On Leadership, Life & Family


#Leadership #Culture #success #entrepreneur #motivation #courage

Get to know your life’s ‘why’….

There has to be more to life than this, right?
If we are honest, we have all had that thought on more that one occasion, but why are we driven to see more, feel more, do more and achieve more? I think, it’s the insatiable desire to  feel valued and have purpose in life.

It’s funny how we humans process things of importance. I mean, success is based on what we have achieved and where our material capital is situated, rather than what and who we have to share it with. There are so many opportunities that buzz in and out of our life, that we often find ourselves fleeting from one thing to the next. But how do I know what I’m doing is what I’m put on this earth to do? We constantly find ourselves asking “who am I, and what was I put here for?”

There are two powerful days in your life. The day you were born, and the day you discover why. The day we are born, well, that’s pretty straight forward, but the why are we here and what am I meant to do, is the golden question we are all seeking out the answer for. Purpose, or the why, is our life strategy that creates a centre to everything we do. It’s the reason we do what what we do, it’s the reason we work or follow our business idea, or dream of doing the things we love someday. But to a few people who genuinely seek out why they are on this planet, the challenge is to see that which is unseen in our thoughts, become reality. I have been asked on more than one occasion, how do I truly, genuinely know what my ‘why’ is. It’s a genuine question, and as leaders, how do we get other people to know our ‘why’.

Purpose is far more than a frosted glass statement in the reception of our organisations, it’s a clear and definitive direction where it is communicated. It’s how we measure progress, but more importantly, it’s why we exist. You can always motivate people to do things based on reward of work, like having an innovative idea, or hitting budget for the month. But, what if we could achieve so much more than reward for good work and we could start to see ownership of culture and vision? Or in other terms – our ‘why’. How much more progress could we see if in our own organisations we could know our own purpose of what we do and how we do it, simply because we displayed our ‘why’.

As human beings we are motivated to contribute, and we are motivated to contribute by two drivers – emotion and purpose. Emotion is the ‘humaness’ of our contribution, and purpose is the strategy to achieve it. In other words, I do this for my family and their future, so that they are safe and taken care of, and I contribute to this by creating a plan to see my business flourish, not only financially, but in leaving a legacy for my family for the future. If you can understand the ‘what is my purpose’ on this planet, then it literally will change your world. And if it can change one life, what else could it impact. Imagine an organisation that is forefront in their purpose, an organisation where everyone is given space to achieve the ‘why’.

To simplify this, I heard a great example of finding your purpose the other day, and it was this… Ask yourself these five questions, and as you do, say the answer out loud. What is your name. What do you love to do. Who do you do it for (in other words, what is your focus audience). How does what you do, help fulfill their want or need. How do they change or transform as a result of what you do? Now, say the whole five answers out loud. There’s your purpose. Imagine what would happen if we asked the same questions in our organisations and then made our ‘why’ known.


Thought for the day…

What does it take to be a successful leader? I mean what sets that guy apart from me? We have all wanted to know the answer to that question. I mean, I have read the books, anticipated the speaker at the conference and listened to the podcast, but what is the formula that makes a great leader. Now, let me preface that there are amazing experts who provide great insight into leadership but, what is the character, the driving energy behind successful leaders?

I remember the day I wanted to be a leader. I was 15 years old and my very first job in a very well know takeaway chain. My manager was the meanest, vindictive, micro-manager I had ever had the privilege of meeting and I remember thinking “If I ever get the chance to manage people, I will treat them with respect and value.” Now, I say privilege because it was the day I embarked on a journey to develop leadership in my life. If it wasn’t for a negative encounter of a leader that was in my life I never would have had the desire to be a better one myself. To be a successful leader we need to understand what it means to be an example. And the reality is that as you read this you are an example. Either an example to follow or an example to learn from. Even from a bad experience I recognised a desire to be a better leader myself.
One thing that drives successful leaders is an intense need to learn from others example and that we often learn through tragic realisation. In other words we learn through tough situations that other people face. Successful leaders are able to grow without having the experiencing the tragedy firsthand. Instead, they adapt a mindset of recognising potential roadblocks through others experience and create a roadmap of educating themselves to be better leaders. From that day I was determined in my heart to see the person and not the roadblock. Because if we want to build people above all else then we are discovering what true, authentic leadership is all about. If I can leave you with this- What kind of example are you? And what could you work on today to be a more successful person?

Time for a culture shift

The biggest question I am ever asked is undoubtedly, “how do I change or better the culture of my organization?”

Leaders often wonder why they can’t get any measurable improvements in culture when they are making the changes they know are necessary. They present new vision. They change a few policies and maybe even a fresh look on their brand. They may even replace a few key people. But nothing substantive changes.

The problem is that culture is largely invisible to those inside of it. It’s like water to a fish, air to a bird. It’s simply the environment we live in. Sometimes the biggest challenge we face as leaders is actually recognising the temperature of our culture.

I encountered this when I had the opportunity to lead a small volunteer base of 60 people a number of years ago in a not-for-profit called Challenger. As an outsider, I was immediately aware of the culture. There were many aspects of it I loved, but I knew there were changes I needed to make to improve the operating results.

One misconception is that many leaders believe that culture is peripheral to productivity. That having a workplace with a poor culture is ok as long as productivity is high. I can categorically confirm that in my experience that negative culture equals negative productivity. This can be apparent with high turnover of staff for example. An organization that has great culture not only has high productivity but has longevity in its existence.

When I took over the base of 60 staff at Challenger the changes in my responsibility happened quite quickly- Within the first 12 months. The operating results also improved greatly. Changes to the broader organization took longer, but, as my responsibility grew, they eventually took hold as well.

Based on my experience, here are six steps you can take to change the culture of your organization.

1. Become aware of your culture. This is the first step in changing it-recognise it. Begin to notice its characteristics. Pay attention to shared values, the way people express themselves especially their language and the stories they tell about their success and failures.

2. Assess your current culture. Start by creating three lists:

What should stay? Acknowledge to positive things in your culture. Write down what you want to preserve.
At Challenger, there was a culture of our growth was not limited. This is obviously something I wanted to preserve and to keep; therefore I was careful to cultivate this mentality.

What should go? Write down the things that are killing your culture and must go if you want to move forward.
At Challenger there we had a “closed Book” operating philosophy. The only people who knew how the organization was going were the executive leadership.

I believed that if we changed the way we thought and practiced an “open book” philosophy then everybody knew how we were going. It created a culture of ownership and accountability, which is one of the healthiest strengths to have in your culture. It also gave us the opportunity to pull creative solutions from everyone involved to see the improvement.

What is missing? Write down the aspects of your culture that is missing or is weak.
At Challenger, individual accountability was very weak right across the board. People were afraid to take personal responsibility for anything and this created a lot of blame-shifting.

3. Envision a new culture. This is the fun part. Dream a little. Rather than simply complain about what is, begin to imagine what could be. The change starts with you. Imagine you have a blank canvas and anything is possible. The great thing about change is it is not measured. Change is change. We don’t use the language of big or little change, we simply say change. What would the ideal culture look like? Write it down in as much detail as possible.

I wrote a lot of pages of what I wanted to see, I dreamed and shuffled and then presented it to my leadership team and fine-tuned it, updated it and made some changes. That document became the blueprint of what we wanted to create.

4. Share the vision with everyone. Culture will not change unless you cast a vision for something new. You, as a leader, need to articulate in a way that people get passionate about the vision, understand it and is specific.

And you can’t do this once. One of my mentors said to me “Dan, you need to keep speaking the vision out. When you are sick of hearing about it your only half done. Keep speaking it!”

Why? Because initially the only existence vision has is through your words. You have to keep speaking it out until it becomes a part of the culture.

5. Get alignment from your leadership team. I’m talking about more than agreement. You need alignment. This is something altogether different. You want a team that buys the vision, understands what is at stake, and is willing to take a stand to make it happen. Think of it as a conspiracy. Not in the negative sense, but in the positive. You and your team are conspiring together to make a positive change that will transform your organization.

6. Model the culture you want to create. The culture of a company is the behaviour of its leaders. If you change their attitudes, their values, their beliefs, their behaviours, you will change your culture. If you don’t, you will fail.

This is why you must have alignment with your leadership team. If they are not willing to change their behaviour and model what you are trying to create, you must replace them. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. If you don’t, nothing will change in the organization.

As Gandhi famously said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

And by the way, even if the people above you won’t change, you can change the culture of your department, division, or operating unit. In fact, that’s usually how it works.

That is exactly how I did it at Challenger. I started implementing what I am sharing here 2 years before I was in charge of one of the largest and influential teams in the nation. I firmly believe that people were wondering how we became so “successful” but our secret was our culture.

Is it possible to change the culture of your organization? Absolutely. But like everything else in leadership, you must be intentional. Write it out, think on it, plan it, share it, and focus on it.

What would changing your culture make possible for your organization?

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