October 26, 2017 § Leave a comment
I mentioned the phrase Culture will eat your strategy for breakfast in our coaching session last week, and you asked for more details.
I hope the following is helpful?
On the surface, the phrase simply suggests that it’s irrelevant how much time and care an organisation pours into creating a strategy: it will be powerless against the prevailing internal culture, which will have far more impact on future behaviour.
For me there are also some deeper truths within the phrase, with implications for other realities of organisational life.
First to say, perhaps, is that we can’t expect a strategy-shaping process on its own to change the culture. An organisation’s culture is a product of history, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. It is a long-enduring reality. Culture is what is surprising or confusing to us when we’re a new-starter – and, infamously, culture is what we then are blind to after three months in the job.
Culture begins to shape itself the moment the organisation begins. If you’ve ever been involved at the start of an organisation or group, you may have witnessed this process happening around you.
(For more information, Edgar Schein wrote some of the most influential and enduring ideas on understanding organisational culture.)
The ‘joke’ is that it takes seven years to change significantly a culture. I don’t think that’s necessarily true in every case, but there’s no doubt that an organisational culture can endure even if the majority of staff leave and are replaced by new-comers.
Second, your strategy is enacted by, or mediated through, the culture. Culture is day-to-day, and every day. It regulates default behaviours and decisions. So if the strategy document imagines radically different behaviours, instead what will happen is more of the past. People will say ‘yes’ and act ‘no’.
This is why a good culture is such a prized organisational goal.
The reality, however, is the culture is what the leadership collectively behave (another Peter Hawkins quote). So changing a culture often requires an appreciative or solutions-focussed approach: identifying which behaviours do we want more of, or which of the staff are holding the attitudes or values we want everyone to have; and then naming and affirming those and giving opportunities to copy them. That’s why story-telling can work well in culture-change. And woe betide the leadership team when they fall back into the old ways without accountability or explanation: contradictions between espoused values and actual behaviour are never more obvious (and damaging) than in organisational life.
Lastly on culture, a quote from the business world: your competitors can copy everything except your culture. Companies – and not-for-profits – which can flourish in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambivalent world, have the characteristics for survival. Your culture collectively dictates your resilience, your flexibility, and your ability to innovate.
And whilst survival isn’t everything, it does at least offer more choices.
With best wishes,
October 18, 2017 § Leave a comment
Have you ever thought of leadership, or leaderful behaviour, as a hosting activity?
If you’re hosting a meeting, you might find yourself:
- Providing conditions and group process for people to work together
- Ensuring the resource of time (the scarcest commodity of all)
- Keeping bureaucracy at bay
- Reflecting back how people are doing, and insisting that everyone – and the system itself – creates space for reflection and learning
- Co-designing relevant measures of progress
And from a wider perspective, I’m finding that more and more people are fulfilling their leadership roles in organisations by acting in similar ways. They’re giving up trying to manage away instability, and instead to create an organisation which can survive and thrive within its unstable world.
If this sounds relevant to you, you may be interested in Meg’s article “Leadership in the age of complexity: from hero to host”. It is full of really practical, hands-on advice for those who bear responsibility for supporting people or organisations through times of complexity and difficulty.
“From hero to host”?
It can be tempting in these times to yearn for an old-fashioned hero to steer us through. You know, the hero in the movies who rides up on a horse just at the moment of crisis. They have the guns on their hips and all the answers in their saddlebag. They’re great at issuing orders and saying they’re keeping control of everything (despite what everyone else knows).
Well, Meg offers some advice here.
“It is time for all the heroes to go home, as the poet William Stafford wrote. It is time for us to give up these hopes and expectations that only bleed dependency and passivity, and that do not give us solutions to the challenges we face. … It is time to face the truth of our situation – that we’re all in this together, that we all have a voice – and figure out how to mobilize the hearts and minds of everyone in our workplaces and communities.”
And so what is better, other than more command and control? To build buy-in through collaboration; to reward people’s yearning for meaning and possibility in their lives and work; to be a holding vessel, hosting conditions for working and learning together.
And if we’re working with people who have given up, or who are feeling discounted, ignored or invisible: let’s use our deep sincerity, and our convening skills, to open up invitations to re-engagement.
And what if we think we’re heroes too? Our good intentions, and our dreams for community and planet, drive us to work and work; and somehow if we just worker harder and smarter, we’ll breakthrough and everything will be sorted.
Well, there’s some final advice for you from Meg: it’s time for the heroes to go home!
And, to notice that actually we’re not alone, we’re surrounded by those who want to help and who aren’t anyway looking for heroes.
They might, instead, welcome a good host.
Meg’s extensive collection of articles are free for download at http://margaretwheatley.com/library/
Leadership in these times:
September 15, 2017 § Leave a comment
“Good leaders find it increasingly difficult to use the processes and practices that worked well in the past to evoke people’s inherent motivation, commitment, and creativity. Yet if we notice who we’ve become, we can recommit to who we choose to be as a leader for this time.” Meg Wheatley
September 13, 2017 § Leave a comment
With my coaching colleague Penny Kay, I am co-hosting a rare one day event with Margaret Wheatley on 9th November 2017 in London.
Some of you have been asking about outcomes for the day. You will be leaving the seminar with so many thoughts and feelings and aspirations I am sure, but here is what Meg has said recently about what to expect:
This is a time of profound disruption, when the best laid plans of leaders can be swept away by both man-made and natural disasters. Added to this uncertainty are the increasing levels of distraction, time compression, anxiety and stress that have distorted people’s lives and attitudes. Good leaders find it increasingly difficult to use the processes and practices that worked well in the past to evoke people’s inherent motivation, commitment, and creativity. Yet if we notice who we’ve become, we can recommit to who we choose to be as a leader for this time. Contemplation, learning from experience, and thinking are the keys to assist us in reclaiming leadership that re-engages people and creates possibility even amidst disruption.
Outcomes from the day:
1. To develop increased awareness of who you’ve become as a leader, given the pressures and stresses of this time
2. To commit to leadership that best serves people at this time, i.e. trustworthy, ethical, discerning
3. To experience the power of contemplation and time to think
4. To commit to instituting time to think, both personally and for your team or organization.
Please contact me for more information; to book your place click this link: www.megwheatleyinlondon2017.eventbrite.co.uk
August 18, 2017 § 1 Comment
August 16, 2017 § Leave a comment
As befits someone with such a global reputation, we’re delighted to see the widening international participation at Meg Wheatley’s Leadership in these times workshop in London on 9 November.
We’ve welcomed recent bookings from continental Europe, expanding both the insights available and the potential outcomes for this day-long inquiry into leadership: how has our own leadership has changed in the past two decades; and what form of leadership are we called to?
For more information, please contact me or visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/leadership-in-these-times-with-meg-wheatley-tickets-35507976313
June 26, 2017 § Leave a comment
Leadership in These Times: Facing Reality | Claiming Leadership | Restoring Sanity
9 November 2017
Resource for London, 356 Holloway Road, London
£250, with some bursaries offered to those at the beginning of their careers
My colleague Penny Kay and I are delighted to be organising a rare one day seminar with Meg Wheatley, a woman who has inspired a generation of leaders to step forward and serve.
Meg is co-founder and President of a global non-profit, The Berkana Institute (www.berkana.org), an organizational consultant since 1973, a global citizen since her youth, and a prolific writer. She has authored nine books, beginning with the classic Leadership and the New Science (1992). More information about Meg, and free downloads of her writing, is at http://margaretwheatley.com
Organised in conjunction with my coaching colleague Penny Kay, the seminar offers a day of exploration, both from the larger perspective and also the personal in exploring how our own leadership has changed, intentionally and unconsciously as well.
It seems very timely to be working on the urgent issue of leadership, with an insightful and inspirational figure; we’re confident it’s going to be a profound and thought-provoking day.
All participants will also be able to purchase a signed copy of Meg’s new book ‘Who Do We Choose To Be?’ at 50% of the normal price.
Do be in touch if you have questions or would like to know more.
Organisers: John Gray & Penny Kay, http://coachingatnudge.co.uk/