When training in hypnotherapy in the last couple of years, one of the elements we learned was that an individual’s values and ethos are most often embedded between the ages of 7 and 9 years old. It is between these years that our role as parents is pivotal in establishing the self-esteem and cultural platform of our offspring for years to come. Whilst this can be a frightening or inspirational thought for any parent, it got me thinking……
how long do we get to establish the culture in any team we lead?
If we assume that the average person lives about 80 years, then it is clear that the value system of a human being is in place by about 10% of the life-span completed. I naturally think back to my own experience as a leader in my corporate life and believe that whilst we outline the culture we would like to see in our new teams and units in the first 30days, it’s how we react and respond when these ideas are challenged over the next 30 days (days 30-60) that really determine what culture gets established. As always, it is what we DO as leaders rather than what we SAY which people notice and which then affects behaviour.
The average length of my own leadership positions was about 2-2½ years, before some reorganisation lead to a change of team. Today I think you are lucky to get more than 2 years of consistency with a team. As two years is 730 days, or about 512 working days, then the 10% threshold(we see in children) lies somewhere between 51 and 73 days….let’s call it 60 days between friends!
So what do we, as leaders, need to do in those first 60 days to get the culture and value system in place which we crave? Here are 5 simple things to consider in those early days….
Be clear on your boundaries – take time to think about what behaviours and attitudes you are and are not prepared to accept. What are the behaviours and attitudes you desire in your team members which will help the team thrive and energise you also? Then explain these to the team very early on with examples of what excellent, good and poor look like.
Be clear on the consequences of crossing the line – you have told them what you expect, now you need to tell them what will happen when these are lived and if these are not demonstrated and lived. It can be a system of a yellow card for one slip and red card for two slips or a serious slip (as in football), but work it out for yourself, in line with the seriousness and potential impact on the business overall.
Stick to your word, no matter what nor who – intentionally or unintentionally I have always found that these boundaries get challenged early on! We see it with our kids all the time also don’t we!?! When this happens you know that all team members are watching to see what happens….”will he or wont he do what he said?” It is actually your reaction to these transgressions which is far more important in establishing the culture than what is said in the beginning. Simply: your (re)actions speak louder than any words you speak. If you do not follow through with your promises (in 2 above) then your word is worth nothing and mob rule will quickly be established. Visibly follow through as previously explained and people will quickly understand you are a person of their word and they will listen and act as appropriate.
Be public with your recognition – of course it is not just punishing transgressions that is important but, even more importantly, recognising the behaviours and attitudes which you asked to see. Nearly all of us have a craving for recognition and getting public recognition usually has a double-whammy effect of both motivating the person to repeat the good behaviour whilst encouraging the others to do likewise as they too yearn for such recognition.
Be timely and specific with your feedback – far too often in my history the feedback given for good and bad behaviour was both out of date and too general. The result here is that some felt they had “got away with it” whilst others felt aggrieved they were being potentially accused of things which they never did! Neither of these is a good result. The best way to give feedback is to be quick and specific…..when you see good behaviour then recognise the individual concerned on the spot and be specific with what precisely you like(d) about what they did. Likewise, if there’s something which you don’t like then nip it in the bud with the person responsible and be clear what you don’t like and why it is inappropriate.
As always we should never confuse “simple” with “easy”. Following these 5 steps is a simple thing in principle to do, however it is not always easy in the heat of the moment to act this way. It is the mark of a great leader to say what they mean and mean what they say and in doing so establish their word as their bond. They say “ambiguity is the enemy of change” and such consistency from a leader is a fundamental foundation stone for future success.