Wednesday 24 May 2017

Co-creating culture is a never-ending process where candour is key

Every person is accountable for sustaining a remarkable culture in your business, otherwise your business is vulnerable to disruption. Therefore I say co-creating culture is a never-ending process.

Corporate anthropologist Michael Henderson says
"Culture is;

“What it means to be human here.”  (‘Here’ being wherever you are referring to when talking about a culture.)

“ An unwritten social contract that turns a person into a people."

and Michael says A High Performance Culture is;

"A culture that clearly defines and inspires people to be at their best, perform at their best and serve others."

These definitions align with my foundational model for purpose-driven business success pictured below:

Although every person is accountable for the culture of your business I believe it is also critical to your success to ensure a member of your leadership team has overall accountability.

The purpose of a people and culture role, as it is commonly referred to today, can be stated as follows:

Ensuring there’s leadership commitment, capability, and candour in place that means the majority of people feel valued, are living values, and delivering value.

Candour is key

“Creativity has to start somewhere, and we are true believers in the power of bracing, candid feedback and the iterative process-reworking, reworking, and reworking again, until a flawed story finds its through line or a hollow character finds its soul. ”
Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and President of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, in a wonderful book Creativity, Inc.

Candour is critical to the culture of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios and a key reason for their long term success. And it can be at your place too.

5 essentials for co-creating a culture of candour

1) Be purpose driven. Three actions you can take here.

2) Ensure being candid and convivial is integral to all communication and conversations.

We’ve already explored the 8 conversations that count here.

3) A further key factor in this is naming elephants in the room.

Most of what could be better about an organisation is known yet unsaid (it is said underground and away from the organisation). For 26 years I have been walking into organisations as an adviser and I am told, usually within an hour, of what could be better and yet no one has raised issues with insiders for fear of reprisal or fear for their jobs and other nasty reasons. A common reason is a cultural issue of not talking about what can be perceived as unpleasant. Candour overcomes this.

Sometimes I name the elephants myself. I am not for everyone for I confront BS and help people to humanely remove warts, skeletons in closets, and elephants from boardrooms, offices, factories and shops.

Once or twice I have been thrown out for doing so! Mostly I mentor people to name the elephants themselves. The outcome usually is relief and very quickly elephants are removed. Soon creativity and innovation happen. Often the reaction is why was this not spoken about before?

The known not being said and a failure to excel at having conversations about performance when there is difficulty, conflict or disagreement is costing organisations billions, probably trillions. The biggest cost though is to human life. 

In the Stephen Covey book previously referenced ‘The 8th Habit’, he says there are four chronic problems in organisations 1) no trust 2) no shared vision and values 3) Misalignment and 4) disempowerment. I see these four even in the very best organisations. The cause more often than not is a lack of candour.

Candour according to the Cambridge Dictionary is
the quality of being honest and telling the truth, especially about a difficult or embarrassing subject.

synonyms for candour:
frankness, openness, honesty, candidness, truthfulness, sincerity, forthrightness, directness, lack of restraint, straightforwardness, plain-spokenness, plain dealing, calling a spade a spade, unreservedness, bluntness,outspokenness; informal telling it like it is.

Diplomacy is not the answer to the troubles in our world, not if this means smiles and handshakes, double-talk, and dancing around the truth.

Most of the great disasters of my life-time could have been avoided, and most of the trouble in organisations too. 

Are you the someone on the inside who speaks up and does so long before a consultant, auditor or diplomat arrives?

If you know it, speak it, otherwise you are guilty of wilful blindness and a tragedy could be about to happen.

To speak out effectively a lot of work needs to be done to ensure mutual respect, safety, and adopting the philosophy in ethics of enlightened self-interest, which Zig Ziglar famously captured when he said, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

If you are afraid, for whatever reason, to be candid, please find an ally inside and/or seek outside help today.

A great place to begin is watch Margaret Heffernan's TED talk.

I am a big fan of Margaret for her excellent book 'Wilful Blindness' which sadly I see a lot of in my work. Wilful blindness is one of the great barriers to progress in the world today.

If you know it, speak it.

Saying what you know might just be the beginning of co-creating a culture of candor. You’re authenticity and willingness to be vulnerable will inspire others. Very soon spin, BS and wilful blindness will be assigned to history.

Courage is required

Being candid is not easy. Being on the receiving end is often not easy either. 

The death of my best friend in May 2011 hit me very hard. Until I was given some candid feedback (and feedforward) I hadn’t realised how down I had become and in fact had lost my mojo. I found it very difficult to receive candour and in fact fought it initially. I am forever grateful to the person who had the courage to be candid with me because eventually through it I was able to restore my well-being.

“Telling the truth and making someone cry is better than telling a lie and making someone smile.”
Paolo Coelho 

Are you a connoisseur of candor? Your friends, family, and work colleagues will be grateful (sometimes eventually!) if you are.

Being a connoisseur of candour is one of the eight roles that Appreciative Leaders play remarkably well. If you haven’t already done so please consider getting your copy of the handbook today. Check it out here. 

In addition to being purpose driven, being candid and convivial in all communication and conversations, and naming elephants in the room, the final two essentials for co-creating a culture of candour are:

4) Work with others and come up with a one sentence description of your culture. More on this here.

5) Determine the behaviours that mean people are living your values.

There’s 5 minute video to watch and further insights, inspiration and ideas about this here.

Such behaviours underpin your culture. They are integral to people feeling valued and delivering value.

Who will you become? What will you do next?

Be remarkable.

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