My good friend and colleague, Andrew Thomas, is the author of today’s Monday Morning Mojo. For those readers who work in organizations, this is a must read. Andrew runs a business focused on leadership skills and building cultures within organizations. I hope you learn something from this. Enjoy the read and thank you for being part of this community.
Developing Leaders Who Are Winners
What’s in your 2022 budget plan? What’s the focus and how is it impacted by the realities of the last two years? Most CEOs I speak with are looking to 2022 for a year of growth and profit, which is understandable, all the while legacy models are being torn to shreds by new technologies.
So, who will win in the year ahead?
The real winners will be the ones who double-down on developing human skills across their organization while also considering what future-fit leadership looks like in their business.
The biggest learning for me from Covid isn’t about what changed, but rather recognizing and acting upon what was always happening in business and was suddenly given a spotlight: “How Leaders Lead”. Covid has helped us appreciate how your brand lives inside your organization. How leaders lead, and what employee attitudes and behaviors shape your organization, are suddenly at center stage. And, zooming in to conference calls in your pajamas for your company challenges a culture beyond proclamations of greatness emblazoned across elevators and lobbies.
Empowering Teams And Focusing On Culture
Five years ago I left the traditional world of branding and advertising to start a company called Eagles Flight. There was a track record of brilliance in North America, but Asia was a far-off land of opportunity for them. The business is all about employee behaviors and aligning what people do in relation to what is written in the business plan. Here is a short video on what Eagles Flight is all about.
One growth area for us at the moment is with banks and financial service companies. Change is a plenty for them, while also needing to uphold compliance standards and constant regulatory scrutiny. Yikes! Unlike other industries, there isn’t the luxury of failing fast and learning. Just don’t fail!
As you might imagine, “work from home” presented some crazy “We can’t do that!”, “Can we do that?” “Wow, we can do that!” moments.
We work with Standard Chartered Bank, and they’ve been bolder than most in putting a stake in the ground as far as flexible working environments post Covid are concerned. They’ve moved with speed and agility on things like team structures, processes, optimizing expensive office leases, improving their digital focus and more. The secret sauce is they’ve obsessed about everything related to their culture, and they know this is something driven from the very top. If you work for SC from day one, all new employees know what to expect from the bank and the leaders, and in turn, what the company expects from them.
Eagles Flight worked with Standard Chartered to create an ‘event’ of onboarding at the very start. Whatever level in the bank, all employees go through their RightStart program and appreciate that ‘Here for Good’ is more than a hollow catchphrase. It is something to be lived, day-to-day, across the business.
Today, companies are being challenged to explain why they are in business. When there is competitive sameness, how you do what you do can be more of a differentiator than what you do. The tangibles of what you offer at a competitive price is not enough. Now, competitive success is defined by the intangible factors: the behaviors, attitudes, experiences of employees that result in superior reputations. These intangibles need to be nurtured and lived by all employees, with leaders serving as the custodians.
Leadership Isn’t Position. It’s An Action
One of my good friends in Singapore is an accomplished jazz pianist. He’s played with the jazz greats like Herbie Mann, Ernie Watts, Simon and Garfunkel and more. My adolescence and teens were littered with failed attempts at playing numerous instruments and I’ve always mused how much of it was lack of commitment, lack of support or lack of talent. I asked Jeremy what credited his success to.
Yes, he had a love and passion for music and, yes he grew up surrounded by his father’s musician friends. But, according to Jeremy, all of this was second nature to the commitment of practice, practice, practice. He shared how, even after 45 years of playing, he’ll prepare for up to five hours a day for weeks before any major festival. Armed with razor sharp muscle memory he can take his jazz improv to a different level.
So back to leadership in a company. At what point in business did we start to think leaders could be optimal, effective productivity multipliers and custodians of culture when tasked with hundreds of jobs across the business and only ever measured (really measured) against revenue growth targets?
The change you want in business needs to be driven with confidence through the frontline leaders across the business!
A leader’s vision, strategy, and ambition count for nothing if people in the organization are not on board with the change that’s needed. This is a huge gap that exists in business today. People are quite often held back by fear. Fear of the new. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failing. Fear of stepping out of their comfort zone.
Overcoming fear is impossible in the absence of trust and building trust. This TedTalk by Amy Edmondson outlines the importance of psychological safety and it relationship to business performance.
Hey Lone Ranger, Pass Me A Silver Bullet
A lot of answers to the in-the-moment challenges are found in thinking that has been around for more than 50 years. There is no quick fix nor have I found one thing that is the panacea for resilience, collaboration and innovation. Creating a culture lived by leaders supporting the human skills that will deliver the business results in the budget needs to be mixed and baked in to the business. I love the work of Carol Dweck around Growth Mindsets as well, and I am sharing her own TedTalk on this subject below.
When I work with organizations, we spend a lot of time talking about the systems that are created across the business and how much they help or inhibit a sense of growth and safety. From the most senior to the newest leader in the business, the intent is always honorable. It’s only when they are challenged to give tangible examples of it flourishing as the norm that leaders can see where there are gaps. Some are deeply engrained in the processes of the business and need time to be addressed, but a lot can be actioned in the next conversation they have or thing that they do.
For anyone reading this (and getting this far) I challenge you to think of the week just gone in the context of supporting and expressing a growth mindset and a psychologically safe environment, and to create a list of three things you’d do differently in the week ahead. If you can’t think of three, I salute you. Most folks find it hard to limit it to the three most important.
Mindset is Everything
Developing the ‘brand inside’ has become critical in today’s fast-paced world. The skills required to ensure an organization has ‘future fit’ leaders to support this cultural shift has never been more important. In fact, the challenge to attract and retain brilliant talent – as well as create resilient and agile cultures – is now a strategic imperative.
In all the things we do – the training, the culture building, the collaboration, the conflict management, the onboarding – it all boils down to one thing: Mindset is everything.