As you know, there’s a special place in my heart for companies who take their culture seriously. I am a great believer of whatever happens on the inside of a company is reflected on the outside, for example, if you look after your people, they will look after your customers and vice versa. An energised and ‘can do’ culture doesn’t just happen, it is dependant on so many elements such as recruitment, processes and systems. However the key element, for me, is leadership. You will only ever achieve great service when you find the right attitudes, behaviours and skills demonstrated and role modelled from the top.
I have had the privilege to work with many companies to improve their customer satisfaction and one of the first things I do is watch how the people in the organisation interact with one another. When a leader tells me they really are serious about providing a fantastic customer service and then you see them working with their team in an open, engaged and involving way, you know they’re serious! When these signals are mismatched, it creates confusion. My thoughts are if you treat your team like this, how will you treat your customers?
The behaviour of leaders really interests me, in particular the subconscious messages they send to their teams without often realising it. Leaders make a real difference to the achievements of any organisation. The way in which they engage with those around them, inspire, develop and align them can be the difference between success and failure. In Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, Goleman states that roughly 50-70% of how employees perceive their organisation’s climate is attributable to the actions and behaviours of their leader.
Recently, I read an article about ‘perceived powers’. It made me smile as I read it because I could put names to the different characters that were outlined. And in all honesty, I’m sure that people don’t mean to act in this way intentionally, they just have a major ‘blind spot’ on the impact their behaviour has on others. For example, imagine the leader who tells all their team that meeting etiquette is important and then acts in the following way.
Arrives late. Reads a 100 page document, preferably on their iPad, in the meeting to show they are so smart they can read, react and chair a meeting simultaneously. Leaves the meeting to take phone calls so that others know how unimportant their agenda item is.
The message you receive is that the meeting isn’t important at all, nor are you.
When a leader lives and works to two different values like this it destroys their credibility very quickly. Their team don’t only see them as inconsistent but they also see it as permission for them to behave in the same way. The message is ‘you have to act in meetings to get ahead’ so they replicate the behaviour with their own teams and so the cycle continues.
So this also highlights congruency as a leader. To me this means, someone who walks the talk, lives by a set of values in both good and challenging times. You don’t give up on them when the going gets tough, or bend the rules when your mood suits you. You often earn your Leadership Badge when your back is against the wall and you feel the world is against you. And this is because you lead from the front, you’re predictable because you continue to walk the talk. By doing this you build trust and commitment from your team because they know what is important and how you want them to achieve it. Some people fail in these situations because the lack of their predictability creates anxiety, and in some cases fear, which impacts negatively on both performance and productivity.
I read an article by Steve Simpson of Cultural Intelligence last week and he mentions that it’s a leader’s beliefs that impact the culture of an organisation. And it led me to think that this must be really demanding if your values differ to that of the organisation you work for. If authenticity means being genuine and true to yourself, how do you cope as a leader when you believe that you should treat everyone with respect, yet your colleagues are getting promoted and recognised for trampling over others at every opportunity? Do you conform to what is rewarded in the business and be your true self at home? Or do you stay true to your core values at all times until you get fed up with working for this type of organisation and find one that is more closely matched to your own values. As we’ve already seen, it only takes a difficult situation to bring your true value to the fore and you’ve lost the confidence of your team!
What do you think? Can you be a truly authentic leader when your values and your organisation’s values are very different? Why don’t you click here and let me know?
In my experience, a leader also creates the environment that can determine people’s moods at the office (as well as their own). And when I talk about environment, I mean physical and emotional. A great leader is someone who can read the emotions in a work place, sense the atmosphere and use it positively to achieve the desired outcomes.
I’m sure we’ve all been in an office where we’ve felt the energy surge or be sapped away as soon as the boss walks in. The former is amazing as you feel that you can achieve anything you set your mind to, whereas the latter fills you with dread. When you have a positive role model, it enables you to act and push the boundaries. You find ways in which you can do rather than can’t do.
One of the models we use at Developing Your Potential is the Kouzes and Posner model. It helps you focus on five elements:
All this is easy to say, but how do you make sure you put it into practice? I’d suggest two or three activities all to do with gaining feedback.
- Observe yourself in action – after various interactions, give yourself some honest feedback as to what messages you gave either conscious or subsconsciously. Check them later with others who were in the room.
- Gather feedback from your peers and your team on what you’ve done and how you’ve done it. How could you have done it better in their eyes?
- Think about introducing 360 appraisals into your work that are linked to our business culture and values.
Or talk to me! Why not get in touch and we can discuss what development is required to make you and your leaders stronger in your organisation to cope with future challenges!