Organizational Artifacts

Organizational Culture

Modified Jug_by-NikitaAvvakumovCompanies carefully develop and vigorously safeguard their corporate logos and trademarks because the leaders understand the importance of brand. Logos speak for the company, what it makes, and stands for. Some trademarks become terms for common items, actions, or a range of products. Years ago people would Xerox a copy when they wanted a photocopy. Everybody had a Frigidaire even if their refrigerator was a Whirlpool. Today if you want to find out some piece of information, you Google it. Mention these names or show their logos and people create a vision of excellence in each of those industries. The trademark is the company and people know the values of each. Artifacts, such as logos and trademarks, are the visible representations of an organization’s culture and values. Other aspects of artifacts include customs, traditions, celebrations, buildings, and attire. Leaders can use artifacts to change behaviors of stakeholders to align with desired values.

Back in the day, families had coats of arms that contained symbols representing significance accomplishments from the past, the region of origin, and tools of their trades. Military organizations thrive on the symbolism of their unit crests. Good leaders understand the qualities shown in organizational symbols and use them to provide a common bond for all stakeholders. The symbols and traditions create a unification for all those involved in the organization.

The terms blue collar and white collar demonstrate how artifacts affect perception. Mention blue collar worker to someone and they probably envision a person working on a factory floor, working in an automotive repair facilities, or dumping waste cans after the office closes. White collar workers are viewed as those working in clean environments such as offices, hospitals, or laboratories. Blue collar workers have GEDs or high school diplomas. White collar workers have college degrees, have offices higher in the building relative to their perceived power. These statements are not necessarily true as there are plenty of people holding traditionally blue collar jobs with high levels of education, and many office workers with high school diplomas.

Ceremonies and customs are other artifacts that show the world and stakeholders where an organization places value. Organizations that toss their new employees to the wolves with little training demonstrate they value people less than accomplishment. Those who celebrate small successes show they care when people succeed and understand that when an individual succeeds, everyone in the organization is better because of the achievement.

A smart leader seeking to change an organization’s culture can use artifacts to help that change occur. He can point to the symbols of a logo to talk about the important values of the organization. He describes how certain behaviors emulate the organizational values while others detract. He eliminates ceremonies celebrating negative achievements that belittle and embarrass, and replaces them with rituals observing feats supporting desired behaviors. Awards for compliance with desired organizational values serve as visual representations of success and encourage others to model similar behavior. Employee of the month is one example, but a creative leader finds other ways to also provide visual cues.

Understanding organizational culture is a critical leadership skill. Knowing how symbols, ceremonies, and traditions creates certain behaviors enabling leaders to change artifacts to encourage behaviro changes. If something runs counter to a professed value, it is shed. Leaders adopt new artifacts that support behaviors aligned with desired values. Take a look around your work place. What do the dress, visible symbols, behaviors, and traditions say to someone walking in for the first time about what is valued? Change those that subvert what you want others to think of you and your organization, and replace them with artifacts that show the character you seek to achieve.


Photo Credit

Nakita Avvakumov https://www.flickr.com/photos/drnik/2857646470/in/photolist-5mwbJJ-6bXTAW-cWNuEG-ogb2uP-6bXUYC-74auQQ-bjUuLa-dfPbpg-BsuyfJ-8eCvnt-ogstHx-dMZSDL-2A6cFN-E1JUTs-67mS86-ATUtr2-9euKg7-uLhc-57xfTs-Bz4NEy-PZP2PQ-5V9AWA-c7hjWf-wMfExB-QvqyfS-MGFg37-N6NaAj-PZP3zh-NncCAS-zEmsYi-QkEA9Q-ManQ54-N2jNX8-KdZwbq-MCHQ11-MEWtdK-S35rzb-S35rnC-QU9tXK-S35rfd-ExDU2b-622Hms-S5FNVK-RXKgGM-T2GiWi-kHLLyN-RoViju-qyFLP4-r2BLQg-6iE95L Creative Common License

Wandering Leaders

Colin Powell said if people stop bringing you problems you’ve stopped leading them. People cannot bring you problems if you are not accessible to them. An old management maxim is leading by wondering around (LBWA). wander-david-gutierrezThere is more to wandering than aimlessly walking around. For LBWA to be effective you have to wonder around the areas and among the people least likely to otherwise have access to you or that you would ordinarily see. People only bring problems to accessible leaders. You have to be accessible to hear people’s concerns.

Imagine an organization really dedicated to providing training to employees from experts within the organization. The leaders send these experts to school to learn best ways to train others. They develop training programs to take to field sights where people work. They advertise the availability of the training to lower level leaders, yet none of the organizational sub-units request the training. The leaders figure they have prepared the wrong stuff, or that the training is not wanted nor necessary.

Some time later as part of a periodic organizational assessment, select members of the organization’s headquarters visits a branch office. During the visit staff look at records, business activities, and leader actions. The office fails to meet the organizations expectations. The head of the visiting team asks the local manager why they did not request the training the organization worked so hard to develop? The answer, “We did not know about it.”

Now instead of just emails. Posters, fliers and other traditional advertising, corporate sends out key leaders to branch offices and operations months before a scheduled staff visit. The leader meets with the local manager and tours the facility. She notes the same deficiencies and asks the managers plan to correct the problems before the inspection. The manager states they have a bunch of new people and lack the resources to develop a ground up training program. The senior leader talks with the manager about the training prepared by central office for just such situations. They set up a time for the leader of the training branch to visit and assess the location’s training needs and works with the local manager to identify the training available. The training branch sends out training teams to meet the need. Several months later the branch passes inspection.

The manager is invited to the central office to talk to the c-officers about her experience with the training branch. They learn that even though the training was well advertised, the tasks, purposes, and abilities of the trainers was never fully communicated to local managers. The manager points out the only reason the became aware of the available opportunities was because the senior leader paid a visit providing the manager access to the organizations leaders.

As the meeting breaks up, the local manager looks across the table to the training branch chief. “Because of the training you gave our foremen on how to assess processes, we have identified several employees who need some training. Can you have the process guy call us so we can schedule a training for them?’ The training manager is thrilled at the request. The CEO is impressed the local manager asked for help and that the front-line leaders have been empowered to conduct assessments and request assistance for corrective actions. The change was the local branch having access to the leaders in the organization.

If organizational leaders never go where the work is being done, their junior leaders rarely have the opportunity to bring problems to them. Opening the lines of communication between organizational leadership levels allows junior leaders to bring their problems to those best able to achieve success. Junior leaders who lack access to their bosses never bring problems up. When people do not bring your problems, you are not leading, but allowing others to lead for you. Get out of the office and go to where the real work of your organization is done. Lead by wondering around.  Only then will people bring you their problems.

———————-

Photo credit:  David Gutierrez from flickr.com under a CC license.

Leadership at Every Level

The newly elected President of the local civic group calls a meeting of his key leaders. The Vice-president, Secretary, Finance Officer, Program Director, Membership Chair and Information and Relations Director are all invited. In real life, the new Prez is a successful executive and understands the importance of focusing the energy of leadership of the organization on the organizational mission. The Vice-president and Finance Officer don’t show or call. The Program Director calls moments before the meeting starts saying she will be late and the Information and Relations Director shows up late without a call. All accepted these positions because they said they supported the vision of the yet-to-be-elected President in the weeks leading up to the election. Working with and leading volunteers can be difficult because of situations like this. Strong leaders use these opportunities to hone their skills, influence others to meet their obligations and achieve success for their organization whether a volunteer civic group, a municipal committee, a non-profit or a billion dollar cooperation.ShellVacationsHosp

There are lots of lessons in the above story that we will explore in the next few editions of this blog. This month, attracting the right people. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins discusses the importance of identifying good leaders for organizations and guiding them to where they will most help the organization grow. Sometimes that requires pushing people out of their comfort zone. For example, someone who has demonstrated strong leadership with a background in engineering but desires to work operations. The engineering section lacks quality leaders but great engineers so she would better serve the organization (at least for now) heading up engineering. As the organization improves and she develops younger leaders to replace her, the head of engineering may be transferred to a supervisory position in operations.

In order to achieve this success both, the chief executive of the organization and the head of engineering need to identify the future leaders within the section. After they are identified they need to be coached, mentored and trained as leaders. In great organizations they will be sent to train with the best whether it is in seminars, college course work or operational assignments, the next generation leaders will be groomed to move ahead.

jerry-pansing(2)

Keeping your ducks in a row requires leaders at every level to lead.

Some reading this now are in positions of leadership and may ask, “Well what happens if we spend all that money training someone to take over the section and they leave taking our training with them? Look at all the money we wasted.” Every organization needs some depth on the bench, so you should be looking at the section leader’s replacement today. However, just imagine if you did not train that person to lead the section and they are promoted when the current section leader leaves. Without the proper education and training, you have set them up for failure which may result in the failure of the organization!

As the leader of an organization, any organization, your most important responsibility is the selection of those who will lead your units, sections, divisions or any other name you give your areas of responsibility. Your next most important responsibility is to develop your bench. Identify future leaders. Train them and mentor them. Give them some operational opportunities to make mistakes where it matters little so they learn to lead, make decisions and learn from their mistakes. Remember to always share your vision so they are all following the path to success. If you are one of those one the bench, seize the opportunity. Step up and lead.

_____

Photo Credits: Shell Vacations Hospitality, Jerry Pansin, from flickr.com.  Creative Commons License

Leadership Vision; A Requirement for All Leaders

vision

Leadership vision helps leaders look ahead to prepare and avoid obstacles allowing their organization to achieve its mission.

Several years ago I attended a leadership seminar taught by Richard Ayres retired FBI leadership trainer coaching leaders from all walks of life. He was not the first to discuss the importance of leadership vision, but he was the first who caused me to reflect upon the importance of leadership vision at every level within an organization whether they are the CEO, or a brand new front line supervisor with only one direct report. Often leaders on the line or somewhere in the middle think their slice of the organization is so small they have no affect on the course of the organization. Without vision the small groups these middle and front line supervisors lead will drift in the wind and dragging on the success of the larger organization. There are ways non-executive leaders can develop a small group vision for their sections that complement the larger organization and inspire employees.

Lower level leaders are the people that get things done in organizations. An organization can survive without a CEO or miss several VPs. Run an overnight shift with poor leadership and before long everyone know who the important leaders are; the local leaders who interact with employees daily.

Developing a vision is not difficult. Focusing on what is important and communicating your vision to your leaders, peers and followers is another story. When you announce, “Go west young man!” others may not understand why. New leaders who learn to succussfully identify key tasks and direction have the edge developling their vision. Many issues, problems and people compete for their attention they do not know what is important and what is window dressing. Experienced leaders develop skills to help them focus on the real issues quickly. New front line leaders lack this background but a good mentoring program helps them by providing tools and strategies to focus their attention quickly.

Assessments are one tool. Start by assessing yourself. Identify your core values. Ask how these align with the principals of the organization. What strengths and weaknesses do you bring to your new position? Take time to write these down. Assess your people, not only your direct reports but as deep as you can reasonably dig. Identify their strengths and weaknesses, skills and passions. Learn by talking to each of them one-on-one. Document what your learn.

Examine the environment. Determine how your section supports the organizational mission. Identify the guiding principals of the organization. Learn about your leaders’ vision for the people they lead. Identify opportunities and threats to your small group and the organization, both internal and external. This may be the most difficult portion of the assessment because obtaining accurate information about the intentions and actions of competitors, collaborators and regulators is difficult for many reason.

Use this information like a jigsaw puzzled. As you work on analyzing the information you will notice that the pieces come together revealing a map that shows where you and the organization has been and where it is now. You also see the goal or destination desired by those who lead you. Like early explorers learned maps are only an image of what the cartographer thought the world looked like at the point in time it was created and may not reflect reality. The process provides ideas of where your slice of this organization should be headed to support the larger group.

This becomes your vision, tell your employees where they are going, show them what your group will become. Schedule resources, plan for training, develop a plan and mark your route. Your map also serves as ammunition to argue for resources. Your vision is not only a rosy only picture, but illustrates the rough roads and alternative paths. With this information in hand, prepare your followers and leaders for the curves, potholes and slippery spots on the road ahead.

Vision is critical for leaders at all levels. Front line supervisors’ vision while limited by their location on the organization’s ladder is pivotal to their success. Leaders must create the time to map out the territory allowing them to see where they have been, where they are and where they are going. Their map provides primary routes and detours to arrive at the end point. Traveling along the path, they recognize sign posts and mile markers to measure progress. Whether you are a newly assigned rookie leader or a grizzled leadership veteran, having a vision for your organization improves organizational performance. Dig out you binoculars and climb on the roof. Find out where you have been and most importantly, where you go from here!

————————————————

Photo credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis some rights reserved Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

http://www.flickr.com/photos/klearchos/4541701032/sizes/l/in/photolist-7Vkpud-7Zz91R-9Uwxxs-bQGaiB-9XpiD3-5xhA3q-hAsUt7-ehvoLf-HtFik-9p5PM2-bXfqDC-dvWd8u-NgUKM-7B7xCj-58ayC9-khcgo-hJnvz-8pcL3G-XY2DB-dT5Yfm-dZMiF9-ctk3m5-6mNWbw-7ekpic-9DdSAN-7A3dvw-7LFrio-9nRYzW-4CYTmR-5KGg5B-buvfKc-5Cpqwz-asyX89-9vQUT3-6kYiBz-aSKrMn-4gX3v-e3d3jE-aCMtE3-7FbnVz-onMv1-52hjw8-5dPFT2-bn6iPb-7u6hjK-5xKhH6-8WR3XM-8rhBvX-cpfj3-fr4gn7-6Kg4w/

Two Things Leaders Care About

Funny thing about leaders…even when they lack a title, they still influence others to become better people and improve their organizations. Former followers seek out the leader months and years after their formal leader-led relationship ends. The best leaders often find themselves providing purpose, direction and motivation to former followers who have exceeded the leaders success. Identifying everything that goes into long-term leader-follower relationship can and has filled many pages. This blog will hardly scratch the surface and instead of providing proven, empirical data about the qualities of great leaders, it seeks to encourage readers to evaluate their own leader-follower relationships to identify ways you each can become better, non-titled leaders.

There are two areas that great leaders concern themselves; caring for people and achieving results. They know that in order to make the organization successful, they need quality people who are dedicated, knowledgeable, skilled and motivated. The leader communicates the organizational goals and his or her vision for the future and turns the followers loose to use their skills and abilities to accomplish great things that move the organization in the direction of success. Once success is achieved however, the leader sets a new course, but only after acknowledging the work and sacrifices of those who followed. Along the way, the leader creates opportunities to become familiar with employees, their families, their dreams and hopes, their needs. The leader develops ways for his followers to align their personal aspirations for growth with the growth of the organization. As the organization achieves success, so does the employee encouraging greater dedication.

Each great leader develops her personal style to learn about their followers and to communicate how their desires and abilities intertwine with those of the organization. Some leaders throw parties for their employees on their birthdays. Others use group training activities. Some dedicate a few moments each day to speak to their people and ask about important personal and professional issues. In every case, the interaction between the leader and follower is personalized in some way. The follower comes to believe the leader personally cares for them and their situation. If faked the facade quickly tumbles causing major problems for the organization.Image

After the American Civil War, Robert E Lee returned to the south to live a quite life. He was one of the best loved military commanders in the Nation’s history. Throughout the war he showed concern for his soldiers at all levels. For years after the war his followers sought him out for letters of reference, financial assistance and inspiration. It is said that he never refused a request of a veteran of his Army if he could fulfill it. Lee’s obligation to his men ceased the day he surrendered and dismissed the troops. His caring continued until he died.

Great leaders have two important concerns. Success of their organization and success of their people. They understand that unless the aspirations of employees are tied to the vision of the organization, neither will be truly successful. Leaders inspire their employees to succeed by learning their dreams, concerns and desires and find ways to align them with those of the vision and mission of the organization. When employees achieve success in their positions within the organization, the organization become more successful. Great leaders extend their influence long after formal relationships end because they genuinely care for the people they lead.

Photo Credit:  National Archives.  Retrieved from:  http: // www. flickr. com/photos/usnationalarchives/4176668765/sizes/o/in/photostream/ 10/29/13