Behaviour in the Eye

I don’t know about you but I’ve often wondered at the differences in behaviour of people in different parts of the same organisations. The whole idea that there is or has to be the same ‘culture’ across large-scale operations seems in many ways to be a little naive.

Talking with a leadership team will give you a certain appreciation for what it’s like in that business. But do you get the same impression when you talk with the people at the coal-face? Quite often there are marked differences and it’s not just around the stories that are told and the tasks that are front of mind for each set of individuals.

So why might such differences be important in a business setting? Well, for a start these differences can highlight different perceptions on the same set of facts and data. Looking at a set of data though a particular lens or filter will tell you one thing, but is it right?

Secondly, these differences (that outsiders often pick up instantly yet are unknown to those who have been in for the long-term) can lead to miss-understandings and confusion. What might be a real concern that needs top-level attention may be seen as technicalities or details that are really in the weeds by a leadership team who much prefer to think big picture.

Getting those concerns across in language and in a style that captures the attention of board members is a skill worth cultivating.

And thirdly, and perhaps the most dangerous aspect of these differences, is the way in which behaviour breeds behaviour. Strangely as it sounds (sarcasm warning) the way in which senior executives operate on a day-to-day basis carries far more influence than any statements on values and culture. What they see others doing isn’t always what they recognise themselves doing.

What people see their bosses doing (and getting away with perhaps) is what they will bring into their own ways of working. So, if as a senior executive you see behaviours and attitudes in your employees that you don’t like, take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror. Only then decide what you need to do next.

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© Paul Slater and Reflect & Lead, 2016.