Why is it that positive and successful company culture can be so elusive and hard to achieve? How do some organisations get it so right, and others get it so wrong?
Having supported cultural initiatives over many years, we have been privileged to have been involved in wide array successful and some less-successful cultural programmes. We’ve certainly learnt many lessons! One thing that rings true and consistent across all of these initiatives was the influence of leaders. I know what you’re saying… well of course it is Jay! But it really does come down to the fine margins of how leaders think, feel and behave EVERY single day… their influence really is that powerful and can be the difference between an organisation winning and losing their cultural battle.
Research carried out by the team at ILM late last year revealed how leadership skills and behaviours – both good and bad – are spread contagiously through an organisation. Professionals learn socially from their colleagues, copying what they say, do, and how they act. They found that 74% of UK professionals said that they actively emulate attributes seen in their co-workers. Some of the behaviours that professionals most commonly imitate are the most critical for businesses to get right – including communication, copied by a fifth (18%) of workers, problem solving (9%), and customer service (10%). This can be great for employers – IF employees are imitating exemplary leadership qualities, this can lead to a positive and consistent culture that is recognisable throughout an organisation. However, if poor quality behaviours spread across teams, departments and whole companies simply by osmosis, this can be extremely detrimental for all.
Let’s consider what WE need to do to set the right standards. During time of many changes, how you go about the next year is going to take some strong personal leadership and that isn’t something we’re born with. It’s something every one of us has to work on to master. It’s something you have recommit to every single day, because it’s not easy and there will be days where it’s easier to avoid. It’s a decision, an intentional act of the will to stay the course and be a strong personal leader. Here’s a few tips to help you on your way…
1. Discipline – Nothing happens without discipline, not even getting out of bed in the morning. You must have discipline to start, to keep going and to finish strong. It’s simply about making yourself do what you need to do, even when you don’t want to do it – which is harder on some days than others.
2. Self-Awareness – Not being self-aware is like walking around with toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe. Everyone sees it but you and they’re all talking about it. Self-awareness helps you to see what others see and allows you to adjust and improve accordingly. It empowers you to put your best self forward in every situation.
3. Gratitude – According to Psychology Today, gratitude has numerous benefits including but not limited to, increased determination, enthusiasm, attention and energy. It also will make you more optimistic, improve your exercise, and reduce physical ailments AND it helps you sleep better, lowers depression and has an indirect effect on lowering anxiety. The best part about gratitude is that it’s your choice and it costs you nothing.
4. Commitment to Excellence – Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” When we perform to the very best of our ability, we are practicing excellence. It’s not about perfection, it’s about commitment. Showing up every day and giving everything you’ve got.
5. Routines and Rituals – The purpose of routines and rituals for the strong personal leader is to help you build strong habits into your life. Similar to filling our bodies with the right fuel and getting regular rest and sleep – routines and rituals keep your leadership running smoothly.
6. Patience – To have what you really want in life, to live your life on purpose and with purpose requires a degree of patience. The maturity and wisdom found in patience is the bedrock of your success in life both personally and professionally. Patience, especially for the young and motivated and the old and irritated alike, is a virtue that requires intentional effort…even in the busiest and most demanding environments.
7. Intentional – You cannot be a strong personal leader without being intentional about everything you do. Being intentional requires thought, planning, reflecting, effort, commitment and action. Being unintentional in life is like taking your hands off the steering wheel while driving 80 mph down the motorway. You will eventually end up somewhere you never wanted to be.
8. Courage – This is simply digging in, digging deep and pushing through the tough spots in life. Courage doesn’t tolerate those things which are less-good and steps up to challenge and shows transparency that it comes from positive intent. It’s just staying the course when you want to back off. It’s realising that sometimes life is just life and you have to deal with it and demonstrate the bravery and grit when needed.
9. Fun-Loving – The opposite of fun is, “not fun,” which equals stress, because stress is not fun. Simple really! By logical deduction, if you want less stress in your life you need to be having more fun. Stress kills us a little bit each day. According to research by Statistics Brain, in the United States the percentage of people who regularly experience physical symptoms related to stress is 77% and the percentage of people who regularly experience psychological symptoms of stress is 73%. Stress is rampant and its effects are exacting a toll on our mental, emotional, physical and relational health. The cure? HAVE FUN! Strong personal leaders incorporate fun into their lives because it’s important, it’s good for your health and the soul. And let’s be honest, it’s the infectiousness that we are talking about in shaping culture, because…
…behaviour breeds behaviour!