While driving to town yesterday, I witnessed a huge flock of hundreds of birds, following each other. They swooped up and down making a ribbon effect and I thought of the analogy of a business. The leader of the flock knew where it was going and the others followed the pattern each staying in place. How often does that happen in today’s workplace?
In many organizations although the leader may have a clear vision of where he or she would like to take the organization, people operate in random orders not sure how they fit into the overall picture. An effective leader should not try to force their vision on others, but to help then understand their role in the big picture.
To force a vision brings about resentment and compliance rather than commitment. Helping individuals understand what is in it for them to support the vision helps them to find their role and how the diverse activities fit together.
Recent work with a group struggling as a team was helped by the use of the Myers Briggs Personality Indicator. Myers Briggs uses self-assessment to identify which of 16 diverse personality types one possesses.
The Acting Director identified himself as the personality type shared by only 1% of the population. This shocking realization is that 99% of the participants on the leadership team see the organization differently in varying degrees. His type, a very future oriented identity brings to mind the difficulty he will have helping the other members of the leadership team see what he sees.
The use of communication is key. According to Harvard Business School Professor Nitin Nohria “Communication is the real work of leadership. Whether you’re the visionary-charismatic type of leader or the subtle mover of men, without understanding the role of communication, you’ve failed to understand the fundamental aspect of leadership.
“Considering the current diversity within today’s organizations makes communication difficult. One needs not only understand that there are different personality types, but different generations which use diverse methods to communicate. Couple that with the fact that some individuals take in information using different senses making the task even more difficult.
This means a leader must utilize different methods to communicate his or her message while keeping the meaning consistent. The leader must walk the talk and talk the walk. A vision cannot just be words on a wall, but integrated into the very fabric of the organization. Employees must also feel an ownership in the process.
Zappos has developed a unique way to include all the employees in the development of the culture. Each year, Zappos publishes a book entitled (The year) Culture Book. The foreword to the 2007 Zappos Culture book states, “We have been asked by a lot of people how we’ve grown so quickly and the answer is really simple. We’ve aligned the entire organization around one mission: to provide the best service possible… We are a service company that happens to sell shoes.”
When Zappos hires new people their first concern is whether the individuals understand and fit into the culture. They put employees through many weeks of training. In addition, every year they publish a book in which all employees have the opportunity to write their thoughts about the culture to be shared with new employees, partners and some customers.
You can purchase Zappos.com Culture Book – 2009 Edition Findings at Amazon.
They are asked not to speak to anyone else or look up previous books because they want to know what Zappos culture means to them at the present time. The responses are then published in an annual book. When reading the replies, one sees very consistent ideas that surface.
Much like the birds, the leadership of Zappos has a clear vision and the employees understand how their role helps to complete the pattern and reach the future vision.