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It’s all about culture

The A to Z of Organization CultureThe future ain’t what it used to be. Continued globalisation, wide-scale disruption, uncertainty, exponential change in technology and a new generation joining the workforce are changing how business does business. To compound the challenge, the organisation we created in the last century – a veritable engine of wealth creation – is out of step with the emerging reality.

Tomorrow’s organisation will be fast, flat, focused and built around followership. If how you do business is pretty much the same as it was three years ago, you are already losing ground. If you are not fully invested in tomorrow’s conversation, you are being squeezed out of the game! If you are “dancing” as fast as you can and discover that the competition has stolen a march … it’s fruitless to try harder. You have to change the game!

Traditional management thinking is that strategy drives culture. Figure out the strategy and then make the culture fit. In a steady state world, it’s thinking that makes perfect sense. Except, we don’t live in a safe, predictable environment. In a world of uncertainty the only thing that is predictable is that your strategy will be “subject to correction”.

A scenario approach helps but that only makes the notion that strategy drives culture even less meaningful. Strategy clearly can’t drive multiple cultures. Even with scenario thinking, long after the strategy has shredded, what will endure is the culture. The new reality – culture enables strategy.

Based in Canada, John Burdett’s research and the work of others suggest that only about 20% of organisations manage culture. Organisations put culture on the back burner because of an attitude to change that is best described as “cultural drift”. Cultural drift is the misplaced belief that even if we fail to invest quality time at the top of the house on culture, somehow the secondary initiatives unfolding in the organisation (e.g., six sigma, process improvement, town hall meetings, an emphasis on safety, engagement surveys) will get us where we need to be. Are you managing your culture?

John’s new book, The A-Z Of Organization Culture, is a compelling playbook outlining how to leverage culture for competitive advantage. It draws on his extensive international work on culture with some of the world’s biggest multinationals, mid-size organisations, successful start-ups and not-for-profits.

Look for … how to have the “culture conversation”; breakthrough learning strategies; why your culture is your brand; working at the level of mindset; “re-engaging the middle kingdom”; and measuring culture. The latter will enable you to, literally, chart the
“roots” (where you are today) and “wings” (where you need to be) of culture in your organisation. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it!

Accessible and wonderfully illustrated, The A-Z Of Organization Culture is a unique “road map” that will enable you to make tomorrow’s culture come alive in your organisation, today.

An advisor to TRANSEARCH globally, we are delighted to say we are bringing John out to Australia in late March. We will also be launching his new book at that time.

Read more about the theme of John’s visit: If you’re not managing your culture, someone else is

 

This article was originally published on TRANSEARCH Executive Leadership Insights.

Republished with kind permission from TRANSEARCH International Australia.

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‘Finish Before You’re Done’

This summer I heard a great story from Davor Miskulin, a Slade Group ‘alumni’ now working with Burning Glass in Canada, but who visits us regularly when he’s in Australia.

At a Toronto saxophone masterclass last year, which Davor attended with his sax-playing daughter Iva Mari, David Liebman told the story about jamming with Miles Davis. It was many years ago when Miles was already the complete legend and David was building his reputation. As anyone who has followed Miles Davis knows, he was a man of few words.

At that session with David Liebman and Miles Davis the band of musicians played and played and played. Towards the end when musicians ‘downed tools’ and started packing up their instruments, Miles walked past David Liebman and said just four words… “Finish before you’re done.”

As Liebman told the master class, he mulled over that line for years, thinking about how it applied to his music. Davor and I mulled over those four words during a lunch before Christmas, and considered all the different ways that phrase applies to work and life.

Finish Before You’re Done.

It’s knowing when to quit. Knowing that you’ve given it your best, but leaving ‘them’ wanting more, not less. And leaving yourself room to do other things too.

John Key finished before he was done. Nico Rosberg finished before he crashed. Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg address in 278 words. Shirley Temple quit at 22.

How many of us are tempted to go on and on – beyond the moment when we should quit? Our speeches, our board tenure, the emails we write, the presentations and reports we present, the…?

When have you wished you’d finished before you were done?

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The two types of trust

Being genuinely interested in everyone you meet may be second nature to those of us in the executive search business, but contrary to the popular saying, the reverse isn’t always true. In London for an AESC conference recently, I met John Niland. John is best-known as a conference speaker on doing higher value work and for the last 15 years, has been coaching others to achieve success. He has a particular passion for supporting independent professionals to adapt and thrive in today’s challenging economies. In the following article he makes some valid points about the nature of trust – applicable to all of us, no matter what business you are in.

Geoff Slade

1. Cognitive trust and Affective trust

To win wholehearted trust from another person, you need to win both their head and their heart. However, not everyone we meet places equal reliance on these two faculties.

Some people (and cultures) are primarily cognitive. When building trust, they look for evidence that is factual: e.g. evidence of credibility, track-record, process, reliability, tangible results and useful insights. If you can answer their questions specifically (or guide them to ask better questions) then you build trust.

Other people (and cultures) are primarily affective. They first decide if they like you or not, then they listen to what you have to say. Bombarding them with evidence of your credibility is unnecessary and may even be counter-productive. Their decision to trust is intuitive rather than rational … and is often uncannily accurate. They take in your body language, your attentiveness to them and a host of non-verbal cues.

While most people will use both dimensions (i.e. cognitive and affective), in practice the majority of people have a tendency to rely more heavily on one dimension than the other. For example, in large organisations, the greater the likelihood that trust-building is cognitive… at least in northern Europe. But beware of stereotypes: I have come across senior managers in finance who build trust affectively, just as many freelance professionals are as cognitive as you can find on the planet.

In a team environment, affective trust tends to win out. If team members like each other, this generally makes for greater performance and mutual support than if they simply cognitively respect each other. However, in many teams, it’s worth noting that cognitive respect plays a big part in whether one professional likes another or not. So it’s always worth considering both dimensions… not just the one that most reflects you!

2. Trusting yourself

How do your build trust? Cognitively (via the head) or affectively (via the heart)? Which is your primary mode of trust-building?

Perhaps the person that it’s most important to trust is yourself. This is usually expressed as confidence: confident people have trust in themselves. Indeed, in some languages (such as French), the same word ‘confiance’ means both trust and confidence.

If a person is not particularly confident, then they struggle to trust themselves. So they furiously prepare for meetings, feel anxious in negotiations, worry about the future, avoid difficult conversations, postpone decisions, have difficulty with business-development and often with personal relationships, too.

Most people would agree that confidence is built though action, rather than by reflection. Certainly this is likely to be true for cognitive trust-builders. By creating their own track-record in dealing with scary situations, they see increasing evidence that they can trust themselves.

However, for those who build trust affectively (or intuitively), how do they deal with low self-confidence and lack of trust in themselves? In my coaching work, I see that affective trust-builders often have a harder time overcoming a poor reputation with themselves. Unlike the cognitive trust-builders, they cannot easily grow self-confidence through affirmative action… because they don’t like themselves very much to begin with.

Self-worth is about liking ourselves – with or without the evidence. It’s not the same as self-esteem and certainly not the same as confidence. It’s a fundamental pre-requisite for career-development, for charging better fees and raising the value of our work.

 

John Niland is a Brussels based management consultant. john@vco-global.com

This article was originally published on TRANSEARCH Executive Leadership Insights.

Republished with kind permission from TRANSEARCH International Australia.

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Tough nut or fair, but firm?

I’m often accused of being a ‘tough nut’. I think I’m firm but fair. I’m frustrated by underperformers, people missing targets and sloppy work practices. Sometimes I feel I’m painted as some sort of ogre, and now finally, I know why. Apparently, nearly 50% of Australian organisations feel that ‘close enough is good enough’.

The Study of Australian Leadership by the Centre for Workplace Leadership at the University of Melbourne and funded by the Commonwealth Department of Employment paints a rather grim picture of our workplaces, particularly the rigour we apply to measuring and meeting performance targets. It reads as though the world @work in Australia could do with a rocket up the interior.

With one in three businesses not giving employees any key performance indicators to do their job, is it any surprise that as a nation we’re slipping in performance outcomes?

Let me pose some of the questions that arose from this study.

Do you have Key Performance Indicators for every person in every role in your organisation? Are those KPIs being measured? And are those people in those roles (remember, they’re our most valuable assets), being managed and developed to meet their KPIs?

Are you providing all the leadership and management training your future senior executives need to become brilliant leaders? Or are you hoping that because they’re good in the job they currently fill, they’ll be great a step or two up?

And can we also find better ways to spend the $56 billion a year, the estimated waste in completing non-essential administrative tasks? How often are conventions retained because ‘that’s how we’ve always done it’?

I’m finally having my day in the sun. Close enough is not good enough.

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Still just a country boy

Which recruitment executives have inspired you on a professional level? Recently industry news site Shortlist asked me to nominate them. Recruitment blogger Ross Clennett also devoted several articles this year to the subject, including What You May Not Know About Recruitment’s Top 16 InfluencersThe 5 Most Influential People in the Recruitment Industry in past 60 years (has it been that long?), and a who’s who of the 15 most influential people in the industry.

Common traits amongst those nominated at the top of Clennett’s lists (John Plummer, Greg Savage, Geoff Morgan & Andrew Banks, Julia Ross – and somehow I squeezed in there too) are the ability to build businesses, develop people, contribute to enhancing the industry and a vision for the future. Those same qualities I’ve observed in industry leaders in every sector, which as Clennett says, have all been recognised by their peers as “individuals that have significantly shaped our industry for the better”.

About 50 years ago, I knew nothing about recruitment. I was a country boy who started my career in an HR role at a global construction business at age 19. Then in the late 1960s I was bold (read lucky) enough to start-up a recruitment business, GW Slade and Associates, with some help in the form of a loan from my parents. This later became Slade Consulting Group and was sold in 1988 – with offices in all major cities in Australia and New Zealand. Fast forward a couple of decades, Slade Group began in 1991.

Many of today’s leaders were highly active members of our industry associations. Before the days of the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association (RCSA), there was the National Association of Personnel Consultants (NACP) and the Institute of Personnel Consultants (IPC), which I was heavily involved with. We later merged the two together with the appointment of Julie Mills (now at ITCRA – the Australian and New Zealand Information Technology Contract & Recruitment Association), who was fundamental in pulling it all together. I was the founding chairman of the RCSA and later its President. It was a fairly interesting time because not everyone was keen on the merger. Julie spent many years as the executive director of the RCSA, and I think without her, the industry wouldn’t be in such a strong position as it is today.

People like the aforementioned were all inspirational in one way or another. Greg Fish was an outstanding young man too who unfortunately never got to 40, but he was also an inspiration.

I’m lucky to have worked with a number of inspirational women, not the least of whom is my wife, Anita Ziemer. Certainly some of these are Louise Craw, who managed Slade Group’s Professional Support business for some 27 years and Nanette Carroll, who actually bought part of the Slade business after Blue Arrow (a UK listed Group who bought my original company) pulled out of Australia. Nanette was awarded Telstra Businesswoman of the Year in 1996. In our current business Maria Cenic, our GM Finance & Shared Services who has been with us for well over 10 years, keeps the ship on course and trims the sails appropriate to the forecast.

Work and accolades aside, I grew up in Bittern on the Western Port side of the Mornington Peninsula and still spend most weekends in the region. I’d say I’m still just a country boy.

Which executives have inspired you on a professional level in your industry?

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Melbourne to New York at the Age of 65

Sometimes it feels like you’ve run a marathon just to keep with the world @work! This year, at the age of 65, long-time Melbourne running superstar and long-serving Slade Group employee Heather McBride has qualified to run in the New York Marathon. The race takes place on Sunday, 1 November 2015 and the Slade team will be proudly supporting Heather every step of the way. To find out what it takes to go the distance (that’s 42.195 km or 26.219 miles to be exact), we asked Heather about her running history and got a few tips on her pre-race routine.

How long have you been running?
24 years – since November 1991, the day I gave up smoking.

What’s your biggest running achievement?
Running my third Melbourne Marathon in a time of 3:49:05. My second most memorable achievement was coming first in my age group last year in the Sydney Half Marathon.

What’s the best part of being a runner?
The love of running, for the sense of achievement after each and every run. It can be gruelling, especially when doing the long runs; however, the euphoria is worth it… The friendships I have formed with other runners, the common ground we share although from very diverse backgrounds… The knowledge that it provides me with good health and wellbeing. Whenever I’m feeling down, a good run will work wonders. I suppose I have to admit that it becomes an addiction, but what an addiction to have!

What is the hardest part?
I don’t think there is a hard part, except when injury gets in the way.

Do you have a weekly training schedule?
I run four times per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday). I also like to walk on my off days.

What’s your routine prior to an event?
A big pasta meal two nights before the big day, and get lots of sleep in the week prior to the race. I eat a lot of carbohydrates as part of my normal diet, which I find is of enormous help.

Do you have any superstitions before a race?
I am not at all superstitious and I very rarely get nervous before a run – although New York will probably be the exception. I am feeling nervous already!

Any food just prior to a run?
I don’t normally eat before a training run, except for long runs. On the morning of a marathon (or half marathon) I will have a banana, toast with jam and a cup of strong coffee (caffeine gives you a lift). It is important during a marathon to keep the fluids up and also to have a couple of power gels in your pocket.

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Why everyone needs a Geek in the family

It used to be said that ideally every family needs a doctor, lawyer, plumber and chef in their ranks. I can’t say we have any of those, but we do have a particularly handy builder, a couple of digital media and marketing kids and a geek. Hey, who’s not proud of their kids? The Slade gang are on their way, on various rungs of their career ladder or starting out on their own.

Let me cover off Jack the Geek in this blog as he’s related to our world @work. Jack is building Procurious for his enterprising employer, Tania Seary in London.

For those of you who haven’t heard about it, Procurious is the vertical professional network for those working in procurement. There is a growing trend to create specialist verticals, away from the world mass of LinkedIn, towards meaningful, niche sector verticals. Sites like Doximity for physicians and healthcare professionals, Spiceworks for the ICT industry and Rallypoint for the military.

The lad has had a stellar two years taking Tania’s global procurement e-concept to reality and has learned how to build and translate a product strategy through to execution. Take a look at it here: procurious.com.au

In the meantime he runs his own e-passion at night, not in the garage, but on the couch at home; Boss Hunting was an idea he acted on while he was still at University.

What do you mean Boss Hunting, is that about looking for a good boss?” I asked at the time.

No you fossil, Boss means cool. They are hunting for what’s cool.”

This year he’s taken the Facebook page to a full content website at bosshunting.com.au. Its target audience is 16 – 34 year old males, with the odd proud mother thrown in to skew the data. 250,000 followers isn’t bad, and I’m pleased to share one link that talks about how early career professionals can approach job hunting: 12 Tips to Help You Get That Dream Job.  This generation of millennials are doing far more interesting things than I did, and they feel much more inclined to create their own opportunities, either in the way they negotiate their own world @work or create their own working world.

What advice would you give to young twentysomethings about the world @work?

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Shooting myself in the foot

I have a big birthday coming up and it’s not my 50th.  Well and truly a Baby Boomer, the world @work in 2020 is not going to feature me because the immediate future lies with Gen X. I’ve got five Gen Xers leading our individual business units and they run rings around me. But that’s not my dilemma.

My dilemma is the dilemma of clients voiced weekly. ‘We need a changing of the guard, we want the next generation to lead the organisation in complex times. We don’t want to discriminate on age but ideally our future leader is younger not older’.

Where are you Gen X? We know from researching CEO appointments going back decades that the most common age bracket for appointed CEOs is 38 – 48 years of age. Ten years ago, these were today’s Baby Boomers. But today this bracket of senior leaders is missing in action and Slade Group is finding it much harder to identify more than one or two Gen Xers in any CEO shortlist.

I’m waiting to hear the Gen X Ambulance riding through the streets crowded with Baby Boomer leaders, sirens wailing ‘stand aside, stand aside and at least offer me the opportunity to take a single point of responsibility and accountability for one major piece of the organisation so that I’m CEO-ready when the call comes’.

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