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The ABC’s of Leadership and Culture – Five Quick and Easy Strategies

by Allan Stewart, B.Com, MBA

It takes a long time, with lots of training and practice to develop effective leaders. It takes even longer to change or improve the culture of an organization. Effective leaders and organizations understand this and take the necessary steps to implement a long-term strategy. Indeed neither journey is ever finished.

Below are five quick and easy strategies that can help leaders and organizations “kick start” their change initiatives – the ABC’s of Leadership and Culture. These strategies, when adopted by a single leader can have a major impact on how the people around them think and act. When adopted by the whole leadership team, they represent a major culture intervention and begin the process to build a strong, Constructive culture.

  1. Appraise people fairly. One of the major problems for every organization is to insure that the Appraisal system is fair – leaders must “call a spade a spade”. This is very simple to suggest, but often difficult to implement. Remember that an effective Appraisal system is an excellent way to reward an employee for a year of good work. It is also a systematic method to bring sub-standard performance to someone’s attention, and develop strategies to change. But most managers ignore these opportunities and take the easy way out of giving everyone similar scores. Constructive managers in Constructive cultures value the Appraisal system and use it as an effective leadership tool – primarily as motivation. Aggressive managers make statements such as “I don’t give out 5’s”. They use the PA system as a way to punish people. Passive managers give everyone a 3 rather than “rock the boat”.
  2. Build effective teams. Most leaders believe that they are good team leaders. But few understand the basic strategies that make good leaders. The single most important principle for team leaders is to share influence. Constructive leaders in Constructive cultures consider the ideas and opinions of others and give every team member the opportunity to influence how the job gets done, how problems are solved, and which ideas get implemented. It starts with basic communications – listen to what your people are telling you. Seek out their thoughts and ideas. Of course, Aggressive managers don’t do this – mainly because they feel they know better than anyone else. But remember; leadership is not a democracy. Passive managers will rely too heavily on what everyone else thinks. When you implement a decision simply based on a vote, you are abdicating your responsibilities as a leader.
  3. Catch people doing it right. This idea is so simple and easy, it is almost laughable. But, still most leaders don’t do it. When you see someone – especially newer employees – doing something well – tell them! The key is to watch for it. Some leaders need to remind themselves to actively look for people doing something; anything right. Constructive managers in Constructive cultures make this a part of their daily routine. Aggressive managers do the opposite – they watch for people making mistakes. And of course, passive managers do neither – unless the person has broken a rule.
  4. Develop employees. This is a fundamental principle of good leadership. Athletic coaches understand this and set up training and development systems designed to teach athletes everything from the basics to intricate maneuvers. Yet in business, this is often overlooked. Constructive managers in Constructive cultures begin the training and development the moment the person is hired. Having an extensive orientation program not only provides employees with the basics, but can also be used as a platform to establish a Constructive culture. Aggressive managers think it is better to let people “sink or swim” by leaving them to their own devices. They typically look at teaching leaders the “soft skills” as a waste of time. Passive managers usually develop training programs that focus on compliance issues and rules. 
  5. Encourage people to grow. This is more of a long-term strategy, but is also an easy one to begin. The first step in implementing this strategy is to get to know your people – listen to their stories and more importantly – their hopes and dreams. You should know them well enough to identify talents and personalities. Encourage them to develop those talents that you see. The second step has already been covered – develop your employees to the best of their abilities. So has the third step – recognize these growth efforts on the company Appraisal system. Constructive leaders in Constructive cultures do this naturally as part of the Humanistic-Encouraging thinking styles. Aggressive managers dislike encouraging others to grow and develop for many reasons, including it might encourage them to demand more responsibility and more money. Passive managers will initiate programs that give a superficial impression that are designed to help people grow – but will often get bogged down in needless bureaucracy and politics.
  • Allan Stewart, B.Com, MBA

Sources include Human Synergistics Leadership/Impact™, Leadership WorkStyles™, and Organizational Culture Inventory™