Leadership, Culture and Change

Any group of humans quickly forms a culture.  Typically cultures, once formed, are fairly stable, requiring some significant influence to change them.  But – they can change and change significantly and quickly with sufficient influence.

As an individual we might be a involved in several different cultures and may, consciously or unconsciously, adjust our behaviour as we shift from one to another.

For a business, culture is critically important.  Culture determines levels of performance and risk.  It will define how the organisation responds to success, failure or crisis.  It will control how newcomers are welcomed or not and how the organisation responds to change and innovation.  Make no mistake culture is everything.

The greatest influence on culture is from leadership (formal and informal), but the environment, the product and the market will be among the other influences. For most businesses the culture they have is an accident.  And if a culture is not intentionally designed and curated, what forms may or may not be suited to the objectives of the organisation.

Increasingly new businesses are highly intentional about their culture and some companies are so proud of their intentional culture design that they go public about it.  Netflix Culture Deck, Zappos Values and the Valve Handbook are all available online and give an insight into how these organisations intentionally curate their culture.

However, this still leaves many, many organisations with cultures that are not ideally suited to the results they would like to get.  Internally focussed customer service organisations, self orientated banks, conservative software companies, buccaneering oil and gas companies and so on.

Most of these companies will remain as they are unless something happens to make them change.   There are three reasons that organisations choose to change their culture.

1 – it is forced on them by crisis (and often regulators).
2 – it becomes necessary through mergers and acqusiitons
3 – the market/results/competitors demand it

You will deduce from this that it is rare for organisations to spontaneously decide that culture change is what they need. Yet the surest way to sustain success and minimise risks is an adaptive self aware, culture that continually adjusts to the prevailing conditions.

If leaders are the greatest influencers on culture, it follows that for cultures to change leaders are critical to the process. Leaders have to accept the role of culture in performance and the role of leadership in culture.  They have to be willing to let go of the idea that they are there to lead/control/manage performance and accept the idea that they are there to curate the culture and that if they do that well, the performance will follow.

Helping these organisations change their culture to one that delivers the performance they seek in terms of service, or reliability or innovation or risk is what Holos does. Without giving away the “secret sauce” of how Holos delivers on the promise “Change is Easy”, I can share some of the principles that are in play, for example:

The process starts with identifying the target culture that the organisation needs, while at the same time establishing trust and engagement among those who are responsible for the business, division or department.

We move on to work with the leaders and teams to engage them with the vision of how the culture can be and the benefits it holds for them and prepare them for their role as leaders of culture rather than performance.

It is important to minimise distraction from other projects and priorities and to build the emotional, spiritual, rational and physical resilience in the leadership and then the organisation that will see the changes work through.

Whatever leaders choose it is a truth that all organisations are perfectly designed for the results they are getting.  If you are not happy with the results of your enterprise, you have to look at all aspects of how it is designed including the culture.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

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With love

nx

Neil Crofts
authentic business
neil@neilcrofts.com

http://www.neilcrofts.com
http://www.holoschange.com

Posted in Leadership, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What have the Romans done for us?

A few years ago I was given the opportunity of a lifetime for a consultant.  “Come to Rome and use it’s history to help a team from Microsoft understand how empires fall.”

With my existing understanding of Roman history, I was excited:

  •  An empire that lasted for a thousand years in the West and nearly two thousand years in the East.  (To put it into perspective this was about 850 longer than the British Empire in the shorter lived Western part.)
  • Amazing, buildings and technology:  The Colosseum was the largest sports stadium in the world until the 20th century.  The Romans invented concrete and then the technology was lost for hundreds of years.  And Roman influence is evident in virtually all European languages, architecture and culture.

I read, watched documentaries, asked experts and yet I arrived in Rome without a fixed idea of how I would bring the theme to life.  I arrived in the middle of the afternoon the day before we were due to start.  Fortunately it was summer and the days were long.  I checked into the hotel and dashed out, map in hand.  I ran from site to site taking it all in and persuading the staff at the Forum entrance that I really did want a full ticket, even with only an hour left to closing time.

I went from the Forum to the Palaces of the Palatine, saw the Circus Maximus and Trajan’s Column, Titus’ Arch, Caesar’s Forum, The Colosseum and the Pantheon and read everything I could find about it all.

That evening I scoured the pamphlets I had picked up and filled in the gaps with Wikipedia and gradually the narrative came together.

The following morning the team from Microsoft arrived we started the day conventionally enough as I facilitated a meeting and then in the afternoon we set off on a walk around Rome.

Our first stop was on a small grassy bank in a park with a view of the Colosseum.  On this hill side in the 15th Century a young man had fallen through a cleft in the rock and found himself in a strange cave with figures painted on the wall.  It turned out that he had stumbled into the remains of the extraordinary Domus Aurea, Nero’s Golden Palace.  Built to emphasise his glory and power it covered between 100 and 300 acres including the site of what is now the Colosseum where a huge lake had been constructed with a full sized galley for Nero to have convenient boat trips.  In fact the Colosseum takes its name from the colossal 30 meter high bronze statue of Nero that had stood nearby and was remodelled, after Nero’s death, into a representation of the Sun God Helios, by the time the Stadium was built.

Together we toured the Colosseum, the Palatine and The Forum and I shared the stories and the history of the various places.  Finally we made our way to the Pantheon which is where the empire narrative concluded.

The Pantheon nearly 2000 years old, still holds the record for having the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever built.  It survived the earthquakes that damaged the Colosseum, it survived invasions, riots and wars.

The Domus Aurea lasted barely 70 years,

The difference was that wheras the vast palace was built to the glory of a single individual the Pantheon was built to the glory of all of the Gods.   Once Nero had died, no one wanted to sustain the memory of his excess.

The lesson we drew was that any enterprise will only be sustained for as long as it is delivering value to enough of it’s stakeholders.  Whenever a small elite are allowed to become the main beneficiaries at the expense of other stakeholders, decline has already set in.  This goes for business as well as political empires.

In October this year I will return to Rome with my business partner Mark Thompson and a group of like minded senior leaders from a variety of significant businesses to ask:

Is it possible to understand Europe in the 21st Century by examining Rome in the 5th? Can we compare the conditions that led to the downfall of the Western Roman Empire to the ‘end of an epoch’ experience we seem to be having today? Join a group of like minded peers as romp round the domain of the rational in Rome, October 2015.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.
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With love
nx
Neil Crofts
authentic business
neil@neilcrofts.com

 

Posted in Business, coaching and training, Leadership | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Change is easy

I promised to answer the question of what I have been doing during my two year blog hiatus.  I set out with an intention nearly fifteen years ago to bring authenticity and authentic leadership to the highest levels of globally significant corporations.  And that is what I have been doing.
The first thing to say is that I can either tell you who I have been working with or what I have been doing but not both.   I think the “what” is more useful than the “who”, so that is what I will say.
The second thing to say is that I have been working with a supremely talented group of people, who are collectively known as The Faculty.
The Faculty comprises a remarkable selection of academics, artists, performers, writers, soldiers, comedians and others who have come together to transform the cultures of two global businesses.
The Faculty was set up by some extraordinarily far sighted individuals at these businesses and they recruited this band of like minded influencers as external consultants to help effect dramatic change in leadership, culture, performance and reputation.
The experience of being part of The Faculty is an honour.  I have travelled around the world to team up with someone I have never met on a two day workshop.  I have arrived the evening before, we have clicked right away and been able to deliver an inspiring and transformational experience to 20 or 30 employees.  This has not happened just once, or just to me, it has happened repeatedly in different cultures.
I have had the privilege of working in this way all over the world in India, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Angola, Egypt, China and many more.  We have worked with graduate recruits, middle level and senior level leaders.  What we have found in most cases sincere and thoughtful people who want to do the best they can.  They are often hampered by fears that exist in the organisational culture.  Our role has been to help people transcend those fears and transform the culture.
Between us and over time we have been able to help these organisations become values based and more open and honest places to be.  Places where everyone can feel valued and can speak their mind, changing the experience for over 200,000 employees and eventually for many, many more contractors, customers and other stakeholders.
The Faculty are highly professional coaches, consultants and trainers that you can trust utterly to deliver what is needed to any business or group.
That is why working with another member of The Faculty, Mark Thompson, we have founded a consultancy for the 21st century which can deploy this amazing resource of over 100 gifted challengers, for businesses globally.
The work we have already done together with these clients has been defining for those organisations.  We have worked at the highest levels transforming the way decisions are made, leadership behaviours, the ways teams interact and the results that the organisations get.  We have coached top level leaders.  We have designed and run leadership and team development programs for tens of thousands of staff in every corner of the globe. We have taught team-working, leadership, ethics, change, relationships, feedback, courage and more.
Holos is now our vehicle to bring this incredible value to other organisations, deployed at any level and on any scale.  Through Holos we believe that “change is easy” because we have seen it done.  We have bottled the formula and now want to make it available to other organisations that want to change their culture and their performance.
Threat is change you are not leading.
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nx
Neil Crofts
authentic business
neil@neilcrofts.com
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Understanding the psychology of the UK Elections 2015

After a two year hiatus – more details on what I have been doing later, I will be restarting my blog.  I hope you find it valuable.
Political parties in the UK are divided along levels of consciousness lines.  The differences between them are to do with development, awareness and circles of care and blame.  This description starts with the smallest circle of care and the widest circle of blame.
It is worth recognising that as in Spiral Dynamics (Please email me if you would like a summary of Spiral Dynamics) people are only really capable of understanding the levels that came before them (i.e. smaller circles of care) and are not capable of understanding the levels after.  It is very hard for a UKIP circle person to comprehend the Liberal Democrat or Green point of view at all.  They are likely to see them as entirely abstract.
Equally while later levels (larger circles of care) can understand the prior levels intellectually they are liable to dismiss them as being ill considered.
UKIP – for UKIP the circle of care is the individual and to some extent their tribe.  The circle of blame is everyone outside of that circle.  Their premise is that the tribe members suffering is caused by those outside the tribe – namely immigrants and Europe.  And that if those elements were to go away, life within the tribe would be better.  This is a very old perspective that can still be observed in chimpanzee colonies.  It is a fundamentally psychologically flawed argument in that it is impossible to change anything for the better until we are willing to take some responsibility for the situation we are in.
Conservatives – for the Conservatives the circle of care is still the individual and the family (or business) but the circle of blame is smaller.  The Conservatives tend to blame those who don’t conform to their world view and might name them as “lazy people” or similar. For the more right wing elements this also includes Europe and immigrants.  The Conservatives view is that if those elements would only work harder and convert to the “right” way of thinking then everything would be better.
Labour (SNP and Plaid Cymrw) – For Labour the circle of care is the community and the circle of blame is forces, not necessarily people, that harm the community.  There is an inherent desire to link up with other similar communities and to collaborate against the common enemies.  Historically these would have been big business, but this increasingly includes the rich.  Labour’s explicit pitch is inherently vague in order to avoid excluding people who might vote for them.
Liberal Democrat  – For Liberal Democrats the circle of care is society as a whole and with a significant future component – perhaps the next 50 years.  There is no blame as such, only problems that need to be solved and thinking that needs to be developed.  Liberal Democrats believe in collaborating with everyone to solve the problems – including those who disagree with them.  Their unwillingness to blame others makes Liberal Democrats very hard for those with high blame cultures to understand.
Green – For Greens the circle of care is global and includes all life and over a significant duration, 200 to 300 years.  Like the Liberal Democrats, Greens are not keen to blame and believe that of increasing awareness of the problem will naturally lead people to the same conclusions they have come to.  The Green approach is seen to be leftist in traditional terminology and while there are some similarities the core purpose is entirely different. Like the Liberal Democrats the Greens are inherently collaborative and want to build broad coalitions to solve problems.  Their weakness is that while they are very good at focussing on the problems, they are less strong at identifying and providing the solutions.
Threat is change you are not leading.
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nx
Neil Crofts
authentic business
neil@neilcrofts.com
Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Going Limbic

Years ago I worked for a business which fairly dramatically went from a period of great prosperity into sharp decline of revenues.  The leadership of the business, who had been used to leading growth had little experience of what to do in such a crisis.  All of a sudden leaders who had been visionary and inspiring became indecisive and autocratic at the same time.

A highly insightful colleague described the leadership as having “Gone Limbic”.  Meaning that instead of applying their usually cerebral thinking approach to the problem, they were, in effect, panicking.

I am sure most of us have had the experience of “going limbic” at some time.  Something highly stressful triggers an emotional reaction which makes it hard or impossible to think. Tasks or evaluations that we would normally take in our stride become challenging or impossible and our decision making is seriously impaired.

If we are sufficiently self aware when such an experience occurs we may be able to calm ourselves down and get a better grip on the situation.  If we have had similar experiences before we may even have some techniques we can use.

In a business situation where an extreme reversal takes place and the whole management team are pitched into a steep change curve that they had not anticipated, the whole team can “go limbic.”  When this occurs in a group it is very difficult for any individual to simply calm things down and create the opportunity for rational thought.

If the team do “go limbic”  they will be highly susceptible to the first thing that comes along to ease their fear or stress.  So when someone suggests cutting 10% of headcount unilaterally, and the first pass of the numbers seem to back up the idea, a measure like this can be accepted quickly without ever being rationally considered in terms of the implications for the brand, the culture or the long term.

The antidote to precipitated action is preparation.  A management team that know each other well and trust each other deeply will be far less susceptible to going limbic and will be far better equipped to regain self control if they do.  If you can add in deep self knowledge, so that each individual knows themselves, their own responses to stress and how to deal with it, the “group think” element can also be diminished.

In a team building project I will usually use some personality profiling tools to help build knowledge of self and each other.  I will also help each individual  articulate their purpose, vision and values using the exercise based on the process in this e-book.  We will then develop a purpose, vision and set of values for the team, by integrating those of each individual. (In a larger organisation this will be complimentary to the purpose, vision and values of the whole).

When each individual in the management team, and indeed the whole organisation, can see the organisation as a platform for achieving their own vision and values in alignment with the business purpose, motivation and commitment shifts to a whole new level.  For the team, understanding each others’ purpose, vision and values is an important part of knowing each other and building trust.

Typically we also do some work to understand the nature of leadership and teamwork and how they interact with one another.   Shifting from a hierarchical world view to one where leadership is seen as something dynamic that moves around the team to where it is relevant in the moment, depending on skills, relationships, state of mind or whatever might be appropriate to a situation.

We also build the understanding that the role of leadership is situational. A leader has absolute responsibility for ensuring that the vision, strategy, team membership, roles and responsibilities and ways of working are articulated and understood, without having to be the author of any of them.  Once these strategic elements are in place the role of the leader is both to be the clearest living embodiment of the vision and the values and to get out of the way – unless and until there is a real need for their support with a specific challenge.

Such an intervention might take two days of management time and as well as dramatically improving team effectiveness it significantly reduces the risk of the team going limbic when things go wrong.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

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nx

Neil Crofts
authentic business
neil@neilcrofts.com

http://www.neilcrofts.com

Posted in coaching and training, Leadership | Tagged | 1 Comment

What did we learn from Nelson Mandela?

Typically when we are dissatisfied with a particular strategy or outcome in business or politics our first call is to change (or seek to change) the leader.

Too often when we are successful in this process the replacement leader is little better than the previous one.

Unusually this was not the case with Nelson Mandela.

What set Mandela apart from the majority of leaders is that he was humble, empathetic and authentic.  Most of the leaders that we select, elect and promote are not this.  Far more typically they are self serving and narccisistic.

It is a fundamental flaw of our democratic system that the people most likely to step up and say “vote for me” are also those most likely to be self serving and narcissistic.  In other words they are unlikely to be the sort of leader who is committed to serving the community.

Few of our businesses are democratic, they operate in a far more feudal model with a “King” at the top and fawning courtiers around them.  The whole culture of leadership in these “Totalitarian Plutocracies” (To quote my friend Roger Steare) is one of self service.  This works to an extent because the interests of the CEO and courtiers and the interests of the Board and  Chairman who appoint the CEO are quite closely aligned with each other.  And often quite poorly aligned with those of staff, customers and the general population.

In business this model only changes when the corporation does something so catastrophically wrong that regulation, shareholders and the board insist on a long term rather than short term approach for long enough to make a difference.

In politics it very rarely changes.  Even when an authentic leaders is elected (think Barak Obama), they cannot resist the inherent corruption of the system, in spite of their sincere and substantial efforts.

In my work, I often come across talented, humble and authentic leaders.  They rise to a certain level and then stop.  The reason they stop is precisely because of their humility, they don’t have the arrogance to believe that their business or organisation needs them as a leader.  They see others, more arrogant and aggressive, stepping up first.  They see that all of their role models for leadership are aggressive and arrogant and that is not how they are or want to be.

If we want to be sustainable as a society.  It we want a political system and business system that serves the society rather than itself we need to learn to elect, select and promote only the humble and authentic.

They won’t be obvious and they may well be reluctant.  We must learn not to choose the anyone as a leader who wants to be one.

The other side of this coin is that if you don’t want to lead in business or politics that may be precisely why you should consider it.  If you don’t have a vision for the future, but would be prepared to work with people to articulate it.  If you don’t believe that you know all of the answers, but would be willing to trust the judgement of others, If you would be willing to be vulnerable in pursuit of a vision and for what you believe in ; you may be precisely the kind of leader that we need.

Mandela ended up leading not because he wanted to, but because he had to.  Do you need to wait for things to get worse before you allow yourself to lead?

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

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nx

Neil Crofts
authentic business
neil@neilcrofts.com

http://www.neilcrofts.com

 

Posted in Leadership | 2 Comments

From binary to unity

We live in a world defined by the binary, Where decisions about what to do and how to do it are based on a simple good vs bad equation. In business too many decisions are binary. For example does it make more money = yes and does it cost more money = no.

Food, holidays, clothes and many other things are sold to us on the same binary basis. We are somehow infected with the belief that a meal that costs us less money is preferable than one that costs more. This assumes that we have something more satisfying to do with that money than feed and clothe ourselves.

The low cost of some products comes at a high price. Through a process called “externalisation” many business seek to place the burden of their expenses outside the business, so that they can sell cheap products to us. It is externalisation that leads to the expense being born by the environment, by impoverished workers and by society as a whole.

When a business allows a factory to pollute a river or the air rather than spend money on clean processes and filters it externalises the cost to society.

Binaryism imagines that there is an outside. That there is a place or a time or a people that are separate form here, now and us. This is a fiction.

Unity is about accepting the oneness and wholeness. We are all part of the same whole in space and time. There is no outside. What we take for ourselves is taken from another person or time or place.

If we operate within unity we can see our role as a contributor. The way we contribute is with our minds and our hearts, with love and compassion. The way we receive is by being open to the love and the compassion of others.

It is not so much about what we do, but how and why.

The creativity of our minds, the care of our hearts and the energy of the Sun are abundant resources, for our purposes they are infinite. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have a choice have a responsibility to harness these infinite resources for the health and wellness of the whole.

As W Edwards Demming said – “Survival is not mandatory”, if we prove ourselves unworthy of our level of responsibility for life on earth the responsibility will pass to others who are more responsible.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

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With love

nx

Neil Crofts
authentic business
neil@neilcrofts.com

http://www.neilcrofts.com

Posted in Leadership, society, Uncategorized | 2 Comments