What Chris Hadfield, Pomplamoose and Toyota can teach Chief Operating Officers about culture and competitive advantage

You might know of Chris Hadfield for his series of fascinating and frankly, just cool videos he posted from the International Space Station. He’s a real life Major Tom and speaks compellingly here on managing fear and the NASA maxim that “there is no problem so bad that you can’t make it worse”.

We see him as finished product, a three time astronaut and legend in his field. What you may not know is that Hadfield spent literally decades doing everything he could to secure his chances of becoming an astronaut. Most importantly, he adopted and then consistently applied a mindset focused on How he would acquire the knowledge and capabilities likely to be valued by NASA. Continue reading →

“If you get the environment right, every single one of us has the capacity to do remarkable things.”

In this TED talk on Why good leaders make you feel safe, Simon Sinek distills some powerful ideas in just 12 minutes, principal among them, that you cannot control external variables affecting your business. The only variables you can are the conditions inside the organisation.

“If the conditions are wrong [the environment is such that people do not feel safe], we are forced to expend our own time and energy to protect ourselves from each other – and that inherently weakens the organisation.”

Watch here:

Nodding dogs barking but not biting on engagement

Early last year I wrote a piece on the culture change stats that prove two thirds of managers are getting it wrong based on an infographic from Booz & Co (now part of PWC). The folks at Good.co recently put out an infographic on employee engagement with some updated research.

There’s a bunch of good new stuff in it quantifying the effects of engagement, like companies with engaged employees outperform their competition by over 200%, have 28% higher gross margins and 18% higher productivity.

The standout gem for me is that 90% of leaders say an engagement strategy will have an impact on business success but only 25% of them actually have one.

Continue reading →

Five signs your culture is compromised and it’s time to leave

Dog wearing Rose Tinted Specs

When you’re interested in a subject professionally as well as personally, it’s pretty easy to forget that you’re also probably sporting a comfy pair of rose tinted glasses and enjoying a warm fuzzy glow of obviousness that, of course leaders care about culture and managers understand their role is to make the work, work and having engaged employees with clarity of purpose is a useful thing.

If you’re reading this, chances are, you already get that it’s possible to have both people and profit driving your performance. More than that, you’d probably go toe-to-toe with an old school Command & Control manager and say it’s not only possible, it’s necessary.

The sad news is, there are still far too many workplaces out there where these things are not self-evident and practiced with passion.

I’ve been spending some time off the reservation over the last year working on a few contracts and seeing the inside of a bunch of different organisations. Continue reading →

Five revealing questions about company culture

Company culture is such a nebulous, dynamic and organic thing that trying to capture and define it in neat answers from a survey is a bit like trying to hold a cube of custard in your hands: messy and quixotic.

Custard Holding

There may be times however when you need to assess your organisation’s capability strategically. In that scenario, culture is one of the biggest tools in the kit to deliver competitive advantage because it directly affects how well people operate and deliver together. Like any other resource, you need to map out your culture as capability to figure out if you have the right stuff to take on your challenges.

Asking employees multiple choice questions that test their ability to memorise the company handbook won’t tell you anything about what your culture actually looks like. You can try the NPS thing or even the how much to quit thing but that won’t give you any insight into what sort of culture you have operating, just how much it’s impacting the working environment. Continue reading →