Short, sharp and simple…

InfinityPhoto: Aitortu-Partekatu

Photo: Aitortu-Partekatu

Most leaders are always striving to find ways of promoting the ‘right’ culture in their organisation. Sometimes they employ highly paid consultants to help or to do it for them – and usually waste their money. Why? Because organisational change is difficult, requires long-term consistency and continuity, and people often don’t get the point.

Thus, if there is a simpler way of doing it emerges, wouldn’t that be preferable? One example of a quick and easy alternative comes from Boston University. Standing by a site map somewhere on the campus, Lisa Earle McLeod and her family were approached by the Dean, Kenneth Elmore, as they stared vacantly around them. Having given them directions, he explained his philosophy:

“We should never walk past anyone looking at a map or looking visibly lost. I tell my staff that [this is an] opportunity to step up and see how you can help them. If I do see that you walked past them, because you have other things on your mind, we need to have a conversation and think about whether or not you should still work here.”[1]

This is a good example of a simple ‘rule’ that everyone in the organisation can understand, that is easy to do, that doesn’t take much time, is observable and therefore measureable, and has significant impact. (In this case, alumni donations increased by 12% following the introduction of the rule.) In addition, such an attitude then becomes emblematic of their organisational culture.

The leadership challenge here is, of course, thinking up an appropriate rule:

What one simple thing could everyone in my organisation or department do that would symbolise one of our core values or goals?

Variations on the above themes might be railway or airline employees offering to help anyone looking lost. Alternatives might be 15-minute meetings about unnecessary cost at the start of every day.

The second leadership challenge is then getting everyone to do it!

[1] ‘Selling with Noble Purpose: How to Drive Revenue and Do Work That Makes You Proud’ by Lisa Earle McLeod, Wiley, 2012


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