Building A Winning Culture – Two Essential Leader Shifts

Building A Winning Culture – Two Essential Leader Shifts

Shawn Moon


The Problem With Today’s Leadership Paradigm

The typical way to change people’s behavior is to reward or threaten them. Stephen R. Covey called this “the great jackass theory of human motivation — carrot and stick.” The problem with this approach is that it treats people like animals, and it works only on the surface, and only temporarily. They will “work” for a company, but they will never give it their hearts. They will never speak honestly, contribute freely, or do more than is required.

They will never, ever tell you what they really think.

Yes, they will be motivated, all right — motivated to evade responsibility — but they will never be inspired. In today’s workplace, so many workers are afraid, and it shows. They take little initiative, avoid responsibility, keep their thoughts to themselves — and bring as little as possible to the table so they won’t get in trouble. You will never capture people’s hearts by treating them like jackasses — yet that’s how most leaders try to lead.

Similarly, to be “the leader” traditionally means to take the whole enterprise on your back. It’s an exhausting prospect. It’s also terribly ineffective, to say the least. Here you are, surrounded by people with enormous talent, capability, experience, insight, and ingenuity, while you pretend to be the sole source of those things.

Two Critical Paradigm Shifts

We’re still “leading” others as if we were back in an Industrial Age world. To succeed in the Knowledge Worker Age, we must change how we see leadership.

At FranklinCovey, we’ve had thirty years’ experience with hundreds of thousands of people in great companies, schools, and whole departments of government. They come to us to learn how to become highly effective organizations. In our work with clients, we’ve pinpointed two critical shifts that leaders must make to meet the needs of today’s workforce.

The First Shift: Your Leadership Paradigm

Think about leadership in two ways: formal authority that comes with a title, and moral authority that comes with your character. Your first steps to building a winning culture are to adopt the mindset that everyone on your team can lead, and accept that it’s your job to make them leaders.

It’s time for a totally new leadership operating system that frees everyone to lead. It’s entirely possible to create the conditions where everyone can be a leader if you change your paradigm of what a leader is. When you no longer think of leadership as the sole province of a few select people, you realize that all people have primary leadership qualities that can be leveraged. Initiative, resourcefulness, vision, strategic focus, creativity — these qualities are in no way limited to the executive suite.

„You could argue that the main job of leaders is to create other leaders.”

Jack Welch

That’s how Jack Welch saw his job at General Electric: “The challenge,” he said, “is to move the sense of ownership… down through the organization.” This demands that you “show up” and model the culture rather than talk about it in generic terms (or worse yet, “talk at” team members about it).

What does it mean to have a culture where everyone is a leader?

It means that there’s a common leadership operating system, a framework, that everyone in the organization shares. Your devices have an operating system that makes everything else run; without it your devices are just pieces of plastic. In the same way, your work has standard operating procedures, and your organization has a certain way of leading and behaving.

What is your leadership operating system? Does everyone in the organization know how to succeed? How to behave? How to problem-solve and innovate? A consistent operating procedure gives everyone a common language and a set of behaviors they can depend on as they work to achieve results year after year.

A great culture must be leader-led and designed intentionally. You must implement an established framework of behaviors and language that engages and aligns the performance of everyone in the organization. Everyone leads. Everyone knows how to win. Can you imagine if everyone in your organization behaved like a leader? What results would that enable?

The Second Shift: The 6 Key Practice Areas

An effective operating system is rooted in six key practice areas. These essential mindsets or paradigms will enable leaders to thrive. Contrasted with the common practices of the past by setting them off in bold, these six highly effective practices compose the jobs you as a leader must do now.

  1. Create and post mission statement in all public areas. (Find and articulate the voice of the organization, and connect and align accordingly, a.k.a. „Lead with purpose.”)
  2. Develop a great strategy. (Execute your strategy with excellence.)
  3. Do more with less. (Unleash and engage people to do infinitely more than you imagined they could.)
  4. Become the provider/employer of choice in your industry. (Be the most trusted provider/employer in your industry.)
  5. „Create value” for customers. (Help customers succeed by creating value.)
  6. Satisfy customers. (Create intense loyalty with customers.)

Why these six practices in particular? Each is based on fundamental principles that never change. The principles of proactivity, execution, productivity, and trust underlie every great achievement: nothing of lasting worth has ever been accomplished in human history without them. People who live by the opposite values — reactivity, aimless activity, waste, mistrust — contribute little to the success of the organization.

The principles of mutual benefit and loyalty also underlie every successful relationship. People who live by the opposite values — indifference to others and disloyalty, for example — create no goodwill and work against the good of the organization. The common ways of thinking are often reactive and counterproductive; instead, we need this new model.

Consider: What kind of leader would you be if…

  • No one but you felt a sense of responsibility for results?
  • You didn’t understand your own unique competitive advantage — the combined power of your team?
  • You failed to execute some of your most important goals?
  • You didn’t fully leverage the genius, talent, and skill of your team?
  • There was a lack of trust in you, between teammates, or in the organization?
  • Your customers had no clear idea of the unique value you bring to them?
  • There was little loyalty on your team to you, each other, or the organization?

These paradigm shifts and related practices are absolutely fundamental to success now. Each requires changing people’s hearts and minds in fundamental ways, and changing behavior is about the hardest challenge anyone ever faces (if you don’t think so, just consider how hard it is for you to change your behavior). It’s a great challenge, but the shift must be made if you want to lead your people to success.

A Culture Of Leadership

The secret to building a winning culture is to replace unproductive paradigms with inspirational new paradigms and corresponding practices that will unleash extraordinarily productive behavior. That’s the job that you must do now.

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