Winston Churchill – the big ‘softy’

Running a business is costly. That’s something we can all agree on. Usually, it takes substantial investment in IT, buildings, infrastructure, plant and equipment, and a business model based on research, along with other ‘hardware’, to be a success – which is why protecting these assets should be your first priority.

Actually, no! Protecting the software – the so-called ‘soft issues’ – should be what concerns you most. And if it doesn’t – well, then, I’m afraid you might well be heading for extinction.

If you’re shaking your head in doubt (or disagreement), I’ll concede that yours is not the first organisation to deride the value of having high business EQ. But most of those doubting businesses will be shutting down as they fail to get to grips with an era where consciousness and emotional intelligence are proving to be major factors in an organisation’s ability to thrive.

To put it in perspective, when it comes to CEOs and effective leadership, high EQ is increasingly recognised as more important than high IQ. So why shouldn’t organisations have high EQ too? It’s not what you do – that always commoditises over time – but how you do it that differentiates your business most decisively.

Yes; it’s fashionable to pooh-pooh ‘soft issues’. Personally, I think that’s because companies don’t really understand them, and we have a tendency to undermine the things we fear. Of course, the reason we don’t understand them is because we can’t see them; they’re the intangible assets and liabilities on your invisible balance sheet. But that doesn’t mean that they can be ignored. After all, you wouldn’t feel comfortable neglecting your tangible assets and liabilities. And your invisible balance sheet has an even greater future effect on your business than what’s reflected on your historical financials.

To use an analogy, computer manufacturers commonly believed that hardware would always trump software in prominence – that is, until Microsoft came along. Now, we understand that what goes inside a machine is of far greater importance than the commoditised computer itself.

‘Soft issues’ speak strongly to the character of an organisation. And as we know, organisations – just like people – flourish when they have a strong constitution. That’s why I think that calling these issues ‘soft’ is a complete misnomer. No one would have dreamed of accusing Winston Churchill of being soft when he called upon the Brits to “fight them on the beaches” – but this very successful appeal was, in fact, an example of ‘soft skills’ in action. (Interestingly, the Brits, at this time, had way less military hardware than Hitler’s arsenal – but character won through in the end!) The same could be said for top sports people. Their skill and ability being equal, their triumphs are attributable more to an iron mentality than anything else.

It’s this steely perseverance; this determination; this take-no-prisoners approach that we are referring to when we discuss ‘soft skills’, rather than some nebulous concept that, vaguely, has something to do with warm, fuzzy feelings and hugs. And, as I am sure you will agree, those are the very characteristics that will help you get ahead of your competitors, especially when we consider the sea of sameness that characterises today’s marketplace.

Watch out for my next blog, where I’ll show you just how to put ‘soft skills’ into play and give form and substance to your invisible balance sheet.

Ditch the ‘values’ and drive the profits

Title: Through Guy’s eyes
Subhead: Get rid of your values! Now!
My last blog pointed out that, when you proudly present your employees with a list of values, you’re actually doing nothing more than giving them rope to hang you with. If you don’t remember why that’s the case, here’s a quick recap: values are dangerous because they’re ultimately generic blanket statements that are nigh on impossible to live up to, and often paint you as a fraud without sincerity when you inadvertently violate them – as you inevitably will.
That said, I do understand that having a framework to guide your culture is, well, valuable. My point is simply that there’s a better way of creating it – or, more to the point, co-creating it.
Let me say that again, because it’s important: culture must be co-created. The thing is that every organisation has a culture – the question is…. Is it accidental or intentional? In fact, it’s almost always unintentional, because it’s not something that can be imposed or driven from the top. So, while you, as an executive, may feel smugly satisfied that your employees treat each other like brothers and sisters because your values statement tells them that yours is a family organisation, on the ground, they might be engaged in frenzied sibling rivalry, leaving figurative blood all over the walls.
Culture cannot be crafted by way of a leader’s ‘engineering toolbox’. It’s a crowdsourced, mass movement behemoth with a life of its own – continuously evolving from a blend of humanity’s light and dark shadows in equal measure. It’s easier to attempt to tame the oceans.
Enlightened, progressive and transformational leaders understand that this isn’t an exercise in telling employees how they are to live their 9-to-5 lives. Instead, it’s about asking them about what’s important to them, and how the organisational ‘wish list’ can best be made manifest with specific context to the broader strategy.
This is precisely the process we deliver when guiding the co-creation an organisation’s unique Blueprint. We interview each employee to find out what they think the company is doing well (what they need more of), and where they need to improve (what they need less of) to achieve the primary business goal. Thereafter, through factor analysis, thematic grouping, election distillations (sorry, I’m becoming a bit technical now), codification, creative expression, artistic displays, socialisation tools (nearly done), scorings, action feedback and correlations to financial performance (Okay, I’m done) a 50% measurable growth in cultural wellness is typically achieved within an 18 month period.
Enable the energies of the masses to build a winning environment where everyone thrives. Let them build the culture of their own making, with a laser fixation on how they can contribute to your bigger-picture objectives, and watch your profits grow – as many MBA case studies on the Blueprints Method™ have shown.