In the book “The Art of the Possibility” by Roasamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, Benjamin describes a concept he calls “leading from any chair”. He found that an orchestra could achieve peak performance levels when its members are able to suggest better ways to play a piece. This goes against the grain of the traditional hierarchical and structured organizations.
This clearly (at least to me) is an effective way to lead any organization. Once you have people aligned around strategic direction, you need to get out of the way and allow the talented employees that you hired put their own creativity to work. Overly instructing people on the process to hit the strategic targets frustrates them or demeans them.
What I’m suggesting, however, is different than Benjamin Zander’s revelation. What I’m saying is to stop waiting for the cultural changes that you crave in your organization and do it from wherever you are. Stop your whining and do something!
People too frequently look to the C suite for the culture they desire, when they can start to build it from within. If your company does not have a strategic vision or values system, start one. Do you manage a team? Great start there. What’s your purpose? Why do you get up in the morning? Who do you serve?
In a recent article in Forbes “How Exceptional Companies Create High-Performance Teams” author Chris Cancialosi talks about the three core abilities that an organization must possess in order to reach a high level of performance.
Here’s how you can help build these traits in the workplace:
1) The ability to stop and take a hard look in the mirror
Organizations must slow down from time to time to look at what they’re doing and the impact their processes are having on the organization. Where are they headed? Are they aiming at the right target market? If your company is not doing this, you can. I’ve written about the power of self-reflection in my previous piece “360-degree thinking”. Use daily journaling to access this superpower. Ask yourself questions like: What did I do yesterday to improve? Did I try anything new? Did I do anything to build relationships?
2) The ability to include all stakeholders in the conversation
Culture is about community. When people can honestly look at accomplishments and say, “we did it” that’s the sweet spot of nailing an effective organization. Instill that attitude into the people who work for you or you work with. When you break it down, work in any company is steady, ever-changing stream of projects. So, there should be ample opportunities to display this attribute.
3) The ability to let go of existing behaviors and practices that are no longer serving the organization.
Getting senior management to let go of the tried and true is difficult. And realistically sometimes the tried and true is perfect for the current situation. But if you’re in a situation where the leader won’t role model what really needs to happen, it doesn’t mean you can’t. Look at the things you’re doing and ask yourself if that’s the most effective ways to get things done.
My point in all of this is that wherever you are in an organization don’t complain about how you would like things to change in the workplace, be an example for the change. People will notice and want to be a part of it and who knows… upper management may notice too. That’s how a cultural revolution begins.