Following our discussion they told me that they wanted to focus on “more technical and practical things” first— like, improved writing skills, better time management, and stronger sales and customer service skills. After focusing on these items, they said, they would ask us to help them strengthen their corporate culture and leadership capabilities.
Isn’t this exactly how we repeatedly get things upside down? If I don’t get along with my boss, or if I don’t enjoy my work, or if I’m not inspired, or if I don’t feel appreciated—you can teach me better writing skills until you are blue in the face, but it won’t have much impact, because I am not inspired enough to learn and grow. We continue to get our priorities mixed up this way.
As Stephen R. Covey famously stated, we need to put, “first things first”. Culture and leadership capacity are the soil in which we plant our seeds. Preparing the soil, cultivating it, and nurturing it, must all take place before we can grow any crops.
My new book, “The Bellwether Effect”, explains how this misunderstanding has become part of modern management folklore, and is now embedded as the daily (impatient and fear-based) practice of more than 80% of organizations (and why our research shows that 80% of those surveyed would leave their jobs if given a free choice). Partly this is due to our short attention span—we are obsessed with immediate results—but you can’t just shove seeds into the ground in order to speed up the harvest!
In another recent conversation with a client I was told that the corporate culture was not yet ready to discuss subjects like “inspiring leadership” because the main priorities were the metrics and meeting the quarterly financial numbers (and making sure people didn’t get fired for missing them!). The current corporate culture, he continued, was one of, “kick ass, take no prisoners and destroy the competition”. In The Bellwether Effect I write about my client Microsoft, which used to have a culture like this, but following the arrival of a new CEO, Satya Nadella, and the intense attention he and his team have paid to culture and leadership, Microsoft has become one of the most successful technology companies of our time. Read all about it here.
What do you put first? Doing or being? How people feel, or what they know?