In a rapidly changing world, alignment, agility, and adaptability are critical to team success. These are the cultural attributes that require leadership attention.
The ability for any team to successfully navigate an uncertain future comes down to a Leaders ability to Lead and Influence Team Culture. There is no question that COVID has placed the World at an Inflection Point. History has shown that inflection points always generate unpredictable changes and new trends. Indeed, inflection points have shaped our history. So, a leader of any team cannot assume a “steady as we go” mindset as the World evolves out of COVID. The World has rapidly changed because of COVID, requiring Leaders to build their teams ability to align, respond, and adapt to a rapidly changing World. This is as much a team culture issue as it is a strategic imperative.
CONTEXT – INFLECTION POINTS
Throughout history inflection points have defined the future
An inflection point is an event that results in significant change in the progress of a company, sector, economy, community, or geopolitical situation with either positive or negative results that were not foreseen. COVID-19 has done just this on many levels (Political, Commerce, Healthcare, Community, Financial, Education, Communication, Families and Liveability)
Some recent examples of how Inflection Points have influenced our future after the last truly global inflection point:
THE 2008 GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS (GFC):
The GFC not only shook up the Financial World – it also precipitated the emergence of disruptors and start-ups who could rapidly innovate, launch, and deploy in a manner that left large hierarchical organisations slow to respond and impotent to the changing landscape. It led to:
- The explosion of social media platforms and the influence it would have on the World (Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram)
- The rise of disruptors targeting traditional slow-moving hierarchical organisations and established business models (Uber, Airbnb, Spotify, Trip Advisor, Netflix, eBay, Amazon, WhatsApp, Square, After Pay, Menu Log to name a few)
- The change in buyer behaviour to online trading – many traditional businesses were slow-moving and unable to adapt their business models
- The shift to on-demand entertainment – away from traditional viewing to the use of Apps and subscription services
- The uptake of cheap airline travel (no-frills) – until COVID impacted – but it is rapidly returning in Europe
- The 24/7 News Cycle, and the ways news is now received, as well as the rise of story sharing as a means of influencing on social media platforms
It took radio 38 years to reach its first 50 million users. Television took 13 years. The World Wide Web 4 years. Facebook just 2 years. What is next?
HERE ARE SOME LIKELY TRENDS POST COVID
Of course, nothing is certain, but some recent trends and early warning signs suggest:
- A refocus and genuine commitment to the environment by governments and business (Circular Economy, carbon neutral commitments that are science-based, meaningful carbon targets by governments)
- A strong social responsibility agenda including a genuine commitment to diversity, fairness, racism, discrimination and equality
- A re-found connection to “localisation” and the importance of local community connections.
- Where people want to live and work – changes in mindsets to liveability
- A rethink of global supply chains (China, Brexit, click economy, casualisation of workforce, responsible sourcing of materials and ethical payments)
WHAT DOES AN INFLECTION POINT MEAN FOR TEAM CULTURE?
Humans think in linear patters, trends up and down. Throughout human history inflection points have defined the future. Whilst they are unpredictable, once they occur, organisations need to culturally prepare for, identify, and adapt to a new and evolving trends, risks, opportunities, and threats. This is a cultural issue for leaders to navigate. Any post COVID rebound journey will be formative by nature, as an unpredictable World emerges and evolves. AGILITY – ALIGNMENT – ADAPTABILITY – SPEED are the required team attributes to be developed and overseen by a Leader. No organisation or industry sector is immune from this need!
TEAM PASSION IS LINKED TO A BELIEF IN TEAM PURPOSE
Mission centred businesses have a propensity to rebound more quickly from a crisis. Having a clear sense of purpose (what an organisation stands for) helps cultivate and engage employees. A clear purpose helps guide employee decision making, whilst attracting and retaining loyal customers. A clear purpose also helps an organisation transition and transform in a united, engaged, and aligned manner by having a clear sense of who they are and what they stand for.
In a crisis having an authentic and clear purpose helps the leadership team link and connect their coaching communications with their staff in a more meaningful and aligned way, whilst also connecting the importance of what the organisation does and impact it has on the outside World. Leading an “Impact Culture” requires leadership input and role modelling.
Having a clear, transparent, and often stated purpose is a symbolic reflection of the culture of any organisation. But it needs to be authentic in that it must be obvious to all stakeholders that it is lived, measured, tracked, believed, and committed by the Leadership Team and Middle Managers. During the COVID-19 Pandemic many brands promoted messages of “We are here for you in your time of need” without any tangible evidence of what this means or what specifically they are doing. Empty promises and commitments always lead to an increased sense of scepticism by consumers and damages any brand building activities. Indeed, many organisations are reporting high levels of staff disengagement and are feeling “The Great Resignation” of staff departures due to the empty actions, inactions, and behaviours made by their Senior Leaders during COVID.
“The Great Resignation” is a syndrome where workers are considering a job change as pandemic restrictions ease and companies call employees back to the office. (Anthony Klotz, associate professor of management at Texas A&M University)
5 WAYS TO BUILD A CULTURAL COMMITMENT TO PURPOSE:
Some methods to refresh and renew What The Organisation Stands For Include:
- Regularly Test the Authenticity of the Purpose with the staff. A good question for leaders to ask is whether the staff believe the organisation is living up to its stated purpose. Ask the staff to share their feedback on their views, and ensure they also listen to the voice of customers, to hear the lived experiences of their dealings with the organisation.
- Engage the staff in regular discussions on where the Purpose is tracking well, and where it could be improved. It is in these conversations that a sense of commitment and local ownership is fuelled by Leaders and Managers. These discussions symbolise that the purpose is important and needs collective ownership.
- Capture and Share Stories of how staff are bringing the Purpose to life. This will highlight good practice and great examples of how team members pursue the local application of the organisations Purpose, Mission and Values. Storytelling is a crucial leadership technique to build a mission centred team commitment.
- Case Study Good Practice & Share Testimonials of Impact with Staff. Whilst this is another form of storytelling it helps link and makes real what staff do at a local level and the impact they can make to the lived experiences of customers and key stakeholders. Case studies are a great way to link what the organisation stands for and myth bust any underlying scepticism.
- Turn Authentic Stories into Constant Stories, especially linking to Mid-Level Managers and Front-Line Leaders, as they are the day in day out decision makers and influencers. They are the ones who bring a Purpose and Mission to life at a local level. Constant, relentless, and ongoing communications and showcases will highlight the importance of what they do, the impact they make, and what the desired behaviours are.
IMPLICATIONS FOR LEADERS OF CULTURE:
The authenticity of an organisations Purpose is always revealed in the stories of lived experiences as told by leaders, staff, and customers. Storytelling is the link between “spin” and “authenticity.” A One message, many voices, locally applied campaign requires cultural leadership and commitment from the Executive Team, not just spasmodic campaigns, or episodic activities from marketing. It must form the epicentre of any induction, staff communications, and reward and recognition system.
In Summary Pursuing an Authentic Purpose Driven Organisation you must:
- Engage the Staff in how you are tracking in your Purpose Regularly
- Capture and Share Good Practices of how Staff bring the Purpose to Life locally
- Highlight the need for Authenticity and Linkage in Everything You Do – Alignment Key
- Constant Staff Communications, Recognition and Storytelling is Key