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Archive for the ‘Values’ Category


When I tweet on Twitter and comment on Linkedin I tend to share what I’m seeing in the world of change and leadership. Sometimes it’s happening in a client space or a training space and sometimes a coaching space.

I recently commented on linkedin “don’t ignore those who helped you get where you are“. It was a simple thought as far as I was concerned, nothing really earth shattering. In no time at all it had 138 likes and 16 comments. This might not be an incredible number if you are Justin Bieber but for someone whose space is the targeted worlds of change and leadership and whose audience doesn’t tend to shout ‘Yay’ at everything you say, it was quite a surprise.
What was even nicer and more interesting was that people began to use it to thank those that had helped them on their journey, and those people obviously felt humbled by the thanks. It was nice to see and it was also nice to have initiated something positive for a few people, even though Justin Bieber saying it would have had half the planet thanking each other and not just a few.

And yes there were people who jumped on to advertise things like central heating (which I guess warms your heart in other ways) and spurious websites, but that too is just part of the world we live in. I’m sure they were thankful too.

It all came from a conversation with a group of managers whose direct reports were about to go through a development programme with myself and a colleague. I’ve noticed that if the manager is committed to the outcomes of these programmes then the direct reports seem to get more out of them and not just because committed managers don’t demand you come to a meeting on the day of your course. To help the managers engage we asked them to think about people in their past who had helped them get where they were today, and from their to think about what they could do to have a similarly big impact on their direct reports during the programme. It stirred up some great thoughts for some, so I passed the idea on via LinkedIn and Twitter.

The response struck a chord with even more people so it seems to me that when most of us think of people that have helped us we feel good and lift our game, as no doubt they do when we thank them for their help. The hashtag I gave it was #bethankful and hasn’t quite become a meme but I wonder what would happen in your workplace if it did?

Maybe you could pass it on and see what you get back?

Whose values are creating your culture?

It often occurs to me that one of the most challenging roles of a leader is creating a values based culture. A culture where the company values are readily adopted by everyone within the organisation and used as a guide for their decisions and actions. It often appears that people can accept the values at an intellectual level but using them as their guidebook is another challenge entirely.

Having watched the development of values based culture’s in action I find that it takes a number of key voices to actively accept the values, using them visibly and vocally in what they do, for a culture to spread and take hold.
Its like the 100th monkey theory. If you’ve not heard of it, here it is.

The basis for this idea was derived from a story in the 1979 book Lifetide: A Biology of the Unconscious by Lyall Watson. He reported on research conducted by several anthropologists on the macaques in the islands off Japan. According to the story, in 1953 one of the anthropologists observed an aged macaque female wash a potato to get the sand off of it before eating. She, in turn, taught another to do the same thing. The pair taught others, and soon a number of the adult macaques were washing their potatoes. In the fall of 1958, almost every macaque was doing it. Then macaques who had had no contact with the potato-washing monkeys began to wash their food. It appeared, concluded Watson, that as the practice spread through the monkey communities, a critical mass was approached when 98 and then 99 monkeys washed their food. Then, when the hundredth monkey adopted the practice, critical mass was reached, and the practice exploded through the monkey population.

Its not actually a true event, but the story was repeated in the media and passed around and reported as true until just about everyone had heard about it and believed it. This story became a meme that demonstrates a meme!
Meme’s work like that (and for those who have not heard of memes, the meaning is “an element of culture or system of behaviour that is passed from one individual to another by non-genetic means).
The thing about memes is that you only get them from someone you trust. Trust opens the door into your belief system. Its like your unconscious says to itself “ If they believe that this is the way we do things around here, then I should too“.

That’s why a values culture starts at the top; with one or two leaders who stand out because their actions match the values they espouse and those values are the ones you see on the wall every day when you walk in through the door.
The more that leaders quote the values, live the values and expect others to live the values the more likely it is that others in the organisation will adopt them too. Gradually those values become “the way we do things around here” and not just a set of words on a wall collecting dust. If people of influence, who sit outside the recognised leadership hierarchy, are seen and heard to espouse the values then even more people will join them.
Once the belief is embeded its hard to move. It takes a lot of energy to develop and a lot of courageous conversations by courageous people. You know this is true if you’ve ever inherited an organisation where people believe something counter-productive to your organisation. You may even see it in your engagement scores!

In the world we live in, business needs every advantage and point of difference that it can get. Is your culture giving you that advantage? Are your company values creating that culture? Are your leaders consistently walking the same talk, and is that talk matching your company values? Are your key players spreading the right meme?

Or are you losing the one advantage you cant buy off the shelf; a unique company culture.