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Thursday, December 06, 2012

Positive Leadership: The Importance of Company Culture and Clear Values

Lessons on the importance of company culture and clear values:

Lesson 1: Hierarchy and respect are not mutually exclusive

You have to make sure you never confuse the hierarchy that you need for managing complexity with the respect that people deserve. Because that’s where a lot of organisations go off track, confusing respect and hierarchy, and thinking that low on hierarchy means low respect; high on the hierarchy means high respect. So hierarchy is a necessary evil of managing complexity, but it in no way has anything to do with respect that is owed an individual.

Lesson 2: Culture is how a company gets things done

For example, most companies in software get things done through people. So their machinery is people, and to put it in technology terms, people are the hardware and values are the operating system. So the culture starts with people with a common operating system around values and then, once you have that, you can build processes around how you actually get things done on top of that. But clarity around the hardware and the operating system is first and foremost, so it’s about people and values.

Lesson 3: A values-driven culture can be a powerful motivator

People generally want to belong to something of greater purpose that’s larger than they are. They’re just waiting for it to come along. And a culture around values is part of that. People say, ‘I want to be on that team, that club, because they believe in something and I actually believe in that, so I want to belong to that.’
Lesson 4: Values can (and must) provide a balance

Think about your values in pairs, and there is a tension or a balance between them. For example; listening and leadership; accountability and generosity; humility and audacity. You’ve got to have the humility to see the world as it is but have the audacity to know why you are trying to make it be different, to imagine the way it could be. 

Lesson 5: Balanced values can give clarity to out-sized goals

This goes back to audacity and humility. You’ve got to be audacious enough to set goals that make you stretch and give you clarity of vision and purpose. But you have to have the humility to know that this work is hard, and that you might not get there. If you start off talking about all the reasons that you’re not going to get there, you’re not going to get there. And so it’s holding that balance of not being reckless, but also having a huge element of fearlessness.

What are important lessons you’ve learned about company culture and values?


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