingness of the members of the organization to fully invest themselves in making that journey.
Reflect for a moment on how much money organizations, of all sizes, are spending each year on recruiting external talent through head hunters and/or employment agencies. Think about it. The very same organizations who have done such a poor job of identifying, developing and managing their own talent base, in a failed attempt to ensure access to a steady stream of qualified human capital, go outside and pay good money to identify able bodied outsiders. To make matters worse, those outsiders then get added into the same talent pool we know, by experience, is not being properly developed or managed in the first place, and so the cycle repeats itself, ad infinitum. It’s lunacy!
The right people to develop, though, are those who think differently:
Canada occupies a unique space in the minds of people around the world. We enjoy a positive, fresh and fair image on the international stage, quite distinct from the brash bravado of the Americans, the taciturn reserve of the British, the mystical secrecy of the Japanese and the stiff formality of the Germans. This image, our national “brand”, should provide us a natural advantage when it comes to applying transformational leadership techniques to help boost our global business profile, accelerate our global growth and leverage our brand internationally.
In order to meet the new and much higher demands of a more discerning global clientele, we need to embrace a very special group of people inside our organizations. The external conditions require us to develop truly talented people like never before, in order to help us create the products, services and experiences customers crave and will pay for. These are not the typical hard working, loyal employees of the past who, in exchange for a promise of job security and lifetime employment, were content to follow orders, comply with standard operating procedures and not complain about the physical and mental drudgery of their job. Instead, the people we need now are wired just a little differently. These are people who, by conventional standards and past definitions, are more than a little unusual. In fact, in the minds of some, they may even be odd balls, lunatics and heretics because they challenge convention and think in novel ways.