With it being a new year and us exploring the complexity of leadership in our current podcast series, I can't help but think about change management. Change management has various aspects, including adapting to change, controlling change and effecting change, all of which requires effective leadership. AND as any effective leader will admit, successful leadership, related to change management or not, begins with oneself.
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A few weeks ago we shared our interview with system thinker and business evolutionary, Benjamin Taylor, and one of the questions we asked Benjamin was: how much control does a leader truly have when it comes to shaping company culture?
Benjamin's response was very enlightening. He described company culture as "the lived experience of the people", which means it isn't a thing which leaders can control. In fact it isn't a thing at all, rather, it is an intended or unintended consequence which results, in part, from leadership behavior. He emphasized that when leaders seek to shape or engineer a company's culture, they are seeking an unattainable level of control.
So, if leaders have little control in shaping company culture, do they have the power to influence it at all?
What do we want control to mean? I bring it down to two other works – responsibility, and constraints. I don’t think you can have freedom, or creativity, without them.
Organisational leaders might not have as much control as I think (sometimes I work with chief executives who are not amongst the most influential in their organisations). But they absolutely do have responsibility. For me, that responsibility comes down to accepting that the results that come out from their behaviours and the way the organisation affects people – and peoples’ response to those things – are the results they have created. If you really want to lead, first find out what you are responsible for, the actual results.
The guest of our latest episode asks these questions every day. Her name is Pilar Angel and with her company, Axeos Performance Institute, she manages to get CEOs of major companies to lay on the floor with their eyes closed and meditate on their toes.
“Just as scientists, doctors, veterinarians, and engineers study and create systems, leaders must study, change, and create cultures.” The tricky part for leaders is that a culture is also a system--well, it’s many systems working together. So, they have to confront all the underlying systems which shape culture including: values, support systems, social norms, processes, feedback, and rewards systems. It’s daunting, but not impossible. Recognizing that all these systems influence and support company culture is the first step tochange.
It is also important to recognize that culture is not the “job” of one department, or a couple of people. It is a collective effort supported by guiding principles. Silos can ruin culture.
As an example, here are some key areas of focus for crafting a wellness culture within the systems that guide human behavior....
In states of "flow", inspiration and ease come effortlessly and a person does things for the sheer joy of doing them. Flow states allow us to more easily perceive networks of relationships between the elements of our selves and our environment, and to handle complexity with grace and ease. What happens in these states?....