To better comprehend the association between Leadership, Spirituality and Sense of Happiness or satisfaction with regards to the working environment, I propose the concept of visionary leadership which is broadly utilized as a part of contemporary discourse of leadership. Visionary Leadership can be identified as an inclination to see higher spiritual powers behind the occurrence of every other event. Visionary leaders look for a relationship of events with these spiritual forces. They may or may not find themselves to be involved in such events but they may believe in the idea of alignment of events with the transcendent forces.
Visionary leaders have the vitality, drive and determination to get things going and lead others do likewise. They have an inner motivation and the ambition to achieve big. They believe in their motivation and their capacity to think for big goals.
Some of the great world leaders including President George Washington and Winston Churchill mentioned the assistance they got from a ‘guiding hand’.
Winston Churchill said: “... we have a guardian because we serve a great cause, and we shall have that guardian as long as we serve that cause faithfully.”
It is reported that the President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat had been visited by Mohammed who told him to maintain peace in the Middle East, which he sought after with determination.
Below are some of the quotes from famous business leaders regarding the idea of visionary leadership and its spiritual connection:
"A leader's role is to raise people's aspirations for what they can become and to release their energies so they will try to get there." — David Gergen
"The companies that survive longest are the ones that work out what they uniquely can give to the world — not just growth or money, but their excellence, their respect for others or their ability to make people happy. Some call those things a soul." — Charles Handy
"A leader has the vision and conviction that a dream can be achieved. He inspires the power and energy to get it done." — Ralph Lauren
Visionary leaders comprehend that spirituality in the work environment setting is tied in with discovering the reason and meaning, past one's self, through the opportunities related to the work. Uncovering these purposes would incite significant sentiments of prosperity, a satisfying conviction that one's work makes an extraordinary or potentially noteworthy contribution.
It might empower a feeling of association with others. Visionary leadership is more than coordinating and directing the followers or people under the effect of leadership. Driving from inside is a method for concentrating on our internal knowing and our natural qualities and strengths. One way of releasing this rich source of knowledge can be by a plan of action to our strengths. Times of emergency and crisis may likewise prove to be the times of enlightenment with the potential for change and development. It may prove to be the time when we start to scrutinize our deeds, needs and the way we live and work.
Major life occasions which may be painful at times, for example, the loss of a friend or family member, separation of one's family, sickness or injury, may be perceived as opportunities as much as difficulties. Events like these, have a tendency to deliver a need to incite meaning, and the bits of knowledge that develop after it are vital to how we rise up out of them. In the similar context, encounters like near-death experience or such revelations may likewise have that power of such transformation. Visionary leaders may comprehend that with the end goal for them to ingrain a sense of meaning and satisfaction.
Following are the three kinds to happiness that we can experience as proposed by Martin Seligman (credited as the father of Positive Psychology):
1) pleasure and gratification,
2) embodiment of strengths and virtues and
3) meaning and purpose.
The "pleasurable and gratification" is what we encounter when we work on activities that makes us feel enjoyable, for example, purchasing of new things, recreational activities with our family members, sharing quality time with friends and family members or going out on holidays. The life of commitment and engagement is tied in with utilizing our qualities and strengths in the everyday events.
It may come through profound commitment in any action that one may find challenging, which could be a part of one's professional or family life. A life with a meaning is developed when we start utilizing our qualities for the goal of achieving something that is bigger than one's self.
"Meaning and Purpose" originates from serving others and may incorporate taking care of the family, helping other individuals, volunteering works, etc. Visionary leaders can help their supporters to these ways of attaining happiness or satisfaction, however the first path that is provided by Seligman can be accomplished outside the work environment and we, normally, know how to achieve it, while the second path has been a part of the work plan for more than 50 years. It is, however, with the third kind (meaning and purpose) with which the leaders may experiment by opening the opportunities to significant and meaningful work.
A manuscript studying more than 150 studies demonstrates that there is a similarity in relationship between spiritual values and leadership efficiencies. Qualities that have for quite some time been viewed as spiritual ideals, for example, empathy, meditation and contemplation, have been shown to be identified with success in leadership.
In a similar way, the practices that are traditionally been associated with the concept of spirituality, and are practiced in everyday life, for example, offering of prayers, etc. have been proposed to be associated with the effectiveness in leadership. In many spiritual practices, emphasis has been put on the application of beliefs like prayers, and it has also been found to be a part of crucial leadership skills including, gesture of respect for others, exhibiting equal or fair treatment, expression of concern, listening and recognizing the work done by others, etc. Spirituality may be utilized as a model or framework for organizational values. In the model being proposed here, the spiritual values may not exhibit an immediate co-relation but it can be perceived as something that enable a channel through which, the other values may found to be aligned.
About the Author:
Vedang R. Vatsa is an initiator and the one who get things done. He developed his skills and worked with some eminent clients on his own. He likes to travel far up to the mountains and deep down to the beaches with an aim to explore the mighty possibilities of reality. He loves to discuss ideas with people and appreciate an honest feedback.
Connect with him on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vedangvatsa/
To better comprehend the association between Leadership, Spirituality and Sense of Happiness or satisfaction with regards to the working environment, I propose the concept of visionary leadership which is broadly utilized as a part of contemporary discourse of leadership. Visionary Leadership can be identified as an inclination to see higher spiritual powers behind the occurrence of every otherVedang R. Vatsa Articles
Communication concepts in the leader-follower relationship are important because they provide a clear presentation of some helpful techniques about how individuals can evaluate their own communication abilities. Most importantly, one can improve his or her own communication skills by adhering to developing and earning trust by acting, thinking, and decision making in the right manner, learning how to gather information, being open to dialogues, developing effective skills, and being able to read between the lines. These are essential, fundamental tools that are necessary in global environments and cross-cultural communication, because of the roles they help leaders develop as they are striving to become more successful as they embark on a journey of effective leadership.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE TO IMPROVE COMMUNICATION?
In order to improve communication with respect to the leader-follower relationship, one should observe the following prerequisites:
i. Maintaining trust: One should be aware that people are likely to forgive many things where trust exists as opposed to where there is no trust. In addition, great leaders also demonstrate the need to get personal as far as communication is concerned. The essence of getting personal is to help an individual be truthful as much as he or she can. Getting specific is another rule of thumb if one is to improve his or her communication because it removes ambiguity (Myatt, 2012). This calls for the need for one to learn to communicate with clarity based on simplicity and conciseness.
ii. Learning techniques to gather information: Learning how to gather information while transferring ideas, aligning expectations, inspiring action, and spreading the vision is another significant aspect to improving one’s communication. An individual can improve his or her communication by developing a ‘servant’s heart’ through focusing on contributing to the overall communication matter than just receiving. It is apparent that one is able to improve his or her communication when he or she seeks to contribute to the overall communication subject more than just receiving information from other parties. In addition to this, one has to have an open mind in order to improve his or her communication. An inflexible mind is a toxic factor of new opportunities for leaders and thus a leader-follower relationship must ensure that individuals are open to dissenting and opposing positions (Myatt, 2012). An individual who wants to improve his or her communication must also be open to new ideas and dialogue to demonstrate the willingness to engage in a discussion with an open mind. The foundation of morality is through empathetic engagement in all aspects while influencing followers towards the attainment of common goals.
iii. Developing effective listening skills: Listening is very important in the process of improving communication since through active listening actual understanding of what has been said is achieved by leaders and their followers. Listening also plays a vital role in ensuring that the leader gives effective and the right feedback in response to what has been heard and understood. Besides, listening ensures that the leader is put in the mindset of serving his or her followers. Thus, the author of this popular press magazine is convinced that developing effective listening skills is an important technique for helping an individual to improve his or her communication (Myatt, 2012). In addition to effective listening, empathy is another fundamental communication technique in the leader-follower relationship. Effective leaders must demonstrate that they care about their followers by avoiding prideful arrogance and ego. Also, they must demonstrate emotional intelligence by being in a position to diagnose, understand, and manage emotional cues based on self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skill. This should be coupled with the ability to possess a personal understanding which includes the ability to deal with emotions, general performance, as well as the ability to demonstrate self-control, trustworthiness, adaptability and ability to lead others (Patterson et al., 2007). Hence, an individual can improve his or her communication by taking responsibility and accountability as a virtue that connects ethics and integrity.
iv. Reading between the lines: The ability to read between the lines is another essential communication technique in the leader-follower relationship. This allows an individual to reflect upon their ideas and thoughts in the conception stage before they present them to their followers. Ultimately, this ensures they become aware of the implications of their ideas, opinions, and thoughts to their followers. As such, an individual can evaluate his or her communication by determining whether he or she reflects upon their communication content before conveying it to their followers. An individual must be reflective of their thoughts and ideas in order to challenge assumptions (Lokhorst, 2016). This is an imperative initiative since it allows leaders to think strategically by conducting an evaluation of their business model, organizational and staff structure, and customer base.
THE ROLE OF A LEADER IN GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTS AND CROSS-CULTURAL COMMUNICATION
All these communication strategies are essential in global environments and cross-cultural communication in the following ways:
First, effective communication entails the ability to communicate across cultures through appropriate ethical language while respecting others. Ethical concerns also contribute to the challenge of leadership in global working environments. Managers are expected to possess the ability to communicate effectively across cultures through using appropriate ethical language. This should be accompanied with respecting viewpoints of people from different cultural groups in the workplace. The shifting scope of businesses’ operation from local and regional contexts to increasingly global contexts requires successful leaders to possess attributes such as cultural flexibility, emotional intelligence and economic competence, collaboration and control, and effective control (Myatt, 2012).
Employing ethical principles in global working environments also includes the need to eliminate discrimination and harassment, navigating cultural, linguistic, and economic differences, operating in an insightful manner at a personal level, and providing honest information to all stakeholders in the leadership context. This, therefore, makes the leader communication styles imperative.
These communication strategies also enhance co-existence and positive relationships. This is by ensuring that leaders develop emotional intelligence and cultural flexibility, as well as fostering an environment that motivates followers by providing incentives and other necessities to achieve a desired goal (Lokhorst, 2016). The global working environments require the practice of embracing multiplicity or a mixture of individuals from a wide range of cultures, ethnic groups, religions, genders, and sexual orientations among others. Leaders are also expected to meet technological, economic conditions, labor conditions, and social and cultural standards. This is through understanding ethical concerns, customer needs and motivations, information, and choice available to the workforce, addressing globalization, and corporate governance concerns (Patterson et al., 2007). Those who want to improve their communication with respect to leader-follower relationship need to maintain continuous leadership skill development. This is vital in global working environments and cross-cultural communication.
WHERE TO BEGIN?
The communication strategies discussed provide invaluable lessons about leadership with respect to leader-follower communication relationships. To begin with, the changing nature of business operations from local to global environments has led to the evolution of the concept of leadership. The speed of change in all spheres of life demands an entirely different leader to lead in global environments and cross-cultural communication contexts. The leader must strive to adapt rapidly to change and be engaging in constant skill development to lead others to the desired direction. In all these, cultural flexibility is a fundamental leadership competency in global environments. It entails the need for one to demonstrate the ability to be willing to submit to another cultural way of life without feeling anxious or alien-like feelings. In the leader-follower relationship, emotional intelligence is one of the communication imperatives. One must, therefore, demonstrate a deeper understanding of their emotions, weaknesses, strengths, drives, and reactions to problems to know how to handle themselves in different situations. This is particularly important when interacting with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds. Of ultimate importance in improving communication with regard to the leader-follower relationship is the ability to read between the lines. This is an essential communication technique in the leader-follower relationship because it allows an individual to reflect upon their ideas and thoughts in the conception stage before they present them to their followers. This is the most important stage for if the leader does not get it right here it will not carry over well to the followers.
How you start a project could very well be how you end one.
In essence, the beginning is the end.
Lokhorst, J. (2016). The secret to successful organizational change. Outcomes Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.christianleadershipalliance.org/about
Myatt, M. (2012). 10 communication secrets of great leaders. Forbes. Retrieved January 11, 2017, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2012/04/04/10-communication-secrets-of-great-leaders/3/#1be23a634c91
Patterson, K., Dannhauser, Z., & Stone, A. G. (2007). From Noble to Global: The Attributes of Global Leadership. Servant Leadership Research Roundtable. Retrieved from https://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/sl_proceedings/2007/patterson_dannhauser_stone.pdf
Communication concepts in the leader-follower relationship are important because they provide a clear presentation of some helpful techniques about how individuals can evaluate their own communication abilities. Most importantly, one can improve his or her own communication skills by adhering to developing and earning trust by acting, thinking, and decision making in the right manner, learningPriscilla J. DuBose Articles
Effective leadership necessary to drive an organization to success is a hot topic in the business world today. What is effective leadership? Is leadership an intrinsic quality or learned behavior? What are the essential components of effective leadership? These questions and a variety of leadership theories have fueled a library of books on leadership and spurred the development of leadership certification programs around the world.
Though there may be some discrepancy on the definition and components of leadership, it is a widely accepted philosophy that the success of the organization hinges on the presence of effective leadership. Fortune 500 companies and even small businesses focus heavily on the quality of leadership and how it impacts success. They spend countless hours in search and interview and devote significant funding to securing maintaining effective leadership. But, what is effective leadership? Assemble any group of professionals, and no doubt they could come up with a variety of definitions and numerous components of effective leadership.
It is developing the ability to read people, convey respect and value, secure buy into the group goal, and to inspire people who have facilitated my success as a leader. Through my experience, I have isolated three components that must be consistently present in a leader’s skill set for him or her to demonstrate effective leadership. Note that though important and having the potential to provide significant insights, possessing a leadership credential is not included in these three components.
Three Necessary Components for Effective Leadership
- Convey value and respect
- Inspire through empowerment
- Lead by example and radiate integrity
Convey value and respect. A leader’s ability to secure buy-in and drive change is contingent upon his/her ability to convey value and respect. When a leader convinces his charges that they are valued on an individual level and that they have the leader’s professional and personal respect, the strength of the leader grows, as does his potential. Individuals who feel valued and respected are free to openly contribute and provide alternative insights without fear of condemnation or ridicule. Value and respect tend to make individuals feel empowered and collaborative. They see themselves as contributing team members.
As a high school principal, I had a teacher once who was anything but a contributor. He was an outstanding math teacher but certainly was not collaborative in any sense. After watching for a few months, it dawned on me that he appeared to be intimidated by his colleagues for whatever reason. He did not speak up at department meetings, did not participate in faculty meetings, and certainly did not volunteer or accept a school initiative assignment. He was punctual, met all deadlines, and conducted his class above and beyond expectations, but something vital was missing. I knew that Mr. Greene could be a real contributor since I could see the out-of-the-box thinking and gregarious personality evident in his teaching.
At the start of the next school year, I decided that I would change the out-of-the-classroom MO that characterized Mr. Greene. Sometimes the direct approach is the best when tackling a problem, but then, other times, an indirect approach is most effective. The faculty assignment for that year was to serve as a model teacher for one week, wherein teachers randomly came into the selected teacher’s classroom to observe. After the observation, teachers who visited were asked to write reflections of the observation. I selected teachers whom I knew to be masters of instruction and in particular, student-centered instruction. Mr. Greene was among the 12 teachers selected for the year.
As I expected, the reflections on Mr. Greene’s instruction were insightful and full of commendations. Apparently, he was a well-kept secret to his colleagues. At the close of the week when all of the reflections were viewed and discussed by the faculty, Mr. Greene became quite a celebrity. It was amazing to see not just the pride that bloomed from a non-contributor but also the igniting of a spark that within the next 18 months developed into a raging inferno.
Faculty members begin to stop Mr. Greene in the hall or lounge to discuss what they should or should not do in class. He was asked by some teachers to observe them and make suggestions. He even volunteered to co-lead an instructional strategy seminar at the system education conference. It was obvious that he was greatly impacted by feeling valued and respected by his colleagues. During the second term, I asked him if he’d take a part-time instructional coach position, and he gladly accepted. That was just the beginning. Later, he chaired or co-chaired the school improvement and school inspection committees and became a regular contributor in nearly every campus initiative.
Though I orchestrated the assignment out of necessity for growth for the entire faculty, Mr. Greene was secretly my project target. The success of my project was quite simply because he felt valued and respected. I saw the same result to lesser effects on others that year. I was overjoyed to see the transformation. Simply put, I isolated Mr. Greene’s strong suit and drew attention to it. Mr. Greene had been a diamond covered in dirt. We just washed off all the dirt and what a prize showed through. The impact on Mr. Greene and the organization was amazing.
Inspire through Empowerment. Effective leaders build confidence and inspire a desire to make a personal contribution to the common goal, ultimately impacting organizational success. After all, the ability to inspire others defines true leadership; however, inspiration is difficult, if not impossible, unless those who are led feel empowered, competent, and valued. Leaders who overlook the significance of empowerment will struggle. Sure, they may lead a qualified team, but leadership that develops leadership goes further, as it increases organization and individual productivity and potential.
Empowerment works to develop potential and facilitates the growth of a collaborative network of professionals, each contributing by their unique skill set as it blossoms. Empowerment provides an avenue for individuals to develop confidence, take chances, and feel valued. Successful leaders embrace the opportunity to build collective potential by building individual confidence. They build success within the organization by inspiring individuals to personal and professional growth. An individual who is competent and will take risks and make mistakes, but in doing so will increase the strength of his skill set.
Without empowerment, leaders simply convey direction. Leadership without empowerment is akin to simple management in which individuals work within the bounds of a prescriptive arrangement and complete assigned tasks. In this arrangement, individuals are responsible for output, not input. The ability to inspire through empowerment people propels individual and organizations to great heights. By empowering employees, leaders develop contributors, take advantage of a diversity of skill sets, and develop ways of thinking and problem solving—thus, strengthening the organization.
Empowerment is achieved through ACT.
- Accept that they may make mistakes
- Convey trust
- Target the known skill set of your employees
Allowing employees to make mistakes without fear of termination or terminal condemnation provides them with a freedom to fail. In theory, failure over time will diminish as skill sets and experience increase. If employees know that they have the leader’s trust to freely make decisions, undertake initiatives, problem solve, and direct activities within their purview, they will do so and will grow professionally. This builds confidence, builds the individual skill sets, and creates a working environment that can function in the periodic absence of the organizational leader. Keep in mind that targeting employees who have potential and a skill set that matches their assignment is vital in achieving the intended outcomes of empowerment.
Lead by example and radiate integrity. Exhibiting a high level of integrity garners respect from others. Leading without the respect of others is like going to battle without a plan. Employees constantly critique the integrity of their leader. You can bet they are watching to see consistency in dealing with employees and honesty in all actions—and casting a critical eye for favoritism or other deviation from organizational policy. They are watching to see if organizational policies apply to all, even the leader. They pick up on even small dents in the honor of the leader. Employees watch actions, interactions, and reactions of the leader.
Leaders have many responsibilities, but among the most important is establishing and maintaining a mutual trust and respect with those he or she leads. Employees who respect the leader will be far more likely to take direction and embrace the leader’s vision. Displaying only behaviors that are aligned with the highest level of integrity, and acting, interacting, and reacting in a professional and honorable manner will allow the leader to set the groundwork for effective leadership.
Loss of or lack of integrity destroys respect for the leader. Employees may show respect, but showing respect does little for building the organization. Leaders must strive to BE respected if they are to be effective leaders. Possessing a high level of integrity is the only way to ensure respect. If the leader operates in such a manner as to treat all employees fairly and by the organizational policies, an atmosphere of predictability is created. Employees find comfort in predictability.
The survival and potential productivity of an organization rests heavily on effective leadership. Possessing a clear understanding of the components of effective leadership can enable a leader to develop leaders within the organization and increase organizational productivity. The development of an effective leadership style takes time, experience, and dedication to incorporating these three vital leadership components into a leader’s skill set. Without even one of these vital components, a leader cannot achieve the coveted status of a truly effective leader.
Author Note: Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Katherine Bradley, Ph.D., 950 E. Main Street, Suite 607, Cartersville, GA 30120.
Dr. Katherine Bradley earned a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Mercer University in 2009. Dr. Bradley’s experience includes 30 years in the education arena, working in private, public, parochial, single-gender, coeducational, domestic, and international environments. She has served in school leadership positions for 10 years and is currently serving as an educational consultant and co-founder of Leadership Leaders LLC, a leadership consulting firm in Georgia.
Effective leadership necessary to drive an organization to success is a hot topic in the business world today. What is effective leadership? Is leadership an intrinsic quality or learned behavior? What are the essential components of effective leadership? These questions and a variety of leadership theories have fueled a library of books on leadeDr. Katherine Bradley, Ph.D. Articles
Information-sharing meetings, also known as staff meetings, are one of the most common meetings held by organizations, and for good reason; communication is the lifeblood of any organization. When everyone within an organization knows the same key information, then there will be alignment and synchronization between different members of the organization (Davis 2001). Meetings can be a tool used to codify strategic objectives, posturing teams for organizational effectiveness. Meetings are held by managers at various levels of an organization to disseminate pertinent information to subordinates or lower-level managers. Staff meetings are a great venue for discussing organizational changes, collecting updates on complex projects and communicating organizational expectations with employees.
In many cases, new managers are unaware of when meetings are appropriate. Some never hold meetings and just communicate electronically, whereas others hold multiple meetings per day or per week. Holding ineffective meetings cultivates a disdain for meetings and stagnates productivity. Ineffective meetings can cripple operations and organizational effectiveness, leading to potential profit losses, eclipses in project timelines and poor organizational morale. Below are keys managers can utilize to drive staff-meeting success.
Key #1 - Know if a meeting is required: If you get a reputation for conducting useless meetings, the busiest and best people won’t show up (Booher, 2012). Managers should establish open-door policies and promote an environment where communication is free and unhindered. Managers shouldn’t use meetings as the only source of communication with team members. A manager who holds meetings to communicate information that’s not applicable to the team displays a lack of concern for others’ time, creating a negative perception of meetings. This eventually leads to lack of participation, absenteeism or subordinates wanting to provide written inputs to the meeting instead of attending. Hold a meeting when collective feedback is warranted.
Key #2 - Create an agenda: Organization is the cornerstone of meetings. Agendas are a key ingredient to the recipe of successful meetings. There may be criticism that an agenda will make the meeting too formal and that participants may not have the opportunity to freely express their thoughts but that’s not true if the meeting is facilitated effectively. An agenda is an outline that helps the facilitator to keep the meeting focused and on target. When a meeting is focused and targeted, it facilitates problem solving and information dissemination. Always make a list of agenda items according to their importance (Parker 2006). Listing items according to their importance helps the facilitator ensure there is sufficient time to discuss the most important items. It is highly inefficient for subordinates to leave their desk and convene around a table to discuss items of low importance that could have been discussed via electronic correspondence. The agenda should be sent out as far in advance as practical so participants can contribute appropriately.
Key #3 - Ensure that participants know their roles: Often times multiple representatives from a department will attend a meeting and it’s not clear who is speaking on that department’s behalf. This can degrade the quality of the meeting experience as the ambiguity of who officially represents a department can distract from the main points and throw participants off track. There should be a person identified to record outcomes and solutions as meetings are often used to assign tasks and distribute information. The minutes are a solid method of identifying who is accountable for the outcomes and suggestions made during the meeting.
Key #4 - Select an Appropriate Venue: The venue of the meeting is imperative to its efficacy. When a meeting location is conveniently located and properly prepared, it’s easy to overlook the logistical planning and effort applied to it. Ineffective meetings are partly the result of poorly planned logistics, location and preparation. Handling logistics is like a backdrop to a play; few notice unless something goes wrong (Davis 2001). The chair of the meeting should select a place that’s centrally located to all participants and annotate it on the agenda. The room should be equipped with all the appropriate equipment and media i.e. climate-controlled room, projectors adequate lighting, meeting table and comfortable seats. A proper venue postures all involved for success.
Key #5 - Get everyone genuinely involved: Most meetings are considered boring which drives low participation and effectiveness. To make meetings productive, the participants should be engaged and the team leader or facilitator should bring everyone into the discussion. The facilitator can accomplish this by empowering members of the team and earnestly soliciting their inputs. Develop a thought of the day to open the meeting and rotate that responsibility among team members. This increases engagement, provides members with a stake in the meeting and makes the meeting fun.
Key #6 - Chair with balance: An effective chair will demonstrate the ability to articulate the principles of fairness, equality and common sense in a clear and compelling manner (Mina 2000). Set clear ground rules for participation at the inception. Meetings can be derailed when participants talk out of turn and endlessly debate.
In today’s fast paced business world, it’s become increasingly challenging to work and communicate across organizational structures and operational demands. Managers must be highly skilled practitioners of time management, by ensuring they facilitate meetings that are highly productive and not detested by team members. These six steps can help managers ensure that the team gets the most out of staff meetings.
Booher, D., & Booher, D. (2012). Tip 1. In Leading effective meetings 72 tips to save time, improve teamwork, and make better decisions.
Davis, J. H. (2001). Planning and leading productive meetings.
Mina, E. (2000). The complete handbook of business meetings.
Information-sharing meetings, also known as staff meetings, are one of the most common meetings held by organizations, and for good reason; communication is the lifeblood of any organization. When everyone within an organization knows the same key information, then there will be alignment and synchronization between different members of the organization (Davis 2001). Meetings can be a tool usedJonathan McRoy, M.S., CM, CLC Articles
Organizations around the world have experienced far-reaching and powerful transformation in the last decade, including ups and downs that present challenges for the modern leader. These include the constant change in information technology, global competition, and the demand for flexibility and speed at the point of need for a sustainable advantage. Regardless of the degree of change that an organization must react to, the ability to think successfully in the future tense requires a common framework within the organization. What does this mean to organizations in the future? It means that the successful 21st century organization must be designed for success at all levels: individual, group, and organization. This article will examine how the components of individual, group, and organization can empower organizations to successfully configure structures, processes, reward systems, and people practices and policies.
It has been estimated that 80% of the jobs available in the USA within 20 years will be based on one’s intellectual capabilities. Therefore, the days of societies turning primarily to CEOs, generals, bishops, and other senior leaders for knowledge will shift across the entire organizational structure. James identifies a number of intellectual competences, certain skills that everyone must have, to know what the future will look like. Not in any specific order, these are the skills you will need: new lens view, strategic foresight, harnessing the power of myths, speed, knowledge of the past to predict the future, and doing more with less
An example of the nature of intelligence in relation to certain skills required in 21st century organizations is seen in the organizational design of Hewlett Packard in France and IBM in London. Both organizations created clubs that compensate you to join, but to maintain your membership you have to keep your skills current and continue producing revenue.
Higher education is a critical indicator of one’s intellectual capabilities. In fact, never before has the role of organizational design depended so profoundly on the acquisition of higher education. From a global viewpoint, in China and Japan over half the undergraduates receive their degrees in engineering and science. That compares to 32% in America. A weak education system equates to weak innovations, solutions, and intellectual capabilities required to create an effective organization capable of achieving the business strategy. In view of the global importance of higher education to organizational design, this educational imbalance stands as a clear message to 21st century American organizations: the ability to obtain and employ intelligence will be the new source of wealth.
Currently, there is a great interest in the study of organizational teams. This attention is in response to the competitive challenges and organizational needs of a flexible and adaptable organizational design for today, tomorrow, and the future. Groups, not individuals, are the ideal building blocks around which 21st century organizations should strategize. According to Jenewein and Morhart, there are three principles for properly shaping organizational design around groups: (1) personnel management: finding the right team members (2) leadership: putting the team first (3) team culture: courage to do the unconventional.
American society was built on the value of individual achievement. Today, for example, we have generation X that has been raised in an environment of individual achievement with such things as most valuable player in sports, competitive video gaming, television game show winners, and other ways of recognizing individual achievement. People do not relish channeling their individual identity to that of the group.
However, in the context of 21st century organizations’ desire for a team-oriented organizational design, collaboration is valued over competition. Organizations welcome a smooth process in a team setting. For example, when Boeing’s organizational design was at a crossroads, management decided that they would focus on transforming to a team-based organization. These changes included the creation of self-managing work teams based on their function and not their individual titles. As a result, the Boeing 717 project was a major success, and a new team-based culture was established.
The ability of an organization to see the entire landscape for a strategic advantage is the principle of a good organizational design. From this strategic viewpoint, the organization recognizes important patterns in its design for success. The span of organizational design has evolved, but no other design activity is more important to 21st century organizations than the element of continuous flexibility.
Flexibility is the organization’s ability to react to the constantly changing business world. One approach that Snull used to explain the art and science of applying flexibility in a constantly changing business world emerged directly out of the context of structure. He suggests that as organizations achieve success, their winning structure becomes embedded into the process, and the only way to stay clear of ad hoc changes is a flexible design. This is achieved by being leaner, closer to the action, staying focused, allowing equality of power, and holding a portfolio of options for an uncertain future. For instance, when Chevron issued a “best practices resource map” to their employees detailing innovations and contact information for the responsible people, new groups developed sparking learning, innovation, and flexibility. The key to a sustainable advantage in 21st century organizations is to include flexibility, but not to the extent that the design is not stable.
Certainly there are differences among individuals, groups, and organizations. Placed in similar situations, each will act differently. However, there are certain fundamental consistencies that are applicable to 21st century organizations. These fundamental consistencies (individuals, groups, and organizations) are extremely important to the organizational design because they generate predictability. The ideal situation is a balanced methodology between individuals, groups, and organizations within the organizational design. Organizations that do not continually develop their skills with flexibility will be threatened by agile competition willing to do so with no hesitation. The role of organizational design in the 21st century is being transformed, and everyone must be prepared to support it.
Englehardt, Charles, and Peter Simmons. “Organizational Flexibility for a Changing World.” Leadership & Organization Development Journal 23, no. 3 (2002): 113-21.
Galbraith, Jay, Diane Downey, and Amy Kates. Designing Dynamic Organizations. New York, NY: American Management Association, 2002.
Handy, Charles. The Age of Paradox. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1995.
James, Jennifer. “Thinking in the Future Tense.” Industrial and Commercial Training 30, no. 7 (1996): 28-32.
Jenewein, Wolfgang, and Felicitas Morhart. “Navigating Toward Team Success.” Team Performance Management 14, no. 1/2 (2008): 102-8.
Lewis, Pamela, Stephen Goodman, and Patricia Fandt. Management: Challenges for Tomorrow's Leaders. 4th ed. Mason, OH: Thomson South-Western, 2004.
Pina, Mary, Ana Martinez, and Luis Martinez. “Teams in Organizations: A Review on Team Effectiveness.” Team Performance Management 14, no. 1/2 (2008): 7-21.
Robbins, Stephen. Organizational Behavior. 10th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003.
Sirias, Danilo, H.B. Karp, and Timothy Brotherton. “Comparing the Levels of Individualism/Collectivism between Baby Boomers and Generation X: Implications for Teamwork.” Management Research News 30, no. 10 (2007): 749-61.
Yankelovich, Daniel. “Ferment and Change: Higher Education in 2015.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 52, no. 14 (2005).
 Pamela Lewis, Stephen Goodman, and Patricia Fandt, Management: Challenges for Tomorrow's Leaders, 4th ed. (Mason, OH: Thomson South-Western, 2004), 3.
 Jay Galbraith, Diane Downey, and Amy Kates, Designing Dynamic Organizations (New York, NY: American Management Association, 2002), 2.
 Jennifer James, “Thinking in the Future Tense,” Industrial and Commercial Training 28, no. 7 (1996): 29.
 Ibid., 30.
 Charles Handy, The Age of Paradox (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1995), 219.
 Daniel Yankelovich, “Ferment and Change: Higher Education in 2015,” The Chronicle of Higher Education 52, no. 14 (2005).
 Handy, The Age of Paradox, 18-19.
 Mary Pina, Ana Martinez, and Luis Martinez, “Teams in Organizations: A Review on Team Effectiveness,” Team Performance Management 14, no. 1/2 (2008): 7.
 Wolfgang Jenewein and Felicitas Morhart, “Navigating Toward Team Success,” Team Performance Management 14, no. 1/2 (2008): 103.
 Danilo Sirias, H.B. Karp, and Timothy Brotherton, “Comparing the Levels of Individualism/Collectivism between Baby Boomers and Generation X: Implications for Teamwork,” Management Research News 30, no. 10 (2007): 750.
 Ibid., 753.
 Stephen Robbins, Organizational Behavior, 10th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003), 261.
 Galbraith, Downey, and Kates, Designing Dynamic Organizations, 2.
 Charles Englehardt and Peter Simmons, “Organizational Flexibility for a Changing World,” Leadership & Organization Development Journal 23, no. 3 (2002): 115.
 Ibid., 119.
*Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Introduction Organizations around the world have experienced far-reaching and powerful transformation in the last decade, including ups and downs that present challenges for the modern leader. These include the constant change in information technology, global competition, and the demand for flexibility and speed at the point of need for a sustainable aWilliam McClain Articles
“To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.” – Doug Conant
The wave of globalization in various aspects of business has created a need for global leaders with the ability to create agile, change-ready environments in the business world. Strategic leaders are to be competent and knowledgeable to identify avenues of change that will foster a competitive advantage in their spheres of influence. Strategic leaders can influence decisions that affect the growth or demise of companies, organizations, or nations. One effective trend is influencing and changing organizational culture in global business environments.
As organizations move from domestic environments to global environments, new, crucial skills emerge in the marketplace. The skill of changing toxic organizational culture places a demand on global leaders to create and maintain organizations effectively for business success. Influencing, blueprinting, and implementing strategies that change an organization’s toxic culture is an important skill set for global leaders to possess, in order to successfully manage the daily activities of global organizations.
Organizational Culture Defined
“The thing I have learned at IBM is that culture is everything.” – Louis Gerstner
According to Smircich (1983), organizational culture is the set of meaning that give an organization its own ethos, or distinctive character, which is expressed in patterns of belief, activity, language and other symbolic forms through which organization members both create and sustain their view of the world and image of themselves in the world.  In addition, culture is shaped by values and beliefs that affect the way people work together organizationally. In today’s organizations, toxic culture can undermine the movement of an entire organization. The need to create a blueprint for change can be a complex undertaking. As Schein (2010) points out, when leaders try to change the behavior of followers, resistance to change can surface.  In addition, departments can be involved in turf wars and communication problems/misunderstanding can pollute the organization.
The culture and values of an organization is a life driving force that influences the way organizations function along with how the people in the organization behave. Organizational culture can be likened to the bloodstream. When the bloodstream is cleansed, oxygen is resident. On the other hand, a dirty bloodstream symbolizes an abundance of waste or carbon dioxide. The same holds true for organizational culture. An organizational culture can either be fluid with movement that produces success and productivity or have a toxicity level that promotes dysfunction in the organization. Transforming a toxic organizational culture requires leaders to assess and evaluate the toxicity of the culture that is already in existence.
In assessing and evaluating the toxicity of an organization’s culture, leaders must be change agents that shift their cultural lenses to observe, discern, detect, and identify ways in which an organization’s culture can be aligned and changed. In observing and discerning the tangible and intangible cultural elements imbedded in toxic cultures, leaders can implement a blueprint with strategies for change needed to enhance organizational performance.
The Three Levels of Culture
“If you have been trying to make changes in how your organization works, you need to find out how the existing culture aids or hinders you.” – Edgar Schein
Toxic organizational culture must be analyzed at several different levels. Schein (2010) explains that the levels range from the very tangible overt manifestations that can be seen and felt to the deeply embedded, unconscious, basic assumptions that define the very essence of culture . Understanding the dimensions of culture is essential for leaders to lead the changing of toxic culture. In addition, when blueprinting change strategies for toxic cultures, leaders must entertain the following questions to build strategy:
- How does the organization view its values in light of the toxicity of the culture?
- What are areas of importance within the organization culturally?
- What is the guiding force(s) of the toxicity?
Leaders can obtain answers to those questions by gauging the three levels of culture. Much like a flower garden, there are times to evaluate and prune the root systems of various plants to encourage beautiful plants and flowers. That said, it is important to note that a toxic culture needs pruning of their values to bring cohesion. Similarly, the pruning of a toxic culture will improve leadership expectations and increase organizational synergy and growth. Hultman and Gellerman (2002) assert that values must be largely shared in order for an organization to forge a direction leading to success.  The three major dimensions of cultural analysis are:
- Espoused Beliefs
- Basic Underlying Assumptions
Artifacts are known as the surface level of an organization’s culture because they are easily recognizable. They are visible organizational structures and processes such as the visible products, architecture, language, technology, style, emotional displays, published values, and rituals and ceremonies.  This translates into what employees wear to work, how furniture and offices are arranged, and how employees work and treat one another.
Espoused beliefs are the values, ideals, goals, strategies and philosophies that impact the deeper levels of organizational culture. An example of this would be an organization that is structured upon the foundational values of integrity, trust, commitment, and dedication to be corporately responsible for the environment. 
Basic Underlying Assumptions
Schein (2010) notes that basic underlying assumptions are the unconscious, taken-for-granted beliefs, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings that influence how cultural situations are handled.  An example of this would be the rules and policies that are developed within the organizational culture.
These cultural levels all build upon each other as drivers of success in an organization. Understanding the guiding forces of these three cultural levels enables leaders to assess the climate of the organization, as well as the macro and micro cultures operating within the organization. When leaders embark on building their organizational blueprints, understanding all cultural dynamics of their organization enables them to recognize the difference between positive and toxic culture. How well a leader can discern either culture will help them get rid of toxicity to build a healthier culture and organization. Leaders should consider these questions when assessing the toxicity of their organizational cultures:
- What changes can be made to shift the organization back on track to achieve its vision?
- What changes can be made organizationally to achieve higher output of productivity and morale?
- How can I shift the culture to create a synergistic culture that fosters change in all areas of the organization?
Toxic Culture – Signs and Symptoms to Consider
“Change almost never fails because it’s too early. It almost always fails because it’s too late.” – Seth Godin
A toxic culture can be lethal to an organization, its employees, and its overall success in the global marketplace. When toxic organizational culture trumps positive organizational culture, leaders should perform an intervention to detox their organizations to stop the downward spiraling effects on culture and values. Toxic culture is an organizational ‘virus’ that can spread throughout the organization, undermining its reputation and success. Leaders must function as organizational physicians to detect the signs and symptoms of viruses that are toxic to organizational atmospheres. Signs and symptoms of disruptive toxic behaviors take the form of impropriety, interpersonal mistreatment, and disruptive behavior.  Other signs and symptoms are gossip, rumors, cliquish behavior, double standards for leadership, and organizational inconsistencies.
These toxic behaviors can also spread as a virus in the form of yelling or raising of one’s voice, abusive language, berating in front of peers, condescension, insults, passive hostility, shaming, turf wars, silos, and team sabotage.  These toxic viruses stunt growth and organizational momentum toward organizational goals.
“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”– Peter Drucker
As the toxic viruses move to paralyze the organizational culture, behavior of toxic employees and other leaders can begin to affect the organization. It is paramount for organizational change to be addressed before cultural viruses and diseases become even more cancerous to the organization. Signs and symptoms of toxic employees and leaders can affect culture by damaging morale, diverting people’s energy from productive work, damaging cooperation and knowledge sharing, impairing hiring and retention of the best people, and making poor business decisions. 
In addition, the behavior of toxic employees and leaders can be destructive to a company’s social capital, trust, and relationships within an organization that enable people to work together effectively.  Leaders must be cognizant of these changes that decrease organization vulnerability that can flatline the organization. When these behaviors go unchecked, these organization issues erode the culture.
Toxic cultures in organizations create dissonance that calls for leaders to step in with strategies of change as prescriptions to eradicate the viruses for positive organizational culture. Leaders must be well-versed in understanding cultural nuances in their organizations that create viruses that inherently pull down the culture of organizations. Leaders, operating as defibrillators, can give a jolt to the culture of their organizations, sustaining their life for cultural changes that will produce high performance in the global marketplace.
It’s in Your Court – Changing Toxic Organizational Culture into a Positive Culture
“Companies often underestimate the role that managers and staff play in transformation efforts. By communicating with them too late or inconsistently, senior executives end up alienating the people who are most affected by the changes.”
– Harold Sirkin, Perry Keenan, and Alan Jackson
In today’s organizations, there is a need for leaders that lead and collaborate with others to change toxic cultures into positive organizational culture. Bawany (2014) notes that the heart of the leadership challenge for today’s leaders is learning how to lead in cultural situations of toxicity, volatility and uncertainty in globalized environments.  Leadership is an art and a science that continually evolves, changes form, and requires creativity.
Leadership is all about leaders possessing the ability to culturally shift organizations, while impacting and influencing others to engage them towards achieving results for cultural change and organizational success.  Once cultural toxicity is understood and detected by leaders, it is then time for leaders to create cultural changes that create a new beginning organizationally. Edward Lawler (2006) notes that leaders should not think of change as aberration anymore, but rather think of change as a dynamic stability where leaders can anticipate and be ready for change.  That said, leaders as change agents, must in position to plan, blueprint, and implement change strategies to reduce toxicity levels for implementation of positive culture.
For starters, one key to help dissipate toxicity in cultures is for leaders to communicate their plans of change to their employees. This will reduce alienation and encourage engagement and buy-in from employees as leaders work to shift the toxicity levels to normal levels for positive organizational culture. Employees need to see clear advantages for both the company and themselves and how their contributions are a valued part of the overall initiative.  At the same time, leaders must model the desired cultural beliefs, practices, customs, and behaviors that support the culture change for employees to follow.
Leaders must be courageous to make change and innovation of culture possible. Courage is vital to challenge conventional thinking and envision new possibilities.  When leaders act courageous, it creates courageousness in their followers. Toxicity is exchanged with a more positive cultural flow when leaders lead courageously. In a positive organizational culture, courageous leaders foster an environment where people can collaborate in the decision-making process to strategically shift culture of the organization as it becomes more nimble, entrepreneurial, and aligned with positive values. 
Another key for leaders to culturally shift their organizations’ culture from toxicity to positivity is to inspire and unite their followers. Strategic leaders have a great responsibility to create and maintain an organizational culture that creates a spirit of community. According to Kouzes & Posner (2012), inspiring leaders understand that promoting a culture of community fuels the sense of unity essential for retaining and motivating today’s workforce.  The process of creating community helps leaders to ensure that their followers feel that they belong to something greater than themselves, while working together toward a common cause.  In addition to building strong community to foster a desired culture, toxicity dissipates because leaders develop collaborative goals and cooperative relationship with their followers.  The leader/follower relationship creates an atmosphere of collaboration, where everyone involved wins.
As cultural change is implemented, challenges can arise that act as barriers to the cultural shift. To achieve a successful cultural shift, along with organizational success, challenge is the opportunity for greatness, innovation, and movement that turns a toxic culture into a positive culture for growth.  Russell (2014) explains that leaders challenge processes in organizations by generating new ideas to fuel growth.  Strategic leaders can increase innovation, effectiveness, and efficiency for new cultural ideas by creating a climate that embraces challenges.
It takes time for change to implemented, as well as encountering mistakes when implementing change. Leaders that are not moved by challenges teach their followers to be resilient as change is implemented from one culture to another.
Lastly, to ward against future toxicity, an area of opportunity for leaders is utilizing strategic foresight to forecast futuristic cultural moves. Leaders should be strategic foresight thought leaders that scan horizons for future cultural moves that can either be positive or negative to organizational culture. Leaders that spot futuristic strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats to future cultural moves can be leveraged and accessed to build relevant future cultural moves that can be implementation for growth.
Today’s organizations need to be agile, change-ready environments in the global economy. Healthy organizational cultures are essential to cultivate these type of organizations. In order for leaders to plan, blueprint, and implement successful cultural shifts, they must understand the dynamics of culture. When leaders seek to shift toxic cultures, they must understand the cultural levels of artifacts, espoused beliefs, and shared assumptions to successfully build positive organizational cultures. Once cultural dynamics are understood, leaders can recognize and gauge the signs and symptoms of toxic culture. It is critical for leaders to support cultural change by leading by example to model cultural values in their organizations. Leaders can work diligently and effectively to shift organizational cultures. It is then that leaders can provide solutions for positive cultures that produce organizational culture that breed success.
About the Author
Nikki Walker is a thought leader, strategist, and organizational change agent. She earned a BA in Business/Accounting from Virginia Wesleyan and an MBA from Strayer University. She provides coaching, consulting, and instruction to businesses and ministries in areas of leadership and organizational development. In addition, she is currently pursuing a doctorate in Strategic Leadership at Regent University.
*Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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“To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.” – Doug Conant The wave of globalization in various aspects of business has created a need for global leaders with the ability to create agile, change-ready environments in the business world. Strategic leaders are to be competent and knowledgNikki Walker Articles
"It's not just work, it's an Adventure! There are 250,000 U.S. service members stationed overseas. What did the military do to assist them as they entered a foreign land and what can corporate America learn from it?"
Going Global? With over 70 percent of the world’s purchasing power outside of the United States, more and more U.S. companies are jumping on the bandwagon.The reality of opening or moving a business to another country is that it can be a daunting task.
Language barriers, cultural nuances, government regulations, politics and more all contribute to the challenge of going global. Some American companies who overseas efforts have gone down in flames because they neglected some of these issues include Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and DaimlerChrysler.Although they recovered, it was not without frustration, missed opportunities, and billions in sales.How can your organization avoid some of these pitfalls? A good place to start is by examining how you handle your most valuable assets when going global - your people.
The U.S. military began setting up permanent bases in foreign countries in 1903 when the first overseas base was established at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. By 2010, there were 662 U.S. military bases in 38 foreign countries. These bases range in size from over 50,000 Americans to less than ten. Countless service members and their families have made the move to a new country and many lessons were learned throughout the decades. This article will examine some of those “lessons learned” to see if there are pitfalls or best practices U.S. businesses desiring to make the move overseas can learn from.
Who Should Go?
Living and working in a foreign country can be an exciting prospect for anyone. However, through experience, the military has discovered even if someone wants to take an overseas assignment not everyone is cut out for it. As a preventive measure, the Navy, like the other services, has developed a detailed screening process which service members and their families must complete prior to heading out for that new adventure. First the service member must be qualified to perform the work. Beyond that, before an overseas assignment is finalized, the service member is screened for an acceptable level of physical fitness, performance, discipline issues, financial stability, individual and family characteristics, and drug and alcohol issues. If someone is taking their family, those family members must also be considered. Family members are screened to ensure no special medical, dental, community or educational requirements exist which may not be available at the duty station and could place undue stress on a service member and their family. The military has found when mismatches like these occur there can be significant costs to both the organization and the family. Consequences include increased absences from work, poor quality of life, unplanned expenditures, and service members and their families being sent home before the end of their tour.
Making a Smooth Move
Once screening is passed, it is time to get ready for the actual move. Moving to a foreign country can be a daunting experience for anyone but especially if a company is just establishing a presence there. Are visas required, how do personal belongings/furnishings get there, what parts of the city are not safe to live in, are there English speaking schools, what is the cost of living, is temporary housing available and where, what medical facilities are available – the answers to these questions and more should be provided to any employees before they leave. In this regard, the U.S. Navy tries to ensure success for service members and families moving overseas is by providing an Overseas Transfer Workshops for family members 12 years old and above. During the workshop information is provided on moving household goods and cars, financial planning, travel arrangements, legal documents which should be completed or hand carried vice shipped, pet quarantine requirements, country information, passports, and more. How-to guides and checklists are provided to facilitate the many details which must be handled for the move. Personal security and culture shock are also discussed during the workshop. Welcome aboard packages are provided to service members and families which include information about the new country such as places to visit, monetary exchanges, shopping, transportation options, schools, important phone numbers, and where to find help if needed.
Straight from the Source
Since moving to a new country and culture can be overwhelming, the U.S. military has developed sponsor programs which allow service members to hear the “real deal” from someone who is already there. If there is an established presence in a country, service members are assigned a sponsor to help them before and upon their arrival at the duty station. Sponsors contact the service member and guide them through the move process, and help orientate them to the new location and culture. Additionally, large foreign duty stations have Family Service Centers to assist service members and their families. Depending on their size, they can provide assistance in job searches for a spouse and information on churches and religious services, childcare, continued education, afterschool care, volunteer opportunities, social activities, medical and dental facilities, and more. Some duty stations with families also provide sponsor programs for children from seven to eighteen who are matched by age, gender, hobbies, etc. This has been found helpful in reducing anxiety for children moving to a new country and culture.
Not understanding the culture of a country different from the United States almost guarantees failure. The military learned this during the Vietnam War when the U.S. tried fighting a conventional war. The communist insurgents fought the only way they knew how using guerilla warfare. As the Americans approached, they withdrew and waited for them to pass by. This cultural misunderstanding contributed to lengthening an already costly war in money and lives. On a more tactical level, after the U.S. Army went into the Middle East, they discovered the OK sign was considered an obscenity to Afghans and the thumbs-up sign was offensive to Egyptians. Obviously, these are some lessons corporate America would rather learn from others rather than discover personally!
Like the other services, today the U.S. Army takes culture issues seriously. The Army wants their soldiers to possess a cross-cultural competency to include cultural learning and cultural agility. Experts have reported cultural learning enables people to quickly gain an understanding of the socio-cultural context of operations and cultural agility provides the ability to respond effectively in situations of cultural diversity. The Army Learning Concept for 2015 calls for a blended approach of social and contextual learning with guided traditional learning to develop cross-cultural competencies through continuous learning over a soldier’s career. Currently, before a soldier deploys to a specific area they are provided what has been called “cultural training on steroids” which includes anthropology, language, heritage, history, and cultural no-nos. The goal is for the soldiers to be able to “form relationships, build trust, communicate, and collaborate with people of greatly different backgrounds.”
As the military has learned, cross-cultural training and education can be invaluable to corporate personnel sent overseas to work and yet many organizations fail to provide it. Sometimes companies are unaware of available resources or feel it is not necessary especially when dealing with another Western culture or English speaking country. Other times, employees feel they don’t need it or with all the pressures of moving overseas, this training falls off their plate. The U.S. State Department has long recognized the importance of cross-cultural training and encourages corporations going overseas to take advantage of it by listing reputable sources of non-governmental training on their website. Additionally, the State Department website has detailed information on embassies, country profiles, political issues, security issues, economics, transnational issues, and more. Other helpful websites available on cultural issues include the Central Intelligence Agency’s World FactBook and the Hofstede Centre’s National Culture Dimensions. All information on these websites can be sorted by country and in the case of the Hofstede website two countries cultural dimensions can be compared and contrasted.
How do you say…?
Although English is considered the universal language of business, there are times when not speaking a language can become a definite disadvantage. Within the military, commanders leading troops overseas have suggested a soldier’s ability to speak the local language is just as important as his skills with a rifle. Learning a new culture becomes much easier when the local language is understood. However, because learning a new language such as Pasto or Dari is difficult and there are few native speakers in the military, commanders have experienced much frustration. To combat this, the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) offers military members over two dozen languages in a resident program and through immersion programs. Included in the language training are cultural considerations for the each country. Similar to the CIA and Hofstede websites, DLIFLC provides numerous language and cultural resources on their website which can be sorted by country and do not require any special access. Included are helpful briefings, tutorials, pamphlets, and “cheat sheets” on language survival kits, language pronunciation, cultural orientations, myths and folklores, country perspectives, and more. 
When expanding into other nations, corporate leaders should plan what language skills are needed at each level in order to communicate effectively with the local workforce. Given the time it takes to learn a new language or find native speakers, these requirements need to be identified early. Fortunately today there are many resources, such as Rosetta Stone, in addition to those already highlighted to help businesses going overseas.
Lessons Learned from the World’s Mightiest Military
Through the decades, the U.S. military has uncovered several keys lessons which today’s leaders can use to their advantage when going global:
- The costs of sending the wrong person or family member overseas can be enormous both to the organization and the people involved. In order to increase the chances of success, employees and, to some extent, their family members should go through a review or screening process to ensure there are no existing circumstances which could prove problematic in a foreign setting.
- The actual process of moving overseas is complicated in the best circumstances. Providing employees with detailed “how-to” information or guides on getting passports or visas, making travel arrangements, moving household goods, finding lodging and transportation, and such will lessen delays, frustrations, and unnecessary costs. Providing this information through workshops or seminars will allow questions to be answered on the spot and allow for sharing other helpful tips.
- Establishing a sponsor program where employees are matched with another employee already in the foreign country can facilitate a smoother transition. Having a sponsor to bounce questions off can help employees avoid false starts and ease apprehensions.
- Avoiding culture shock is another key to a smooth transition. This is done by preparing employees and their families for the cultural differences they will encounter instead of them having to learn it the hard way. Providing employees with formal cultural training and awareness on the country they are heading to can facilitate assimilation and help avoid awkward situations.
- Addressing language issues early on can provide employees with an advantage upon arrival and prevent unnecessary misunderstandings. Although most people cannot quickly learn a new language, providing them with key phrases and learning resources will make the transition easier.
- Companies and corporations should also take advantage of the wealth of information on almost every country in the world which is available on the internet via the websites identified within this article and elsewhere.
Going global can be an exciting time for a company or corporation, but it can also be fraught with difficulties and pitfalls. The U.S. Armed Forces has over 100 years of experience in sending people into foreign lands and establishing a presence there. Through the years, the military has noted their mistakes and what things facilitated a smooth move overseas for service members. Those things which worked were formalized into programs and policies which now guide overseas transfers. Screening service members and their families and providing them with information on what they need to accomplish before they go, how to get there, and what they will find there saves time, money, and frustrations for both the service member and the organization. Each company or corporation which enters the global market will have issues to address which are specific to their industry. However, when moving Americans overseas, many of the issues are universal to any organization. Corporate leaders going global would do well to look to the military to avoid some of the landmines discussed herein. After all, this is not the first time the military has stepped on landmines, it would be a shame if no one learned from their sacrifice!
Preparing the Battlefield!
These resources provide information on culture, language tips, myths and folklore, politics, economics, security concerns, country perspectives, and more.
About the Author
Captain Jeanne McDonnell (ret.) served on active duty for over 25 years. Assignments included command of Naval Support Activity Norfolk and Transient Personnel Unit Norfolk, and service on the Joint Staff, the Navy Staff, Commander Surface Warfare Atlantic Staff, and Joint Forces Staff College. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Strategic Leadership at Regent University.
*Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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Avoiding Landmines: What Corporate America Can Learn From the Military When Taking Their Most Valuable Assets Overseas
"It's not just work, it's an Adventure! There are 250,000 U.S. service members stationed overseas. What did the military do to assist them as they entered a foreign land and what can corporate America learn from it?" Going Global? With over 70 percent of the world’s purchasing power outside of the United States, more and more U.S. companies areJeanne M. McDonnell Articles
A bit of splashing would surely make drowning easier to identify, but sadly, drowning tends to be a silent assassin. As retired Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician Mario Vittone (2013) shares, "Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don't look like they're drowning." The same could be said for massive organizations who collapse like an avalanche, hiding their danger until one additional stress unleashes destruction. But, such collapses also tend to be masked - and they tend to be masked in the same way that drowning conceals itself. This would seem contrary to intuitive assumptions about staving off death. Vittone and Pia (2006) voice our expectation:
Most people assume that a drowning person will splash, yell, and wave for help; and why wouldn’t they? That’s what we see on television. Without training, we are conditioned first to think of drowning as a violent struggle that is noisy and physical. It is not.
Instead, the expert survivalists share what generally takes place. Instinctive Drowning Response represents a person's attempts to avoid the actual or perceived suffocation in the water. The suffocation in water triggers a constellation of autonomic nervous system responses that result in external, unlearned, instinctive drowning movements that are easily recognizable by trained rescue crews.
The struggle is not one of rational thinking about what is the most thoughtful means of communicating the need for help; rather, the body’s automatic survival mechanisms kick in, often inhibiting secondary response systems, like speech or flagging which unnecessarily utilize energy and oxygen for communicating need or concerns.
Organizations, too, have analogous systems of automatic response to life-threatening circumstances. And, those responses, like cost-cutting efficiency measures can be effective in the extremely short-term to keep the books balanced and creditors appeased. But, drowning is often the result of an incapability to peacefully and continually engage the present. This is why the one drowning strains to stay afloat with minimal exaggeration while sucking in watery breaths. Eventually, however, such measures fail. And, if someone does not save them, then they die.
Aiming for icebergs is a choice
But organizations are not destined to drown. They “go under,” because leaders lack the strategy capable of engaging the present. That is not to say the strategy is poor. It could be an imminently logical and thoughtful approach to achieve organizational goals. But, it could be a strategy that could not foresee the present context, and therefore operates under assumptions no longer tenable. Consider the drowning victim’s automatic response: struggling to remain “above” by pressing down on what lay below works when the objects pressed upon are solid, but when the medium is liquid, the result is a cyclical bouncing which actually works against the victim. So what is an organization to do if even quality strategy development can fail? The answer is to develop a strategic foresight competency.
No one working in your organization can foretell the future. And, you will not be hiring such a prodigy anytime soon. Still, that does not prohibit you from preparing for it better. And, if an unpredictable future can upend your plans and purposes so easily, then any improvement would seemingly be worth pursuing, especially if the improvement were to be a process competency enhancing the organization’s strategy work rather than a time-bound idea or assumption-restricted strategic plan. Essentially, this means strategic plans are only as valuable as the assumptions they are based on are true. Assumptions, which must be accurately predictive or flexible enough to qualify the plan, underpin strategy making, and strategic foresight is the competency that aids the organization in confirming, disconfirming, hybridizing, and generating assumptions. It is the work of enriching the strategy making process so that what results is more resilient to environmental changes. Alternatively, it heals strategy of its brittleness. As a result, strategy making is more robust and resultant strategies more adaptive and savvy. To illustrate the process, consider the following reasoning, which is not a prediction, but rather is an example of how foresight work might look in leading strategy formation.
When Facebook died: A marketing mockup
User tracking data seems to point toward Facebook’s loss of users and bloated registries (Canarella, 2014; Marks, 2013). Like population trends, signups occur, but they are less impactful than deactivation – especially for the company’s bottom-line, which is inherently tied up in sheer user population mass to which advertisements, desktop and mobile app, are pushed and from which user data is pulled. Of course, a different strategy could change the impact of user-numbers on that bottom-line (Edwards, 2014). Yet, with the loss of perceived invulnerability, that unbridled optimism for growth prospects, comes the loss of momentum. Surely, the pendulum of biases could lead onlookers to assume that geometric growth is only succeeded by geometric decline, but that would be narrow-minded. Arithmetic growth, a cyclical hybrid, cycles of growth and decline – like booms and busts – could also occur, among other possibilities (Risen, 2014). Assuming rigidly makes the strategic planning simpler, but it makes the strategic plan less flexible – and therefore less useful. In Facebook’s case, to assume the organization is rigidly stuck in a position of imminent and unalterable demise, would be to assume their strategic plan is rigid and could not anticipate for loss, like in the instances of younger-user interest or user disillusionment with the platform’s commercialization.
Supposing, however, that Facebook could be entering long-term decline as a potential future, how could that foresight consideration be leveraged as a strategic tool? Perhaps the marketing department in your organization has a social media presence. Perhaps they utilize Facebook promotion posts and analytic tools to gain understanding of your market segments. If Facebook is in decline, then how useful will that platform be for such marketing activities, for customer analysis, and for cultivating a strong marketing competency long-term? It would seem less useful than when Facebook, as a platform, presented an untouchable tool for social connections and user-information divulgence. In the medium-term, that horizon to which strategic planning looks, might the marketing department, therefore, contemplate shifting reliance upon Facebook to other platforms – as well as reestablishing marketing functions that are less platform reliant? And, in the short-term horizon, the department may respond by budgeting less heavily for Facebook ads placement and Page development. Furthermore, they might consider training in the use of competitive platforms as well as explore opportunities to transition their fans from Facebook to a proprietary website or blog.
The above mockup of the way in which a single, confirming trend could affect a major social platform that is heavily leveraged by many companies’ marketing departments is a sample of how foresight can be strategically applied for organizational enrichment. Simply, this is what strategic foresight does, and why, as a competency, it enables organizations to remain adaptable amid uncertain futures. For the marketing department that uses Facebook as a key social media marketing platform, such foresight could be leveraged to gain the insight that putting all the marketing hopes in the Facebook basket may not be the wisest path forward. Moreover, Facebook’s adaptive planning may be less concerned with ensuring other organizations have access to the greatest number of customers than assumed.
Learning to swim
To reassert our starting point, drowning often occurs without radically successful survival efforts ever emerging. In moments of panic, we tend to hold fast to our assumptions rather than revisit them. Frankly, in the throes of death, all we can do is struggle and hope for rescue, unless, of course, we have prepared for the emergency. Critical emergency training is akin to that strategy work directing how to manage defined contexts. And, strategic foresight, therefore, is the overarching wisdom that emergencies happen, and training is a useful manner of preparing for them. You see, useful strategy work arises from foresight work, from the realistic and humble assumption that contingency thinking is reasonable. Assuming the future your strategy is built for is the future your strategy will undoubtedly face, however, is not.
About the Author:
David M. Stehlik is a passionate strategist and organizational motivator. Alongside private consulting, he is an instructor for the University of Saint Francis’s new online MBA program. He earned a BA in Political Economy and Christian Studies from Hillsdale College and an MBA in International Business, Marketing, and Administration from the University of Saint Francis, and he is currently finishing a doctoral degree in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. His international experience is extensive, including travel through Africa, South America, and Southeastern Europe. Beyond the U.S., he has consulted for leaders in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia as well as for Midwest businesses, youth camps, and various entrepreneurs.
*Image courtesy of Koratmember / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Cannarella, J., & Spechler, J. A. (2014, January 17). Epidemiological modeling of online social network dynamics. In arXiv. Retrieved May 19, 2014, from http://arxiv.org/pdf/1401.4208v1.pdf
Edwards, J. (2014, April 29). This is what the decline of Facebook looks like. In Business Insider. Retrieved May 19, 2014, from http://www.businessinsider.com/decline-of-facebook-user-numbers-2014-4
Marks, G. (2013, August 19). Why Facebook is in decline. In Forbes. Retrieved May 19, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/quickerbettertech/2013/08/19/why-facebook-is-in-decline/
Risen, T. (2014, January 27). Don't predict Facebook's decline yet: Facebook should pursue growth despite overhyped Princeton research. . In USA News & World Report. Retrieved May 19, 2014, from http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/01/27/dont-predict-facebooks-decline-yet
Vittone, M. (2013, June 4). Drowning doesn't look like drowning. In Slate: Snapshots of life at home. Retrieved May 19, 2014, from http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/family/2013/06/rescuing_drowning_children_how_to_know_when_someone_is_in_trouble_in_the.html
Vittone, M., & Pia, F. A. (2006). “It doesn’t look like they’re drowning” - Recognize instinctive drowning response. On Scene, 14. Retrieved May 19, 2014, from http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg5/cg534/On%20Scene/OSFall06.pdf
Silent struggles A bit of splashing would surely make drowning easier to identify, but sadly, drowning tends to be a silent assassin. As retired Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician Mario Vittone (2013) shares, "Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don't look like they're drowning." The same could be said for massive orgDavid Stehlik Articles
Engagement. It’s the new business buzzword. It just sounds good coming off the tip of your tongue. What is it? Well, there are a lot of different interpretations of the definition of engagement, but there is one thing that most everyone agrees with: it’s a problem. While people may be struggling to figure out what the best definition of ‘engaged’ is, more people agree on what an actively disengaged employee is. According to Gallup Poll, an actively disengaged employee is, “unhappy and unproductive at work and liable to spread negativity to coworkers.” (Gallup) According to Gallup Poll results released for 2012, 24% of workers worldwide are actively disengaged. With statistics like that, it’s no wonder executives are scrambling to try and fix the engagement problem.
One common method to identify why employees are disengaged is to take a survey. Gallup Poll and other companies will happily take a company’s money to perform this service. However, I would propose to you that there are several potential flaws with this approach. First, by the time most executives get to the point of paying another company to perform a survey, they already know they have a problem. Second, performing a survey once may identify areas within the company that could be strengthened, but to see if a company is making any progress, the survey must be run over multiple years. Third, are the engagement plans. Once weak areas have been identified, management has to try and fix the problem. So they work with their employees to create engagement plans. This is where I have to take a pause. According to the National Business Research Institute, one of the most common employee complaints is being overworked (NBRII). If one of the causes of employee disengagement is overwork, then how is giving them more work in the form of engagement plans supposed to help fix things? This sure sounds like the catchphrase, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” Next, there is a very tempting trap for managers to fall into, and that is improving scores instead of digging down into the true heart of the difficult issues that are the cause of poor engagement. Let’s face it, educating an employee on how to take the poll to increase their score is a whole lot easier of a way to show that you are making progress on engagement on paper.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that engagement polls are necessarily a bad thing. I will say that I think the expectations of many senior executive leadership are too high when it comes to these surveys. The Gallup Poll has been conducting engagement surveys for over 30 years. Many of the companies that are just now taking their survey for the first time have also been in business for that long or longer. How is the culture of a business, which is shaped and fostered by the executive leadership style over decades, supposed to change in just a couple years? Sure, executives are part of Gallup’s survey, but if they weren’t 100% engaged with their company’s business strategies, then they would have never made it to the positions they are in. The more senior the executive, the higher they tend to score. Scores begin to deteriorate the farther down the management chain you go, until finally you reach the employees, where it appears all of the engagement issues are occurring. The reality is the motivation of the executives giving the survey is not focused on the well-being of the employees. So if executives are engaged, and year after year we continue to see employees disengaged, maybe it’s time to change our focus.
Let’s start by looking at the executives who run the companies with the highest engagement scores. Stephen Cannon is the CEO for Mercedes Benz, who was ranked 94th in Forbes best 100 companies to work for this year. Stephen states, “We’ve been investing in programs to allow our leaders to create great places for our employees to work. Great organizations are all about people.” (Linkedin) In an interview with Paul Amos, CEO of Aflac, he discussed his basic employee principles in the Aflac Way handbook. “Everyone is important. No matter who walks through the door, whether it’s the man in overalls or a straw hat or the man in a $500 suit, everyone is treated equally.” (Faith&Leadership) Aflac is number 58 on Fortune’s top 100 companies to work for this year, and they have been on the list for the last 16 consecutive years. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos and number 38 in this year’s Fortune list states the following: “It actually doesn’t matter what your core values are.” “What matters is that you have them and commit to them. And by committing to them, you’re willing to hire or fire based on them independent of actual job performance.” (Greatplacetowork) Last, Larry Page, CEO of Google and Fortune’s number one business to work for states the following; “My job as a leader is to make sure everybody in the company has great opportunities, and that they feel they’re having a meaningful impact and are contributing to the good of society.” (Fortune)
What’s the common theme from these executives of Fortune’s top 100 companies to work for, over and over again? People and core values. It’s no secret that business are in business to make money and increase shareholder value, but it’s how a business makes its money that effects employee engagement. If the employees of a company are treated as just a tool to increase stockholder value and like they are easily replaceable, then of course they will be disengaged. The bottom line is that it’s about trust; it’s about a culture that puts the employee and customer needs as the top business priority and it all starts from the top of a business, down. Employees need to have trust in their organizations to perform at their best, and CEO’s have to work on that trust from the top. If companies truly want to become great places to work, then they have to focus on their employees and their employee’s needs. Trust comes into play because a lot of what the employees need may seem counterproductive to increasing shareholder’s wealth. Better pay, more recognition, a balanced family-work life, flexible hours, are all things that can contribute to better engagement, but might hurt the bottom line of a company on paper.
By the time a company gets to the point of taking a survey, chances are they recognize that there is already a problem and that the current way of doing business just isn’t cutting it. This is when executive leadership engagement comes into play. I propose that the mission statement of a business is the place to start. This is nothing new or earth shattering, but it’s where I feel executives can get huge results from their company while maintaining a loyal workforce. Does the mission of the company have more of an employee and customer focus than money? If not, then maybe it’s time for a change. If it does, then maybe the business has strayed away from its core mission over the years and forgotten how important the employees are to that mission. How do CEO’s and executives learn what matters most to their employees? A survey might give them some clues, but are often expensive and time consuming. I propose that good old fashioned face-time is the best method. Take an interest in their well-being, and find out what would motivate them. It’s already been shown by many businesses who repeatedly made the top 100 places to work list that it can be done, and the results can be amazing. Take the leap of faith, together as executives and employees as one company and see what the results of true engagement can do.
*image courtesy of imagerymajestic/freedigitalphotos.net
Worldwide, 13% of Employees Are Engaged at Work. Retrieved from
10 Things employees dislike most about their employers. Retrieved from
Mercedes-Benz CEO: Customer Experience is the Brand!! Retrieved from
Paul S. Amos: This is not who we are. Retrieved from
How Zappos Creates Happy Customers and Employees. Retrieved from
Larry Page: Google should be like a family. Retrieved from
Engagement. It’s the new business buzzword. It just sounds good coming off the tip of your tongue. What is it? Well, there are a lot of different interpretations of the definition of engagement, but there is one thing that most everyone agrees with: it’s a problem. While people may be struggling to figure out what the best definition of ‘engaged’ is, more people agree on what an activelSteven Madison Articles
Congratulations! You have just been promoted to a top leadership position in your organization. You have over 3,000 people working for you in four different states. Your budget is in excess of $25 million. Good luck, and remember, don’t screw this up.
You didn’t get to this position because you’ve been a slacker – you’re a proven leader and experienced manager. It feels good at the top, as they say, and you’re excited to start making things happen! The amazing acceleration of technology and globalization sets a scene ripe for new opportunities and growth. You know in order to flourish and grow an organization needs creativity and innovation. How many organizations have you seen be marginalized or even fail as a result of stifling change or new ideas?
A large part of your past success has been your natural encouragement of new concepts and your ability to drive fear out of your organization. Like preparing a garden for the seeds, you set conditions for creativity to thrive. Things are a little different now, though. You have people who work for you that you have never met, some are even located hundreds of miles away. There are several layers of management between you and those employees who are in contact with the customer on a day-to-day basis. You know most of your middle managers are solid leaders but you are wise enough to know some may, knowingly or unknowingly, be placing barriers up which block creativity and innovation. Can your passion for encouraging creativity and innovation successfully permeate down through the layers of management? Will ideas and recommendations be able to percolate up to your level?
This article will examine some methods top leaders can use to help free an organization of destructive barriers to creativity and innovation. Organizational design expert Jay Galbraith’s Star Model will be used to provide a practical framework helping to ensure no major areas are left out. The Star Model is designed with five points; strategy, people, structure, processes, and rewards. The key point of the model is strategy as it drives the overall organization. If the other four points of the star don’t align or support the strategy, chances for organizational success are greatly reduced. Galbraith puts it this way, “if a company chooses a structure and a set of management processes that require integration across countries, it must also select and develop people who have cross-cultural skills, as well as a reward system that motivates them.”
“Creativity without strategy is called art” - Jeff I. Richards
Some may argue that strategies may restrict innovation and creativity rather than encourage it. However, if innovation and creativity are an inherent part of the strategy employees will be encouraged to contribute their ideas and middle managers will be less likely to block them. McCrae (2014) suggests successful business strategies should include research, creativity, and strategic planning during their development. Once developed, it should influence the behavior of everyone in the organization to positively contribute to that strategy. In order for this to happen, the other four points of the star model must support the strategy. It cannot succeed if there are hidden barriers which prevent employees with ideas to bring them to the attention of leaders. Let’s say, for example, your strategy is to expand your business into additional states or countries. Do your personnel policies encourage those employees who are face-to-face with the customer to provide suggestions and feedback? How can you be sure there is not a middle manager whose tyrannical ways discourage lower level employees from contributing ideas? Top leaders must actively look for barriers which block creativity, dismantle them, and make innovation part of a holistic management system. By carefully considering the overall strategy and how the other four points of the Star Model support that strategy, barriers to creativity and innovation can be identified and appropriately addressed.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more,
do more and become more, you are a leader." – John Quincy Adams
Everyone is on their toes when a new top leader comes into an organization. “What will he or she be like,” “what changes will occur,” and “are jobs secure” are just a few among many of the questions employees will have. When a new leader takes over a military command, there is a formal change of command ceremony which all personnel attend. Here, leaders can put out their vision and what is important to them. New civilian leaders should arrange for a similar opportunity to address all employees in person. A clear, well-articulated vision which includes a strong belief in people, participation, innovation, fairness, security, and learning will go far in warding off fear and organizational politics (Tushman & O’Reilly, 2002, p. 49). Letting everyone know what you stand for, what will not be tolerated, your vision for the future of the organization, and the important role of all employees to get there will set the stage for the growth of creativity and innovation at all organizational levels. Reiterating that vision at every opportunity will promote a more consistent relationship between the leader and all employees (p. 49). By letting all employees hear it from the horse’s mouth, as they say, middle managers are less likely to put their own spin on your vision.
Leaders must create a culture of trust which encourages people to try new ideas without a fear of what may happen if the idea bombs. An organization’s capacity for innovation increases if it can tolerate failure and accept change. Once again, this must come from the top. Even if middle managers encourage employees to innovate and try new ideas, they will be hesitant to do so if don’t feel the top leadership supports it.
There will be times when a new leader will find there are people in management or other positions whose actions do not support the organizational vision or strategies. Dr. Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcast Network, notes good leaders may have to remove some people and “in most cases, it is kinder to terminate people who are not performing adequately than to let them continue as deadweight, dragging down the organization as well as themselves.”
“The pyramids are solidly built, have a nice view from the top,
and serve as a resting place for the dead.”
– Gerald Michaelson
Existing organizational structures should be examined to determine how they support the strategy. If creativity and innovation are important to the strategy, organizational structure expert Sabina Jeschke recommends an organic structure. This type of structure veers away from an ivory tower makeup instead leaning towards minimal hierarchical and bureaucratic tendencies and a strong focus on quality. Cooperation between departments or divisions is frequent and friendly and there is “an interactive, communication-friendly corporate culture.”
Google, Inc. is an example of a successful company with an organic organizational structure with minimal hierarchy. Communications are strong throughout the organization and the work is organized by projects, allowing different employees to take the lead on different projects. Each team is responsible for self-organizing, deciding how to accomplish the goals, and identifying and fixing problems. Perhaps the most unusual feature of Google’s organizational structure is it not only permits flexibility in hours and workplace, it encourages new ideas and experimentation by allowing employees to use 20% of their work time on self-directed projects. The organic organizational structure Google, Inc. uses directly supports their corporate strategy of using innovation and new acquisitions in order to support their position as the market leader.
On the other hand, an organization which has many levels of management and is highly bureaucratic will have difficulty promoting innovation and creativity from below. This type of organization provides fertile ground for all kinds of barriers to grow in and is usually resistant to risk-taking. Lower- and middle-level managers may retain strict control over their areas, blocking employees from expressing or trying new ideas. Top leaders need to understand how different organizational structures can create barriers and, using this understanding, examine if the current structure will support their organizational strategy.
“The only things that evolve by themselves in an organization are disorder,
friction, and malperforformance" – Peter Drucker
Processes within an organization consist of a set of activities performed by employees which result in a desired outcome. These processes are guided by organizational norms, regulations, policies, and procedures. There are two types of processes that are important when considering barriers to creativity and innovation; business processes and administrative processes.
Employees normally follow the steps outlined in the process workflow in order to accomplish the desired outcome. Many leaders are familiar with Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s famous advice to reduce variation in business processes in order to increase quality. However, if these processes are not properly developed, they can easily crush employee’s creativity. An impressive example of encouraging ingenuity is the U.S. Navy’s Beneficial Suggestion Program. The Navy is by nature hierarchical and bureaucratic and most processes are tightly controlled leaving little room for innovation. The BeneSug Program, as is it called, provides a forum and encourages military and civil service members to submit suggestions to reduce costs. Those personnel whose ideas, inventions, or scientific achievements are accepted receive a hefty cash award. Millions are saved annually through this popular program. If not already in place, implementing a similar program in a large organization can facilitate bringing innovative ideas to the attention of top leaders.
Another way to increase creativity within business processes is to periodically examine them in an effort to see how they can be improved and to ensure they are properly aligned with other processes and the overall strategy. This kind of review should involve all stakeholders including lower level employees working in the process and suppliers. A few years ago, Hallmark Cards reviewed their process of card production. After their artists, writers, and editors examined the process they recommended complete restructuring. Instead of these three groups working separately, they suggested reorganizing as cross-functional teams which would focus on a certain kind of card (i.e. Mother’s Day, birthday, etc.). By encouraging creativity in examining the process, Hallmark increased performance and to reduced production time of a new card from years to months.
Most people don’t like paperwork but it is important to have organizational policies in writing. If not already in place, clear directives on equal opportunity, sexual harassment, and bullying should be developed along with a credible process to be followed if an issue occurs. This type of destructive behavior can be easily hid if top leadership does not take a strong stand. Discrimination, harassment, and bullying not only crush creativity and hurt the victim, they take an enormous toll on the bottom line as well. The estimated costs to companies range from $64 billion reported by CBS Moneywatch to $200 billion reported by Psychology Today. These estimates include the costs of excessive absenteeism, reduced productivity, reduced loyalty, workers compensation, high turnover, and associated hiring and training costs. What is harder to estimate is the cost of the barriers which these behaviors have on creativity and innovation. Top leaders must verbally express their commitment to a working environment free of any type of discrimination or harassment and ensure all personnel are educated on their rights. You cannot assume everyone has the same understanding of what behavior is acceptable or unacceptable, or what fairness means unless it is made perfectly clear. The processes to address incidents must be unambiguous, trustworthy, and have the clear backing of top leadership. Processes for redress which are not fairly enforced and credible can be hijacked by unscrupulous managers and result in continued organizational losses.
“The most neglected form of compensation is the six-letter word thanks."
– Robert Townsend
It is no surprise what gets rewarded or recognized gets repeated. If you want creativity and innovation to thrive in your organization, your rewards system must align with that strategy. A reward system should have both monetary and non-monetary components. There has been much discussion over the years about how much money really motivates people after their basic needs are met. However, most agree that receiving less compensation than others doing the same job is a definite de-motivator. An unfair and unaligned compensation system can be a barrier to creativity and innovation as people feel they are not valued. Discouraged employees are not as likely to come up with new ideas or to voice them. A consistent monetary rewards system helps to prevent one manager from playing favorites or usurping the system.
Thomas Jefferson one said, “The glow of one warm thought is worth more to me than money.” Recognition is an inexpensive and simple way to motivate people. One-on-one “thanks,” newsletter highlights, t-shirts, mugs, etc. can go far to encourage and motivate. Once again, the key is ensuring the recognition is properly aligned with the strategy. If the strategy is encouraging innovation and creativity, then all sincere attempts should be recognized whether they are successful or not. Grey Advertising does this with their “heroic failure” awards while Yum Brands awards a “rubber chicken” to those willing to step out and innovate even if their efforts are not successful. As with other components of the Star Model, top leaders have to set the stage for the whole organization. It is critical that middle managers understand the importance of providing recognition and that any perceived “punishment” of failures can put a chill on creativity and innovation.
“Trust, but verify” -Ronald Reagan
You feel good celebrating your one year anniversary with your new organization. Using the Star Model, you compared your strategy with the other points of the star and made adjustments as appropriate. Processes and policies have been put into place which you believe have banished those barriers which blocked your employee’s creativity and innovation. You have shaped and created a healthy work environment where people are free to contribute to their full potential unimpeded by discrimination, harassment, or bullying. New ideas and risk-taking are encouraged at all levels. At least you think so…but every now and then you hear a little nagging voice asking if the points of the star are really aligned? How do you know what you don’t know?
You may want to take a tip from the U.S. Navy. Over forty Navy officers or senior enlisted personnel were fired from their leadership positions in 2012 for not upholding the Navy’s core values. Almost all of these cases came to light through an annual anonymous command climate survey or hotline complaint. A work climate survey provides feedback on the organization’s work environment which influences employee’s behavior and their ability to do a job. How much effort and money could the Navy have lost if they did not have these safeguards in place? Many civilian businesses are implementing similar surveys to identify negative attitudes and behaviors which create barriers and negatively impact work performance. Other methods of determining employees concerns include hotlines, 360 degree evaluations, town halls, focus groups, and leader “walk-arounds.” Having some of these safeguards in place can help quiet that little voice!
Barriers to creativity and innovation in large organizations can fester in many areas not obvious to top leadership. The Star Model provides an organizational framework from which to examine various areas where barriers may be lurking. If your strategy is to encourage creativity and innovation, the other points of the star must be aligned properly to support that strategy. First, the right people need to be in place to convey the vision and strategy and set the conditions which encourages new ideas and risk-taking. Bureaucratic and hierarchal organizational structures support the creation and maintenance of barriers and should be avoided. Processes should be in place which encourage sharing of information and provide for a healthy working environment. Lastly, your reward system must be designed to encourage the behavior you want and have both a monetary and non-monetary component. How many barriers to creativity and innovation will you be able to knock down by following this shooting star?
*image courtesy of PinkBlue/freedigitalphots.net
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Weber, S. (2008). Organizational behavior: Google corporate culture in perspective. München: GRIN Verlag GmbH.
Weske, M. (2007). Business process management: Concepts, languages, architectures. Berlin, Germany: Springer.
Williams, R. (2011, May 11). The silent epidemic: Workplace bullying. Psychology Today, Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201105/the-silent-epidemic-workplace-bullying
 Galbraith, J. (2000). Designing the global corporation. (pp. 9-10) San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
 Krogh, G., Ichijo, K., & Nonaka, I., (2000). Enabling knowledge creation: How to unlock the mystery of tacit knowledge and release the power of innovation. (p. 248). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
 Badal, S. (2012, September 25). Building corporate entrepreneurship is hard work. Gallup Business Journal. Retrieved August 26, 2014.
 McDonnell, J. (2013). A strategic conversation with Dr. Pat Robertson. Journal of Strategic Leadership, 4(2), Spring 2013, 26-34.
 Jeschke, S. (2011). Enabling innovation innovative capability - German and international views. (p. 39). Heidelberg, Germany: Springer.
 Ibid. (p. 39).
 Ibid. (p. 39).
 Weber, S. (2008). Organizational behavior: Google corporate culture in perspective (p. 5). München: GRIN Verlag GmbH.
 Ibid. (p. 5).
 Ibid. (p. 5).
 Ibid. (p. 3).
 Ibid. (p. 3).
 Weske, M. (2007). Business process management concepts, languages, architectures (p. 5). Berlin, Germany: Springer.
 Ibid. (p. 6).
 Cash Awards for suggestions, inventions, scientific achievements, and disclosures. (2007, April 26). Retrieved August 27, 2014, from http://doni.daps.dla.mil/Directives/01000 Military Personnel Support/01-600 Performance and Discipline Programs/1650.8D.pdf
 Hill, C., & Jones, G. (2013). Strategic management: An integrated approach (10th ed., p. 452). Mason, OH: South-Western, Cengage Learning.
 Holland, C. (2008, October 27). The costs of the workplace bully. CBS Moneywatch. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-30940457/the-costs-of-the-workplace-bully/
 Williams, R. (2011, May 11). The silent epidemic: Workplace bullying. Psychology Today, Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201105/the-silent-epidemic-workplace-bullying
 Clemmer, J. (1992). Firing on all cylinders. (p. 226). New York, NY: Irwin Professional Publishing.
 Ibid. (p. 229).
 Ibid. (p. 231).
 Carone, C. (2013, September 12). Want to Inspire Innovation? Reward Risk Takers. Forbes. Retrieved August 28, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/christacarone/2013/09/12/rewardrisktakers/
 Commanding officer, XO and senior enlisted firings. (2013, February 13). Navy Times. Retrieved from http://www.navytimes.com/article/99999999/CAREERS/302050309/Commanding-officer-XO-senior-enlisted-firings
 Johnston, J., Bradley, P., Charbonneau, D., & Campbell, S. (2003). The Army culture - climate survey. Informally published manuscript, Royal Military College of Canada, Brussels. Retrieved from http://www.iamps.org/10_Johnston_paper_IAMPS_2003.pdf
 Ibid. (p. 2).
Author Bio: Captain Jeanne McDonnell (ret.) served on active duty for over 25 years. Assignments included command of Naval Support Activity Norfolk and Transient Personnel Unit Norfolk, and service on the Joint Staff, the Navy Staff, Commander Surface Warfare Atlantic Staff, and Joint Forces Staff College. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Strategic Leadership at Regent University.
Congratulations! You have just been promoted to a top leadership position in your organization. You have over 3,000 people working for you in four different states. Your budget is in excess of $25 million. Good luck, and remember, don’t screw this up. You didn’t get to this position because you’ve been a slacker – you’re a proven leader and experienJeanne M. McDonnell Articles
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