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Within People - How culture helps you grow


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21st century business has evolved from believing “people are an asset” to understanding that it is how people work together that creates value. We wanted to find out what might be stopping leaders from seeing the importance of culture. And uncover common stories across the world where leaders have found ways to grow a culture - that grows a business.

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Within People - How culture helps you grow

  1. 1. Within People How culture helps you grow A global leadership conversation
  2. 2. 2 21st century business has evolved from believing “people are an asset” to understanding that it is how people work together that creates value. We wanted to find out what might be stopping leaders from seeing the importance of culture. And uncover common stories across the world where leaders have found ways to grow a culture - that grows a business.
  3. 3. 3 A global conversation about culture Within People believes there is a direct connection between the culture of an organisation and growth. Our own purpose-led culture has been essential to scaling our partnership - now in our fourth year, we have expanded across South Africa, Europe and North America. We wanted to start a conversation with our clients and the wider global business community to uncover how leaders use clarity, belief and confidence to build their business. These three areas are essential to our practice: • Clarity on your purpose, values and who you are as a distinct culture • Belief in how to live your values and create the business you want • Confidence to use culture to grow while tackling any perceived barriers to growth As coaches we believe we have a role to play to listen deeply to leaders and support their journey. What follows is not a research report - but an insight to how we see 21st century businesses being built. This is what we heard.
  4. 4. 4 Who we spoke to: We engaged 56 senior leaders interested in how culture drives growth in businesses of different sizes and sectors in South Africa, North America, Europe and Asia. Seniority 18 CEOs 18 Senior HR professionals 20 Directors / senior department heads Sectors: Finance 37% Retail 13% Property 13% Services 33% Non-Profit 4% What we heard: This report covers the themes that emerged: Clarity: Leaders are consistent in their understanding of the meaning of culture Barriers: There are common misconceptions that stop leaders around the world from seeing culture as an asset Belief: We heard seven learnings from leaders who are successfully believing that culture drives growth Confidence: There is a journey to successfully using culture to grow your business
  5. 5. Clarity What is culture? 5
  6. 6. 6 What we heard consistently from leaders in each of our markets: Culture is “the way we do things” It’s about: Behaviour What we share How things feel The energy of the workplace The emotional connection we make
  7. 7. Culture is built on a foundation of why your business exists, and how you operate. Your “why” lives in your purpose. It can also relate to your mission and vision. “How” you operate lives in your values and principles to create your unique way of being. • 75% of the leaders we spoke to have defined purpose and values in their organisation • 20% do not have a defined purpose or values • 5% have defined their purpose and values but are not actively using them to engage their culture 7
  8. 8. 8 What we also heard from leaders: Culture is valuable in driving growth
  9. 9. We noticed leaders had different motivations which shaped how they viewed culture. And that leaders are becoming more explicit about purpose- driven leadership and cultures. Intuition: Anchored in purpose Value of culture: Leadership, purpose, courage Inspiration: Seen it work Value of culture: Alignment, belonging, trust Logic: Organisations are groups of people Value of culture: efficiency, differentiation, scalability ‘Culture stems from your moral compass, your values, your approach to life.’ Head of Sustainability - Property Development (Hong Kong) 9
  10. 10. Barriers What stops leaders from connecting culture to growth? 10
  11. 11. 11 Myth: Culture is just about having a fun place to work Culture is how we enjoy ourselves at work and not what makes us successful. It’s about bean bags, ping pong tables and flexi-time. People stay when everyone is nice. Source of the myth: This myth comes from a perception that joy in the work place comes only from the environment - not from the work itself.
  12. 12. 12 Myth: Culture can’t be measured Culture is soft and fluffy and doesn’t deliver tangible results. It’s an HR thing. It is unrelated to financial performance and measurable outcomes. And since it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed. Source of the myth: This myth comes from a perception that if culture is hard to measure it can’t have impact on performance.
  13. 13. 13 Myth: Culture is used to make people work harder The value of building a strong culture is in people going the extra mile, being willing to work longer and harder to deliver. If we work harder we’ll do better than the competition. Source of the myth: This myth comes from a feeling that being busy means we are productive and growing.
  14. 14. 14 Myth: Culture shouldn’t be captured If culture is written down it loses the richness and magic. Culture is more valuable if it’s mysterious and hard to explain. Putting it into words means other people can copy it. Source of the myth: This myth comes from a perception that complexity is valuable. And a fear that if the culture is clear we will have to hold ourselves accountable to it.
  15. 15. 15 In our work coaching leaders we see a consistent barrier to culture driving growth: Fear … of losing the business … of trusting intuition … of loss … of irrelevance … of losing control and power … of accountability … of losing value … of dealing with people that aren’t a culture fit … having the hard conversations
  16. 16. Belief How do you use culture for growth? 16
  17. 17. 17 Our conversations uncovered seven learnings from leaders who have successfully used culture to grow Culture starts with authentic leaders Leaders bring people together to find what is common in the culture Personal stories build understanding and meaning Connection comes through experiences Strong cultures ask for commitment Culture aligns to a vision of success The work is never done #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7
  18. 18. 18 Learning #1 Authenticity ‘Leadership is about being, not doing. You have to consistently embody the culture you are trying to build. Never expect people to become something you are not.’ Partner - Services (USA)
  19. 19. Culture starts with authentic leaders Leaders define their culture through their behaviours. And leaders can only really embody culture if they personally buy into the value of it and it is aligned to their personal values & beliefs. “Respect” is a common value in many of the businesses we spoke to. Leaders who show up to this authentically can talk to small behaviours that are natural for them, but are consciously lived: greeting people in the lift, sticking to the parking policy even when inconvenient, and not looking at their phones during conversations. Personal alignment with the company’s values means leaders can show up to them naturally and transparently. Learning #1 Authenticity 19
  20. 20. 20 'We are in a context of economic inequalities, discrimination, and this can bring a negative culture into the organisation. We are very conscious of this from the start. We focus on values & culture and not skills when we recruit. We ask questions about their vision in life and the perfect company for them. ' CEO - Communications Agency (Philippines) Learning #2 Cohesion
  21. 21. Leaders bring people together to find what is common in the culture Clarifying purpose and values as a collective process creates shared ownership and accountability. Teams can build cohesion around shared beliefs and motivations for the work they are doing and the people they are serving. Teams that come together to define their company culture are able to see beyond what is different about themselves as individuals and across functions to reveal what connects them as a group. Connecting as individuals creates a sense of belonging and builds better performing cross-functional teams. Investing the time to co-create culture builds ownership and belonging. Learning #2 Cohesion 21
  22. 22. 22 ‘You can never write down what a culture means in every situation. It must be internalised as that's the only way people can live it. If you lock it down, you're asking people to regurgitate it, rather than own it and love it.’ CEO - International Development Charity (UK) Learning #3 Meaning
  23. 23. Personal stories build understanding and meaning Giving people the opportunity to interpret the company’s purpose and values, and what it means for them, helps them to understand what is personally relevant about the culture. Organisations with significant cultural diversity create spaces for people to talk to what the company culture means to them and why it is inspiring. They build a foundation of understanding by allowing each person to share their personal life stories, even building skills for listening and having difficult conversations. Values are a powerful tool to build awareness in diverse environments. Learning #3 Meaning 23
  24. 24. 24 Learning #4 Connection ‘It’s essential to find time to have the shared experiences that ultimately shape your culture. In their first week, we had new members of the team join everyone else in going through the boot camp we offer our entrepreneurs.’ Program Director - Venture Capital (USA)
  25. 25. Connection comes through experiences Experiences help people connect emotionally with culture and gain a much deeper and more memorable understanding. Creating rituals, regular off-sites, or recognition initiatives that are shaped around your purpose and values help keep them alive. Businesses that become focussed on ‘what’ they do and have lost connection with ‘why’ use experiences to re-connect. This includes getting employees to experience the product they produce through the eyes of their customer, and then share how what they do every day impacts on the lives of the people they serve. Creating deliberate ways for people to experience your culture builds depth of understanding. Learning #4 Connection 25
  26. 26. 26 ‘Our CEO was harsh with the top level. Senior leadership needed to leave if they didn’t buy in.’ Divisional Director - Financial Services (South Africa) Learning #5 Commitment
  27. 27. Strong cultures ask for commitment Getting people to define what your purpose and values means to them is asking for commitment. Leaders who have the difficult conversations and deal with those that do not commit to living the culture drive real change. Accountability and commitment are particularly important at the most senior levels of the organisation. Often a divide can be created between the senior levels and the rest of the business, with visible privilege. Holding leaders accountable reinforces who leaders serve. When defining your values ensure that they are a framework for accountability. Learning #5 Commitment 27
  28. 28. 28 ‘Every company has a culture. A culture can be managed and changed. If as a leader you want to do something deliberate in your organisation, you need to be specific about the culture you need to arrive at your destination.’ Managing Director - Financial Services (South Africa) Learning #6 Vision
  29. 29. Culture aligns to a vision of success Your culture needs to be inextricably linked to the goal you want to achieve. This is a process of getting clear on what drives performance in the business, and how you create the value that defines your success. Businesses based on disruptive technologies need to create the conditions for people to think creatively fast. That might mean putting everyone together so that they can communicate easily, eliminate silos, see things that they otherwise miss if the developers are in offices and only certain people are on the factory floor. Get clear on what you need to be great at to succeed. Learning #6 Vision 29
  30. 30. 30 ‘If you release the potential of all your people, thats how you grow. You must be prepared to make huge investments in this - to create the conditions that help people to grow the business’ Senior Director - Health Care (UK) Learning #7 Patience
  31. 31. The work is never done Living your culture is constant. There are no exceptions when you can temporarily put aside your culture to deal with a crisis or particular situation. In fact these moments define the opportunity to bring a culture to life and either build or erode belief in your culture. In moments of financial pressure, organisations with an ‘innovation’ value use this behaviour to guide how they might see an opportunity to be creative, rather than immediately cutting costs or firing people. As the leader use every opportunity - including a crisis - to point to how culture is a guide. Learning #7 Patience 31
  32. 32. Confidence How do you take your business on the journey? 32
  33. 33. 33 Clarity Define your purpose, values and offer based on the source of performance in your business and on the value that you create. Flags to look out for: People reciting purpose and values, not internalising and living them. Practical first step: Get your leadership team together to reflect on why the business was created and define your purpose statement. Explore Within’s “Guide to Finding Purpose” for help!
  34. 34. 34 Belief Start the journey of building belief and embedding it in the business. Deepen the meaning of your purpose and values with your team. Flags to look out for: Increased complexity (detailed manuals and plans, new visions, principles that are not aligned) rather than more simplicity. Practical first step: Have teams explore each of your values and what they mean to them personally. Make sure your values are actionable behaviours that individuals can live up to.
  35. 35. 35 Confidence Understand real and perceived barriers and build the leadership skills to overcome them Flags to look out for: Short term change, easily fizzling initiatives, and people reverting to old ways rather than learning and adapting. Practical first step: Look for places in the business where values are not being lived - and how this is impacting on growth. Explore with your team how living your values could bring new opportunities for the business.
  36. 36. Visit us to find out more: Within People is an international partnership that helps people to find their purpose and grow This report was developed through conversations held in 2017 with senior business leaders in South Africa, UK, France, USA, Canada, Hong Kong and Philippines. We would like to extend our thanks to all that gave their time to participate, and to Accelerate Cape Town for their support.