Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

Focus on one behavior at a time

Focus accelerates results in the culture arena just as it does in all business endeavours.   In a development program I attended once we had to find the essence of the word 'responsibility' and express it without using words in a way that others understood. We found it surprisingly difficult and it took a long time.  Because although I had used the word many times, I had never really thought deeply about what it meant.

Superficiality damages culture initiatives. I frequently find organizations developing long lists of the values and behaviors they want to underpin their culture.  It's tempting, after all, when answering the question “what is our ideal culture?” to pen a description that covers the widest range of aspirations.  When communicated, the potential for transformation is lost because people are left wondering what specifically they are being asked to do differently.

More powerful, I have found, is to take one concept, and work it hard.  'Keep your word', for example.  The more I consider this concept, the more I realize what an all emcompassing idea it is.  Enough, on its own, to transform an organization.  What does it take to walk that talk?  Here's just a few of the skills and behaviors that are needed.  I am sure you can come up with many more.  Imagine an organization that had mastered these.

  • Not giving or accepting excuses
  • Taking responsibility for not having anticipated outside events which disrupted plans
  • Saying 'no' when being asked to do something you believe is impossible
  • Setting goals with (not for) others which are stretching, but not ridiculous
  • Negotiating with others to deliver what you need from them in order to keep your own word
  • Raising unpopular concerns when everyone else is being swept along by optimism
  • Being willing to voice the difference between an intention (“I'll do my best”) and a promise (“You have my word”)

It would be pretty amazing if a group of people were able to live up to 'keep your word' as a shared value and standard.  Would probably put them ahead of all of their competititors.  And not a list of aspirations in sight.


How to take responsibility for the crisis

Posted in: Learning.

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I saw an article in the New York Times about the official Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission which left me realizing how far we have to go before we have our key organizations run with a sense of responsibility and integrity.  Called “Banks without a CLue” the article quotes some very senior bankers making statements in the commission which, if I heard in a training workshop coming from mid-level supervisors I would conclude they had reached the ceiling of their capability.

I have written many times about responsibility which I define as RESPONSE-ABILITY or the ability to see one”s part in a situation, and thus be able to plan an effective response.  Read these quote

“A financial crisis is something which happens every 5-7 years.  We shouldn”t be surprised”.    Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase. ie. Stuff happens, and we are all victims to it.

“The financial crisis is like a hurricane no-one could have predicted.  We should resist a response that is soley designed to protect us from a 100-year storm” Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs.

The commissions” chairman, was not amused, declaring that the crisis was not an act of God, but resulted from the acts of men and women.  Click here for the full article.

RESPONS-ABILITY offers the opportunity for learning.  Unless I see myself as a part of the problem, I cannot be a part of the solution. The questions to be asked, in this instance, are “what actions did we as a bank take which contributed to this crisis?  What could we have differently which would have led to a different outcome?  In the face of the crisis, what can we do to prevent this happening again?  People with this approach to their work are the ones who you want to be promoting. Responsibility as one of the universal attributes required to lead, manage and support any great culture.  If you feel yourself slipping into the mind-set of these bankers, reach out for your coach, because you will never be able to effect change.  (Or join an organization that pays you very large bonuses for not taking responsibility)