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Beyond the balance sheet

PODCAST: What is business culture?

Chris Thompson Jun 18, 2021 12:45:57 PM 39 minute read

Why do some organisations and leaders succeed, while others fail?

How is it that some teams bond and come together but others can end up falling apart in disarray?

As we reveal in this interview with Andrew Garland, short term results may be possible without it, but in the long run success requires great business culture. By watching the video, listening to the podcast, or reading the transcript below, you'll find out about:

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Chris Thompson:

Andrew, thank you so much for joining me.

Andrew Garland:

Absolute pleasure to see you Chris, anytime, love to get on the airways and talk about the things I like to talk about.

Chris:

And how are you doing on this uh rather grey and drab day?

Andrew:

Well you know it's it's the weekend, it's Friday, I love Friday evenings you know, there's always something for us to look for but everything's on the horizon. Everything is positive, if we see the day is dull it's going to be dull, so if you take a positive view it's going to be positive.

Chris:

Forget the weather, it's all good.

Perhaps you could sort of just give us a bit of a brief background as to you because you're an action coach but how do you get to become an Action Coach? What's the sort of history there please?

About Andrew Garland

Andrew:

Okay, thanks Chris, yes, I'm a senior partner, I own the franchise for Witney, West Oxfordshire. It's quite a long story, I started off as an aircraft engineer and very quickly discovered I had this sort of sense for looking at numbers and working with people. And I found myself in people leadership roles and business leadership roles and, you know, one of the big things that struck me early on was when all my team walked out on me, whose fault was it? And you know, I had to do some really deep diving into, actually it was me, and you know, that insight led me into all kinds of roles.

I went back to University, I studied an MBA, I looked at all kinds of aspects of business and starting off as as a small but meaningful role as an aircraft engineer. I ended up being in senior management roles across all kinds of different sectors and along that journey I've sort of taken that belief with me that it all starts in your own mind, and in many respects a business, an organization, is like a human body.

The main computer sits at the top and if it's not running right, you know we're in trouble. So, over the course of working through many different sectors many roles senior roles, CEOs, MDs, Operations Directors, Sales Directors, principles stuck with me in all that time.

Chris:

Excellent, so obviously today's Vlogcast / Podcast is primarily around the topic of culture. I'll just give a little bit of background, so I was at a networking group called Opendoorz and I think this was last November, and you gave I think what they call an insight, bit like a presentation right, on a topic with the header, "the fish rots from the head down".

I was listening to this and found it fascinating and thought that would make a great sort of interview Podcast / Vlogcast subject. Hence why we're here so obviously this is all about culture!

And I'm assuming that you deal with quite a few clients on this topic, what is it usually, what are the circumstances that usually lead someone to come to you on this particular area of work?

How organisation culture is interwoven in business leadership

Andrew:

Okay, there's sort of two areas that I find that work comes from me. One is from CEOs, Executives running large organizations and just you know the standard run-of-the-mill business owners, that are struggling.

They don't understand why things are not working and there's a common thread between the 2 of them, in the sense that with CEOs they're saying well why's the performance not where it should be, you know, I've given them everything they want? I've put things in place but nothing seems to be happening?

The same from a business owner of a small to medium-sized, SME business. They're just looking at it saying well what's going on? And that's normally the lead-in to the discussion.

Chris:

Right, so are they looking at they've obviously invested, whatever that investment may be, and they're then looking at the output, or the numbers, and they don't see the correlation between the two? Is that what you're saying?

Andrew:

Yeah, so there's a number of areas. One might be the correlation of actual physical results that the business is looking for, and the other might be well you know this culture doesn't seem right. You know why are people talking behind my back. You know we don't get on well, all those sorts of things. So those 2 areas are the two key drivers for people stopping and saying okay what do we need to do about this.

Chris:

How big is this line of work for you?

Andrew:

Well I suppose I've been a student for many years but I've come to realisation this is probably one of the biggest topics in business leadership and business management. It really is just like a chip off of the iceberg, so to say, beneath the surface there is going to be so much development, so much going on in this area especially for self-development.

A business culture definition

Chris:

Right okay so what you're sort of saying is there's a bit of a culture problem that you can see amongst many organisations, or they identify it themselves, the leaders. Why is it that culture is so important please in your opinion? What is business culture?

Andrew:

So let's get something right, you know there's a bit of mystery around this word culture, you know everyone talks about culture of this and culture that. Here is the stark reality of this, the culture is a reflection of our thinking, interactions and especially big organisations, the organisational culture is a direct mirror of how our senior leadership team are operating. How they're thinking because under stress, under hard times, how we think ourselves is how we act, and how we act so the organisation will follow.

It's only natural that people follow what we do, so when we're talking about organisational culture in that sense we've really got to go back to the people that are leading the organisation and understand and examine what they are doing. As scary as it might sound, putting a mirror up to people, that's the truth of it.

How is corporate culture formed?

Chris:

So, in fact what you're saying is behavior is mimicked?

Andrew:

When it's, particularly when it's coming from the top, absolutely, and if there's a lack of consistency across the organisation this is where people take advantage. They see that there is one rule for one, and another for others. And this is probably one of the biggest dysfunctions in an organisation.

Chris:

Right okay, and so my feeling and feel free to correct me on this, is that this has become a bigger, and bigger, and bigger issue over recent years? I suspect the financial crash all those years ago of 2008/09 had something to do with it. I don't know, do you agree and what do you think has gone wrong over the years, because my feeling is maybe in the 50s it was quite a good business, organisational culture.

Why is culture important?

Where a job perhaps was for life and people were very loyal to an organisation. Fast forward 60 or 70 years and we seem to be at the complete opposite end of that. What are your thoughts on that please?

Andrew:

Yeah look that, that's a great observation. In the 50's and 60's, absolutely people were employed for life or they felt as though they were employed for life. Unfortunately as technology has changed and as economic models have shifted, how we think and how we do things, that's brought about into the business world, a different way of thinking.

You know the carrot and stick, we reward them heavily and if they don't deliver, they're out of the organisation. Well that whole concept is gone, and the whole concept now is actually, let's understand how I can perform better so I can allow others to perform better. And in terms of business owners and executives the same sort of concept sits there that when I reach my glass ceiling, the business reaches its glass ceiling.

So, if we can get people to start thinking about how they're reacting, how people are seeing that, how they're influencing the organisational culture, the feeling of the organisation and the quicker and the sooner those businesses, those organisations, those companies, can break through that class ceiling that they're not seeing.

Chris:

So culture is in effect, or as you were talking about, it is effectively starting with whoever the senior person in leadership is. It highlights the importance of leadership. Am I right in saying a one-on-one coaching or mentoring set of sessions with them is that correct?

Andrew:

That's how I see it, you know, and I will state that you know there's a lot of books written on this, this material and this is my opinion on how I see the world. But it seems to be playing out okay.

The role of shareholders in business culture

Chris:

Do you think we're, we're gradually then shifting away from the sort of late 1970's early 80's emphasis on shareholder supremacy? Everything is done for shareholders and their investment? Are we, are we gradually getting away from that now?

Andrew:

I think there's a massive move away from the single stakeholder, being the shareholder, driving everything. If we now look at what's happening in terms of pollution, the greenhouse effect, all those, there's so many different stakeholders that have an influence or are being influenced by an organisation.

So, if we want to have a steady and strong future with that then we've got to start thinking about all those stakeholders right and more importantly the old adage of team together, we achieve more.

You know that was a great thing that started back in the 70's and 80's, well we've gone beyond that now, this is about how we think, how we interact with each other, more than just how the team gets on.

Chris:

So, if we look at those stakeholders I'm thinking back to your November presentation, which was a while ago, how does that work, can you, could you run us through that dynamic?

Andrew:

So, if we take that to a high level, if we're not consistent with ourselves, in other words what are we saying to ourselves? What we are talking to ourselves about when no one else is around versus what we are talking to people when they are around. I think you find in many cases where organisational challenges and cultural challenges arise, that's where the route lies.

We've got certain investment organisations, including Venture Capital firms, now that are looking at ethical investing and you know, okay the return on investment is perhaps not as high as the other high return listed companies, but what we are seeing is we're starting to see some of those ethical investing organisations, their returns growing, getting higher there's more support for those types of organisations who perhaps are economically, or, ecologically friendly.

For organisations that have taken a positive step towards using green energy or renewable sources there's definitely a shift in that area, and if we also consider our communities who are now becoming more vocal, about what they should and shouldn't be buying, and why they shouldn't be buying certain products and services. I think this is all growing, it might seem small now, but it's absolutely becoming an exponential impact upon organisations.

Chris:

So when, obviously you're a leader, obviously you may have shareholders on one side employees, staff on another, your managers in between, you're potentially faced, obviously every business is different, with a lot of competing different needs is that correct?

Andrew:

Absolutely yeah, you know how many balls you have in the air at any one time. You know you could have four or five but we don't necessarily have to see it that way. We can see it that way as you know these are consultative inputs to us creating the necessary outputs.

Why it all starts with leadership

Chris:

Right okay, you're in this line of work so say I come to you and say, Andrew you know what, I'm really struggling with my team, my team dynamic. The first thing that you're going to do with me is what exactly? Hold the mirror in front of me?

Andrew:

I'm going to get you to hold the mirror, okay, and I'm going to get you to understand what's going on with you. But the second thing I'm going to do which is going to closely follow that, I'm going to do an organisational 360 review of you.

What we're going to understand from that, this is not about blame or beating someone up, but it's understanding what is the dynamic going on, and we're going to learn about what people like about you, or dislike about you.

But, more importantly, how they feel they can get on with you in the workplace, whether they see you as a strong leader, whether they actually understand their roles, you know there's a lot of fog out there because people they employ them some sometimes in senior roles, and they're actually not sure what they should be doing or achieving. So gathering all that organisational information right from the the driver, right from someone that might serve the coffee, or whatever they might do in an organisation.

We're going to put all that together and we're going to present it in a way that you're going to look at it and you're going to say, wow! Is that really going on? Is that what really happens in our business? Now, you know part of being on that learning journey is to say, you know what, I accept that so what can I now do? What can the business now do, what can the organisation do to address some of those things?

That's a starting point. A lot of the times it's behavioral driven. If your behavior is such then the organisational behavior is such, and everyone else tends to follow.

Chris:

Interesting particularly on that last point, why do so many leaders struggle to see the wood through the trees?

Andrew:

You know, I think you know no one at birth is taught how to be a great leader. No one at birth is actually taught how to do sales either, or start and run a business. It's one of those things where the more you can learn the more, you put yourself on a life learning process, the easier it becomes to look at yourself, assess and become aware, mindful, being present.

Actually, you know one of those things called active listening is lost, if we can just actively listen to the people that are working with us, and understand and hear the message, rather than not actively listening and hearing the message that we want to hear.

Chris:

So it's a bit like confirmation bias?

Andrew:

[Laughs] Indeed.

The need for a vision statement

Chris:

So, would you say, what are the key traits for a great leader, do you feel?

Andrew:

Well a great leader is, as Simon Sinek sort of summarised, I think the other day on LinkedIn, as a visionary. Now, if we've got great leaders that are direction orientated, how does the vision, how does the energy, how does the encouragement come from the top if it's just directing?

A great leader needs to be the visionary officer of the organisation where someone has actually got something to grab hold of. They identify whether they see a future, they can see their part in all of that. If we did one thing in every single organisation, business community run, or whatever Footsie listed, if we can just get the vision across to the people and the people, the employees, will either buy in or buy out of it.

Those that buy out of it won't work there. Those that buy into it will ultimately deliver the competitive advantage that most businesses are looking for.

Chris:

So, I think Simon Sinek put on LinkedIn, he said we need to scrap the title CEO, Chief Executive Officer and have more Chief Vision Officers, CVO's, is that right?

Andrew:

Yeah, that's what he said, I'm not, I'm not sure that I agree with you know change in the title, I think it's more about either changing the people or getting the people to change, to change the way they think, and getting people to change their approach to serious leadership roles.

If we can graduate above the the old carrot and stick or directive styles of some of our CEOs in this country, more towards the visionary thinking, where they actually give people something to lock on to, I think we can do incredible things in the UK.

Chris

So, we hear all sorts of stories about people like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, are you sort of saying because I mean, to all intents and purposes, they're not necessarily the most forgiving or easygoing with their employees. I think you know that there are instances where Jobs would demand well, I want a glass screen on it, not a plastic one, well that would take years to develop. You've got two months!

Or, Musk, you know asks how much will that rear suspension cost, you know this revolutionary suspension, oh probably a few mil! You've got you've got half a mil and a few days! But they do seem to get away with it!?

The role of technology in organisation culture

Andrew:

Yeah the thing is it's not about actually giving or getting away with it you know. As much as we might buy into a vision, we also need challenge in an organisation and without challenge we don't break through the comfort zones that we're all all residing in.

That has to be done in the right way of course. Setting that almost impossible task actually becomes possible by getting the thinking, the main frame in our brain thinking about different routes. But if we're not given that, if we're not given the challenge at a high level, and at a low level, then we're not going to see those things.

Examine the vision of those 2 organisations and I guarantee you'll see something quite powerful and strong. If you also start to examine some of the uses of technology and examining the exponential growth of different things happening in the marketplace, combine those two, as those two organisations jumped on, that's what's led to their success.

Chris:

They have an incredibly strong vision and they understand their role in terms of evolving or revolutionising the marketplace, is that what you're saying?

Andrew:

Absolutely! For example, if you look at the average microchip that's doubling its capacity every year or so for over the last 50 years. Smart organisations are starting to see that those sorts of changes in technology will enable things to happen, whereas in the past they would have been seen to be impossible.

More human leadership through active listening

Chris:

Obviously when you go into something you're doing an element of, measuring in terms of what the leader's performance is? What the vision is? Goals, that kind of thing. Do people understand their roles? Needless to say then, there's a bit of, sort of, truth telling for those in top positions which can't be an easy discussion?

Andrew:

Yeah, you know if a CEO has asked me to come in and and engage, and understand what's going on, then what you normally find is they're very open to receiving the information. In fact they're very grateful to get someone to tell them the truth rather than having other people telling them what they they think they might want to know. And I think that's where the credibility, that's where the integrity lies.

That's where the greatest growth will happen when those CEOs, those senior executives, actually are listening to what is being fed back to them.

Chris:

Listening to that, what I'm almost hearing you say is you're making them potentially not just more human but a better human being?

Andrew:

Yeah, yeah, we all put on this planet to be the best of each other or best of ourselves, well I'd hope so.

Chris:

It sounds like we all get a bit lost in the in the fog almost?

Andrew:

Yes, you know that word fog is a really really interesting one, and in a recent webinar we looked at, what is the reason for fog? In many cases it's just either lack of vision, lack of leadership, lack of a plan, lack of goals, and lack of let's say the feedback loop inside an organisation.

Chris:

I'm sort of thinking, as well you know, you're saying a business has to have a great vision, it almost sounds to me like, you know, if you were to add some some sub-headers under that intense listening, I think was the sort of phrase you used. Yes. And the need for empathy as well?

Andrew:

Absolutely, absolutely! I think the term is active listening, it's different from listening. And you know this is something that has to be learned, it's not something that people find easy. How often do you find yourself listening to someone and you're passing an opinion in your mind, or you're saying, oh in my own mind I don't believe this. What's all this garbage about?

Active listening is putting that aside and being absolutely present and it's just allowing what you're hearing to be absorbed.

Chris:

Do you encourage, sort of, note taking with that?

Andrew:

I tend not to take too much note taking during active listening because it's just a distraction.

Chris:

Ah, okay. So, just absorbing it in your mind?

Andrew:

Typically when I work with executives and/or some senior business managers, and in that sense typically, you know, active listening and absorbing it there will be a question that will come from it, and the power of the questions, the quality of the questions, that a CEO is asked will actually deliver the quality of outcomes.

Enquiry in the sense of what you're hearing, what's been feedback to you, the enquiry leads the person that's talking down a path of self-appreciation. That means understanding themselves. And, you know, what I'm going to say is quite controversial, but understanding yourself leads to a better understanding of the business.

Chris:

So, when you say understanding yourself, you mean understanding how you've got to this position where they're in front of you for example?

Andrew:

Yes absolutely, and how you can influence an organisation.

Chris:

So how you can improve going forward?

Andrew:

Yes, right, some of the subtle things that have big meaning for other people.

Chris:

Okay, what would some of those sort of things be in your experience?

Look it could be as simple as consistency, you know you're doing one thing for the senior team, you're doing another thing for perhaps someone else. Or, saying one thing for one person and saying something else to another. That small thing in your mind could have massive implications in the total workforce.

Putting people first

Chris:

Right interesting, okay so, do you find that where things are, basically is there a shift now taking place where things are going away now from just the end numbers to actually going more sort of, how can I put it, employee and customer centric? And saying if we get that right then that will take care of the numbers, is that happening? Is that gradually taking place?

Andrew:

Yeah there is. There is some, but we need to remain cognizant of the fact that there needs to be some form of performance, and performance management, and understanding of what that means because with the best will in the world, a company that's not reaching break even or turning over what it needs to can't implement some of those things.

But I think, that said, there's definitely a move to looking at the customer, looking at what their expectations are. There is definitely a big shift in that field. And you've seen that during COVID, both in and exiting lockdown, we've seen people employing a lot more empathy to the needs of their people.

We've we've seen a lot more helping hands go out to people to understand their situations and we've had companies both boom and bust, you know, so equally they've been doing those sorts of things.

Numbers and how to measure culture change?

Chris:

Yeah interesting, and this is this is the humdinger question.

Thinking of culture, when you're putting these processes in place, or improving behavior, particularly at the top, how do you measure it? Is it as simple as you start seeing a vision statement? Are there any other things that you look at and go that is potentially a metric and sign of success?

Andrew:

Yeah there could be any number of things. Typically a board would be looking for two things or they'll be looking well is there actually a return on investment, and are we seeing some form of gain? That's one thing and then there's these sort of intangible things, well how do we measure organisational culture, how do we measure that?

Of course in the short term that can be difficult, but if we stick with the 360 degree review process for those senior executives, and if we're starting to see the financial metrics (often measured in management accounts) around those change and we're starting to get ratings lifting in that area, then what we're saying here is we're getting behavioral shifts, and with behavioral shift we should see the numbers, or the other metrics improving that we're attempting to lift.

Chris:

Can you improve the leadership and therefore the culture of any organisation in your opinion? Or, are there some leaders where that's maybe not possible? And I asked that question to give you a little bit of context, I'm thinking you know certainly into the 80s and 90s from what I've read a real sort of numbers culture emerged and the argument I think given by the likes of Simon Sinek is it encouraged the sociopaths to take control. Are some leaders beyond reach, or do you think anyone can be taught?

Andrew:

I think to answer that question, I'll answer it in 2 ways, there are some people that are closed to growing, and developing, and examining themselves, and having someone critique them and sit by them. Those that are open to understanding what they can do to improve, then absolutely we can change, we can help, we can shift any organisation.

There are some leaders that unfortunately we can't change, it's just their makeup, and you know there's nothing right and wrong about anyone's makeup, that's just a state of fact. But if we can get the new generation of Managers, CEOs, Executives coming through that have a different mindset around organisational improvement, that starts with improving themselves, then you know we've come a long way to shift any organisation, be it community based, whether it be government based, whether it be private enterprise based.

Chris:

So, your message effectively is change your own behavior to help change the behavior of those under your charge, and that in turn will then take care of the numbers? Obviously alongside a big vision that includes everyone to power forward?

Andrew:

Absolutely yeah. Vision and understanding yourself because if we think about it, where we've come from, we come from a place where the leader gets up bangs his hand on the table blames everyone (blame culture) for failing underneath them, and then replaces them and moves on.

Those days are definitely gone. You know there's a couple of big organisations that work from this country that absolutely destroyed their business, destroyed their market by taking that approach.

Political leadership

Chris:

Yeah okay so if we were to look at some of today's leaders, not necessarily in the business world, so if we look at America, even the United Kingdom, and maybe France or some of the others, what is your (without getting too political), what is your take on some of these leaders? Do you see a big vision from any of them?

Andrew:

No not particularly! How's that for an answer?

Chris:

Well I mean I'm thinking because when you said it, I was thinking what is the big vision for the UK? And I'm slightly struggling you know, post-Brexit world is all I could think of.

Andrew:

Well, you know, I think we've had nibbles. We've had nibbles of this, you know, and releasing the shackles is one part of that vision. Creating a technology-based manufacturing or business-based opportunity is another. We've heard nibbles about all kinds of things.

But if we all had clarity on the big vision and how it's broken down, how every person in this country could attach themselves to one aspect of it, because everyone's never going to like everything that's produced, but if they can attach themselves to one small aspect, no matter how small or big that might be, then there's a real opportunity to take the country forward.

Now, I'm not a politician but that's just how it seems to me in business as well.

Organisation culture during COVID-19 and lockdowns

Chris:

Do you think culture has been really tested to the max in terms of, obviously we've been locked down, people aren't face to face as much if at all. Is there a danger that distance has literally created distance between teams? Are you seeing any of that?

Andrew:

Yes definitely, if we reflect back in the times where the railways dominated our countries, and our businesses, to a large extent and then in came air travel, that completely shifted how we might do business. How we might ship materials and products around the world.

Now, I look at it in the same fashion, that you know, if we don't consider the broader and the long-term implications of what we've experienced having to work from home to look at our businesses in a different way it's been a really, you know, I hate to say, it's been a quite a sad time.

But if we don't look at it from a perspective of what we can learn, and how we can now adapt our businesses not just for the next three, or four, or five years, but what is the change process that we're going to bring about that we're always constantly reviewing?

A new way, a better process, how can we involve our people? How can we involve thought leadership across the organisation? I think that will be of enormous benefit to this country.

How to change culture at work?

Chris:

Interesting I'm sort of thinking, if you're an employee, given what we've discussed, if you're an employee whatever level, is it possible for an employee to slowly start driving change in terms of cultural change from below?

Andrew:

I think there's definitely an opportunity. The danger the employee faces is not being heard, and not being heard means a person is going to disconnect, and they might not outwardly disconnect but they've disconnected somewhere, and that's the last thing we want.

So, you know, having having a mechanism to allow that change and and reflect upwards as well as downwards is something absolutely worthwhile considering. I mean, could they sort of form a group with like-minded people to gradually drive change from below? Some of the great businesses or organisations across the world have consultative teams and the the danger of those consultative teams becoming politicised or seated means they can serve another end.

But you know the idea of consulting teams, or consultant people, across every aspect of the organisation where in that consultative organisation everyone comes in on a sort of equal footing, that's hugely powerful, but used in the right way.

Chris:

Are there any, other than you know the likes of Musk and formerly Jobs, are there any other business leaders that you look up to and go that's a great great character, a great template?

Andrew:

There's like, there's a lot around, I won't name them but there is, there is some great organisations, or great movements going on, and one in particular that I follow and excites me about future exponential organisations or businesses. And I think you'll find that if someone wants to pick that up and follow I can give you the details of that.

They're going to see where the the future business is going to come from, and future businesses are not going to own assets, they're not going to have a big investment in bricks and mortar. This is going to be data and digitally driven.

Maintaining culture when scaling a business

Chris:

That's very interesting, is that because those businesses can, because they're digital they're almost borderline borderless. Does that mean that they can scale-up so much quicker than the businesses and industries of the past?

Andrew:

Yeah so if we consider, you know, the business of the past where, you know, scale meant opening an office, bricks and mortar, and other assets we had to invest in, you know, if that can be flipped on its head where there's very little investment in terms of bricks and mortar and infrastructure, the new digital ways especially around the use of data allows us to scale very, very quickly and fast.

You're seeing, you know, a lot of the the leading organisations in private and listed businesses, you'll find that a lot of them are leaning towards that type of business.

Chris:

I think most of the most valuable businesses in the world today, you know, didn't really exist or hardly existed 25 - 30 years ago. The speed of scale is immense!

Andrew:

Yeah if you look at Amazon, if you look at iTunes, if you look at Apple, you know, they don't own a lot of assets. They sell or move other people's produce.

Chris:

Very clever, so given that, and given that it sounds like you're saying there's going to be a hell of a lot more of that going on, I presume things like blockchain, 3d printing potentially even, and all these sorts of things, will give rise to more and more of these businesses. That means culture has never been more important because arguably, and feel free to correct me on this, but there's nothing harder than running a scaling operation. There's so many moving parts and things, that the dynamics are changing so rapidly you need every bit of help as a leader that you can get?

Andrew:

Yeah and I'll come back to that clear vision. If there's a clear vision and everyone that's involved in that organisation is clear, although they understand it has changed, but they're bought into it, you know, it makes those sorts of transitions that much easier.

Understanding vision, mission, and values

Chris:

Thinking of vision, where do you start with a vision? I mean have you done any of that sort of work with organisations, just developing a vision?

Andrew:

Absolutely yeah. The 3 key things are vision which is the picture of what does the business or organization look like when it's finished. The mission, you know there's a lot of mystery around that, is simply how we get there, and the values and how we treat each other inside the organisation. Those are the 3 key things, and there's no mystery about it.

If you boil it down to those simple definitions you can go a long way.

Chris:

Does a vision have to be achievable, or can it be something that we're always striving to improve to get to?

Andrew:

Yeah, it could be the penultimate, it could be the absolute best possible outcome, but you know normally, a vision is something we're always aspiring to achieve. We can have goals, goals are different from vision. Goals are in 5 years we will, we might have this, this, and this. Or, 3 years we'll have this, this, and this. But, the vision might be something bigger than ourselves, bigger than the organisation.

For example, our vision is we want to be able to positively impact a million people by helping 20,000 businesses, and the reason I say that is imagine the impact you can have on an economy, on communities, if every business in Oxfordshire could employ one more person. Imagine the impact, imagine the abundance we could bring to our communities! Yeah so you're right, so, it's a lot bigger than just the organisation that you're talking about. Yeah. Society almost.

The opportunity that that could bring to improve people's living standards if more people employ more people.

Chris:

Yeah very interesting. Okay and then the mission statement do you, this is fascinating, mission as you say I think this is clouded. There's a bit of fog around mission but do you find that leaders need to have their own personal mission statements as well as an organisation one?

Andrew:

Yeah look, you know a lot of times people struggle with their own purpose in life and what their why is, you know, why do we exist, what is the purpose? There's different sort of levels of the purpose: one is to be the best of ourselves, another one might be to leave the world in a better place.

You know when we start breaking that down once we understand who we are, and the contribution we can make, not only to the organisation we're attached to, but also the wider community then we attach a lot more meaning to it, and then once we've got meaning to ourselves vision becomes very easy to create.

Chris:

Right, so you have to start with the mission and the vision is likely to come off that, is that right?

Andrew:

No, no! The vision is the picture, the vision is the picture of the future and once you've got a vision, something that you can actually see in your own mind, or draw a picture, or verbalize it, or write it down, and then the process from there is well how do we get there?

That's the mission, and what do we, what are the key things along the way which are the goals and what are we going to do, we break it down into the actions.

Chris:

And values?

Andrew:

They are how we treat each other.

Chris:

Behaviors. Do you find, I mean a lot of organisations over the years have had values printed up on the wall, but everybody walks past them, not necessarily taking any notice of them.

Andrew:

I worked for a very large distribution company in this country and they had all their their values and mission, but no one believed them. No one saw them, they were too heavy and clunky, people couldn't remember them. Now, if you can't remember them what use are they?

Chris:

So keep them simple?

Andrew:

Keep them absolutely simple, yeah.

Chris:

Do they need to be built into leadership decisions, do decisions need to be justified according to the values mission and vision? Well vision is quite obvious but..?

Andrew:

Absolutely, so any decision needs to go through a sort of thought process, how well does this, how can we adapt this, or how well does this align to our vision? Or, how well does this align to the things we're going to do to achieve our mission?

And absolutely they all have to be crucial, they have to be integrated, they can't be just something that's on a postage stamp, or stuck on the wall. Well we've done that, tick the box, move on, it has to be absolutely integral to everything we do.

You know if you start talking about the values, a lot of organisations will have value statements, you know spread through across government, local government, and organisations. But are we really, are we really employing those? Do we believe? Does our mindset allow us to have the headspace to bring those values into what we do every day? And I would suggest that not so much, there are some organisations that do that, there are some organisations that don't.

Incorporating values into all decision making

Chris:

So, decisions in relation to interactions with customers or clients should always take into account, in doing this, are we sticking to our values?

Andrew:

Correct, and you know one of the biggest coaching questions I have when I'm asked a tricky question, should we do this, or should we do that? I'll put it right back to them and I'll say well what are your values? What would your values say about that?

And quite often it's about employee engagement, or should we do this, or should we do that with people? And we all know the answers, if we simply ask ourselves what would our values say about this, what would that state and you'll have the answer immediately.

Chris:

So if I think back to the crash, the banking crash, getting back to the banks, it could be argued therefore a lack of adherence to values, or creation of values, was a huge part of the, how can I put it, greed that led to the demise of the system?

Andrew:

Well yeah, I suspect that might have something to do with it. You know the word integrity, honesty sort of spring to mind.

Chris:

So, "greed is good" it's not a value right?

Andrew:

Yeah I wouldn't say that.

Chris:

So you're doing more of this kind of work with people, it's gradually creeping in is it?

Andrew:

Strangely enough inside business coaching, we always start with those 3 things. It has to be a clear direction, once we've got things clear, then the fog's lifted with people. How do we get on with each other? I've just started to see it at a different level, that it's almost like, this is the sort of hierarchy of thinking that needs to be brought into an organisation.

Chris:

If you're say an entrepreneur, or you're starting out, you may have your amazing product, or service, or IT-based service whatever that may be, database, but once you have that idea the next crucial step is vision, mission, values, and everything else stems off of there right?

Andrew:

Correct, absolutely.

Chris:

If you haven't got that arguably, you've got an organisation that might eat itself from the inside out, potentially?

Andrew:

Yeah and you know, it might grow, it might go but you know we want to, we want to give ourselves the best possible opportunity to succeed.

Chris:

You have to have those essential building blocks in place to make it happen?

Andrew:

Well let me flip this back to you okay. If you're working for a big organisation and you didn't believe in the direction they were heading, you didn't believe in the values, the plastic they were pumping into the ground, or the pollution that was a result of that, how would you feel about that organisation? Do you think you would help them make it successful?

Chris:

I'd be wasting my time. I'd be wasting my time getting out of bed in the morning because we weren't aligned in how we were thinking.

Andrew:

Alignment is really, really important and that's another thing that we do in terms of of our executive coaching is aligning the personal goals with the organisational goals. Now, if they are incongruent then that leader ain't going to work, it's just not going to work.

Chris:

Well it certainly has given me plenty of food for thought and I really appreciate your time. Is there anything else you want to add to any of that, that we haven't discussed, or that I haven't asked?

Andrew:

Well you know I think the only message I would leave is vision to remove the fog and awareness of self are the two big drivers of leadership in modern day organisations. Self-awareness, so seeing how other people see you. So we need empathy, it is a key thing in this whole thing.

Chris:

Listening, and empathy, and understanding how others are feeling, in terms of your actions?

Andrew:

Absolutely!

Chris:

Right, sociopaths need not apply!?

Andrew:

[Laughs] Well anyone can be changed, or if they have the desire for themselves to be changed. It starts with how we think. And I suppose another thought to leave yourself, and your audience is that how we think is reflected inside the organisation. So, if our thinking doesn't change then the organisation doesn't change.

Incorporating the vision statement into the day-to-day

Chris:

So if it's up here (points to head), it will become?

Andrew:

It will become! What we think is what we get.

Chris

Right I need to get some big ideas going again, not necessarily Lamborghinis or anything like that though.

Andrew:

Well you know, why not? You know if that, if that's truly what you want then why shouldn't you aim to receive it? Why, you know, why not?

Chris:

I think it's vision isn't it? Mental vision, that's a very interesting point and what, just touching on that subject, should you be thinking that every morning when you get up? Whatever the vision may be?

Andrew:

You know, if your passion for what your vision is strong enough, you're going to be visualising that, you're going to be thinking of it, you know, a lot of the time. If you go back to you know, I should be careful what I say here, but if you go back to when when you're in your younger days, and you're attracted to a particular person you, know there was a certain degree of passion.

There was a certain amount of constant thought around that other person you're attracted to. Now, if your vision is that strong when you're thinking about it in that similar fashion, and that might be about structured thought in the morning, and structured thought in the evening, to remind yourself then if those thoughts and passions are strong enough you will eventually get it.

Chris:

Fascinating yeah. But in this case it's more about a vision for the team in the organisation as a whole, or in your case you're actually talking about an impact on society?

Andrew:

Correct yeah.

Chris:

So, you're thinking about that regularly throughout the day?

Andrew:

Every waking moment I have is how can I influence businesses to have an impact upon those million people in the Oxfordshire region?

Chris

I think that is a great point on which to end it, and I can't thank you enough, it's fascinating, really interesting, and I really appreciate your time.

Andrew:

My pleasure Chris, anytime.

 

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