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The greatest responsibility of managers

John's reflections, leadership Leave a comment

In the last entry, I focused in part on what I see as the responsibility of every leader, at any level of an organization. To me, we all have a responsibility to create a space where people willingly participate and express themselves, where they contribute their talent, energy and passion. Unfortunately, my experience has shown that managers who truly take this undertaking seriously are the exception rather than the rule.  Of course, we have seen that engagement of the managers themselves is a significant issue. Even a casual observer of today’s business press cannot help but notice an abundance of evidence that middle managers in large organizations often perceive their jobs in less than positive terms. In describing their daily … Continue reading

An artistic view from the twenties on management

John's reflections, leadership Leave a comment

There is a delightful scene in Woody Allen’s movie Midnight in Paris, where the legendary Gertrude Stein—played by actress Kathy Bates—lays out her philosophy of life, art and literature. “We all fear death and question our place in the universe,” she explains. “The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote to the emptiness of existence.”  Miss Stein, as her followers called her, had enormous social and creative influence in the first three decades of the 20th century, as a muse to many of the great painters, novelists and poets of her time. The informal “salon” she ran from her home in Paris was frequented by artists such as Braque, Picasso, Joan Miró, … Continue reading

Why efforts to change a culture may fail

John's reflections, leadership, Storytelling Leave a comment

In the previous post, I wrote that the biggest reason that organizational culture initiatives fall flat is our failure to make them a central element of the corporate agenda. Building or changing cultures is a long-term effort, more a marathon than a quick sprint. As such, the most important thing we can do is simply stay on the path and maintain our focus.  Changing any organization’s culture means telling and living new stories, and ensuring that the group’s members find meaning in those stories. As such, one must take great care to make sure that the new stories ring true, and that the key people emulate them in their everyday behavior. The term … Continue reading

Put culture on the agenda and make it stick

John's reflections, leadership 1 Comment

Whenever I make a public speech or work with a company on matters pertaining to building and sustaining a group culture, people inevitably ask for my views on what makes this type of initiative succeed or fail. While I have no magic formulas or foolproof answers, I can offer some suggestions based on my past experience.  One of the first things I advise is that the people in charge must take ownership of the “culture plan”. My term for this is simply “putting it on the agenda”. If a culture is a group of individuals who share the same stories and find meaning in those stories, we should begin by finding ways to engage … Continue reading

Igniting the corporate campfire

John's reflections, leadership Leave a comment

Last time, I outlined my concept of a culture or a community as a collection of individuals who share their rituals and stories of collective identity. In extraordinary cultures, participants tell these types of tales over and over. Anecdotes that encapsulate who we are, what we stand for, and why we do things the way we do become part of the group’s tribal lore. It is in these stories that individual members find meaning and purpose. As we have discussed previously on this blog, it is a rare start-up company that thinks early in its life about managing the people side of things. Most entrepreneurial ventures are so consumed by getting a product to … Continue reading

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