Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast. And Lunch. And Dinner.

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As creative leaders we all too often focus on the business itself – what are the profit margins for this year? How is the new business pipeline coming along? – and forget about the culture behind the business – the people that work for you and the way that they communicate and collaborate together.

Get the culture and style of your leadership wrong and this can be a knock-out criteria for a lot of potential talent. Motivation killers, absence boosters, deal breakers. And, therefore, this becomes a major obstacle for growth.

But how can it be done well? The starting place is the realization that culture is mainly shaped by two things: the entrepreneurial spirit that started your company in the first place and the original idea that fueled your launch. We must ask ourselves: What was the spirit that made me start the business? What is the Why of the business itself?

By really interrogating these two questions, we start to uncover the DNA that builds our whole company culture – something specific to only us.

As the business grows and transforms, the culture will change in line with it.  If your business is suffering from negative culture, it’s not something that can just be fixed through a new leadership style. The intention behind your leadership style is equally important.

The only way to change things starts from looking back, finding that original intention and building a way of leadership that brings this to life.

My eight personal convictions on leadership.

1. “Are you doing ok? Then I’m feeling better as well.”

As leaders, we must always keep the collective good in mind.

Because we are one. So if one grows, the rest will grow. If many people grow, everyone grows at turbo speed.  Unity in the team is the most important thing. Full stop.

2. If everyone is on their own unique mission, we will never get anywhere

It is crucial that everyone knows where you are going, and how.

I’ve learnt from experience that explaining things once is not enough.

Repeat what you stand for and what the collective goal is.

Repeat what you stand for and what the collective goal is.

Repeat what you stand for and what the collective goal is. 

3. You are responsible for their success and wellbeing

It’s a hard lesson to learn that if your team is under performing, it’s actually the fault of bad leadership. It is your job to create an environment where people feel emotionally involved in what they do and are working to the best of their talents.

4. Personal development is key

Self-reflection is a tool that helps you to become who you truly are and that allows you to give more of yourself.

Just because an employee messed up a presentation doesn’t mean that the answer obviously lies in presentation skills training.  By looking at their personal development first (“You can do this!”) we start to cover the underlying problems.

As business guru Jim Collins famously says: “First the ‘who’, then the ‘what’ ”.

Don’t feel limited by titles and traditional frameworks, discover someone’s unique talent and use that to create the perfect role for them. Replace yearly employee reviews by monthly coffees to enable continuous fine-tuning.

5. Every management rupture will be magnified back at you in the lens of your business

Management turmoil inevitably leads to team turmoil. The same applies to uncertainty, fear, incompetence. Management harmony is crucial.  And if we disagree? We agree to disagree, but we commit.

6. Work on yourself first before you saddle others with yourself 

Another issue I see regularly is that people lack the confidence in their leadership skills. If you don’t know why you want to lead others, why should others follow you?

A good leader is always a servant to their team. When things go wrong you should first look in the mirror for someone to blame and when things go right that’s the time to give praise to everyone around you.

7. Teach new leaders how to lead.

The goal of great leadership is to create more leaders, instead of more followers.

Knowing when to promote your best team members, in order to give them, and those who work for them, space to grow and learn, is a must – if you are going to retain and progress your team.

And within every team there are always A-players. Those people who always score 100

percent on productivity and 100% on core values. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can just leave them to it.

They are the ones that go that extra mile to make a difference, every day.  So keep an extra eye on them and make sure they know how valued they are.

8. Leadership: learning never stops – be an eternal student of the subject.

If everything starts and ends with your original motivations – your Spirit and your Why – then you had better make sure they are compelling!

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