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What exactly IS culture? | The Melting Pot Newsletter | #89

WHAT IS CULTURE (AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?)

Picture the scene. Marks & Spencer. 1988. A warehouse up north. 50 students have just been hired over Christmas to cope with the additional workload.  On their first day, they’re summoned to a briefing by the Foreman.  He tells them that they’ll be fired if they work too hard. Why? Because they might show up the permanent staff who work there all year round.  I kid you not.  When I heard about this as a Trainee Assistant Manager, I was appalled.  It just didn’t feel right. This was my first experience of the power of culture.

And yet, at the same store, there were some excellent leaders.  The General Manager fired a load of staff because they simply didn’t come to work one Saturday.  He was apoplectic that they didn’t seem to care enough.  I was struck by the lack of unanimity. There was no collective feeling of excellence.  Something was broken in the culture.  

Throughout my career, I’ve become convinced that culture is at the root of business growth.  It was the biggest factor that enabled me to scale two tech companies (Rackspace and Peer 1) from zero revenue to £5 million in just five years (and during two recessions). Recruitment, productivity, engagement, reputation, profitability – they are all heavily impacted by culture.   

It amazes me how few businesses have really got a handle on this though.  So, I’m busting some of the more common myths in this blog, to really get to the heart of culture and why it’s important.


IDENTIFYING THE ACCIDENTAL DIMINISHER WITH LIZ WISEMAN

Do you drain your team or engage them? Are you wondering how to make your leadership team even greater? You need to listen to Liz Wiseman, author of New York Times bestseller ‘Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter’.  

Liz is a researcher, executive advisor and author, writing ‘Multipliers’ over 10 years ago. She’s recently updated it, although its core ideas still very much apply today. In it, she identifies two types of leaders – multipliers and diminishers. The multipliers get twice the output from their teams than the diminishers do. So you might be thinking, then why don’t we all strive to be multipliers? Because Liz says, most of the behaviours exhibited by diminishers are completely accidental – only 20% of diminisher behaviours are deliberate.

“About two-thirds of diminishing behaviour that we see is what we would call accidental diminisher behaviour, meaning it’s done with the best of intentions.”

In this episode Dom chats to Liz about what these diminisher behaviours are – maybe you’ll recognise yourself in some of her descriptions. So if you think you could be holding your team back accidentally, preventing productivity and the only thing standing between your team and greatness is awareness and desire to do things differently, then this fantastic conversation is not to be missed. 


Recommended Podcasts

AT THE TABLE WITH PATRICK LENCIONI

Real conversations and practical advice for everyday leaders. Sit across the table from one of the foremost experts in leadership and business. In his simple and approachable style, Pat tackles every topic related to the world of work (and some that aren’t). From culture to teamwork to building world-class organizations, Pat brings his wisdom, humor, and insight together to provide actionable advice for leaders everywhere.


Recommended Articles

CAN YOU HANDLE THE TRUTH?

In Sydney Finkelstein’s classic study of corporate collapses, Why Smart Executives Fail, the evidence that business leaders would have needed to avoid fiasco was available to them in every one of the cases that the author and his team examined. The book was written in 2004, yet the problem it highlights persists. My colleagues and I have spent almost 20 years examining crises, including Hurricane Katrina and the current coronavirus pandemic. In these situations, too, the cracks in organization, system, and community foundations have often been clear to see, if leadership had been looking. But despite warnings, leaders have been unable, or unwilling, to give credence to the risks. They overlooked or ignored them — and the cost of their inaction has been high.

WANT TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE? TRY DOING LESS.

We’ve been taught that if we want more — money, achievement, vitality, joy, peace of mind — we need to do more, to add more to our ever-growing to-do list. But what if we’ve been taught wrong? What if the answer to getting more of what we want isn’t addition at all, but subtraction?

TitleTHE BIG CYCLES OVER THE LAST 500 YEARS

Just as there is a human life cycle that typically lasts about 80 years (give or take) and no two are exactly the same but most are similar, there is an analogous empire life cycle that has its own typical patterns. 

Recommended Reads

F**K PLAN B by Dominic Monkhouse

It’s been a tad delayed by the dreaded virus, but we have a publication date – 22nd June!  Calling all CEOs, Founders and Managing Partners. Learn valuable scale-up strategies in a brand new book by the UK’s top tech industry business coach, Dominic Monkhouse. Dom has a track record of scaling-up award-winning technology businesses, including two UK based companies from zero revenue to £30 million within five years. Now he is sharing the secrets behind his success in a new book, FREE to all Melting Pot subscribers. The download will be sent to you. Watch out for your copy! 


CORPORATE REBELS – MAKE WORK MORE FUN BY JOOST MINNAAR AND PIM DE MORREE

Today’s workplaces are broken. Badly broken. With 85% of employees disengaged, 23% feeling burned out and 37% believing that their job makes no useful contribution to society, work as we know it today is simply not working. The good news? There is a better way. And it’s not just theory. It’s already practiced in pioneering organisations around the globe. Drawing on Minnaar and De Morree’s visits to 100+ of the world’s most progressive organisations, this book gives direct evidence that you can make work enjoyable and rewarding, while boosting performance and success.


MEANINGFUL ACTION FOR MONDAY

Now is a great time to do a talent assessment in your business.  Ask yourself the following questions of each employee: ‘If they resigned tomorrow, would I be disappointed?’ and ‘Knowing what I know about them now, would I rehire them in 2020?’  There needs to be a resounding ‘yes’ to both of these. Any ‘no’ answers mean that person is going to hold you back. And no business needs that right now.  Take advantage of the changes in the recruitment market – there are A-Players out there looking for a job!

    F**k Plan B

    Learn How To Scale To £30M In 5 Years

    Sign up today to get your copy of F**K PLAN B: How to scale your technology business faster and achieve Plan A, the book that will change your business and your life.