Leader Language Creates Culture

In practice, the concept of lingua franca is familiar to most people.

It’s the commonly used language used by groups to communicate thoughts and ideas that can be shared by diverse groups of people. And in specialized worlds – like that of leadership - it is the common thread that binds the activities and approaches to decision-making that help frame the ideas of organizations.

Visionary leaders have always used language to express their grandest ideas that would change the world. They are masters at figuring out how to get the rest of us to adopt their language to express our own intentions.

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The kind of leadership that relies on dictate has long passed most organizations by as antiquated, ineffective and unsustainable (despite what some public discourse may sound like today). Instead, the idea of influencing behavior by tapping into what affirmatively motivates people is how the most successful leaders of our day operate.

Whether it’s the language of finance, community organizing, healthcare or technology transfer, the people we revere as transformational in their fields use language to motivate, inspire and shape the cultures that they find themselves in.

I would venture to say 75 percent of a leader’s role is to communicate expectations, inspire people to perform to their abilities, course correct when work is off course and transmit the importance of everyone’s participation to the larger goal of a project or enterprise.

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To successfully do those things, leaders must possess a number of technical skills that are essential to understanding what “perfect performance” looks like in a given field. But, once a leader is able to demonstrate her technical bona fides, much of the rest of her portfolio is really about inspiring, convincing, influencing and praising the golden triangle of stakeholders for any organization: the company, the customers and the collaborators.

Noah Zandan, CEO of Quantified Communications once noted in an article published by Inc. Magazine that there are several ways visionary leaders can best create an inspirational lingua franca for your organization:

·      Use more of the present tense versus future tense language when speaking about your organization

·      Talk more about your team more than you do about the institution or yourself

·      Use more sensory or feeling language to describe how things appear

This advice goes for the language you use in written materials, as well. Transmitting a “sense” of “who” your organization is can have equally motivating impacts on people that are (or want to be) associated with your team.

I’m also reminded of Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why when considering how to use language to inspire. In it, he posits that people are inspired by “a sense of purpose”. It is that connection that must be made in order for a resonant lingua franca to begin to take hold and reflect your culture.

Below are a series of questions leaders should be asking themselves on a regular basis when seeking to figure out if he is using language that reflects inspiration:

·      How do you transmit vision?

·      How do you praise good performance?

·      How do you constructively criticize misses?

·      How often are you “walking the shop floor”?

·      At what point in a process do you offer praise for good performance?

·      At what point in a process do you offer criticism for poor performance?

·      Do you check to see if the language you use to lead is understood by your audience?

·      Does the language you use to talk about that vision support your vision?

·      Are new employees “taught” your organization’s lingua franca in a systematic way?  

All of these questions and many others ought to be considered when thinking about the development of a robust and inviting culture in your organization. Let us know if any of these concepts are helpful as you begin changing your own workplace cultures.

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Why Organizations Need Process Frameworks

Most any organization that you encounter is likely to have a process for virtually any activity. That framework is often viewed as an outward manifestation of an organization's culture. 

How often have you heard the phrase "That's just how we do it here."? I've found that responses like that are usually a sneak peek into what it must be like to be a part of that organization. It is also a kind of leading indicator to a business' process framework. In short, its a way to gauge how groups choose to solve problems. 

In the lexicon of Continuous Improvement Process Design work, a process framework is a way to visualize the effectiveness of a process by employing three distinct sets of tools: 

  • Process Definition Systems: Pre-specification materials like process maps & checklists that help practitioners with problem identification, problem measurement and the development of process designs.
  • Process Management Systems: Root Cause Analysis findings that signal & surface problems, allow for rapid experimentation and utilize countermeasures to establish stability within the process in question.
  • Process Innovation Systems: Measurement data of processes that creates a launching pad for the targeting of newer and improved goals to be reached by the process being improved upon. 

So, what are you supposed to do with this information? What's in it for your organization?

You can start by defining as specifically as you can, what your processes are. Do you know why you do what you do? Do you know what your processes are supposed to look like? You should examine whether the way things have always been done is actually working. This deep examination can get you closer to identifying problems your organization is facing and the best solutions for those problems.  

Other approaches to sketching out Process Frameworks include interviewing employees about what and how they do their jobs, observing (aka Go-and-See) how employees do their jobs and asking key questions about how they are able to measure success, repeat it and course correct when needed. 

What this process work will do for your organization is help you organize your priority processes and offer you ways to find efficiencies, decrease waste and save money.

At OVP Management Consulting Group Inc. we believe helping clients determine what kind of problem-solving organization they are is a great way to begin any culture change or change management process. And asking the kinds of questions that start with, "How do you know...?" is a great way to establish baselines for your process framework. 

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International Women's Day: Advancing Diversity in Energy

International Women's Day:  Advancing Diversity in Energy

Energy executive Pamela Hill shares some thoughts about the importance of diversity & inclusion within the electric utility industry.

Transform Talent Into Strength

Super Bowl Lii is coming this weekend pitting two iconic American cities - Boston and Philadelphia - against each other to see which will field the best football team in the land. And as players, coaches and fans of the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles prepare for the Big Game, there will be heated debate about who will win the matchup. But, one thing that is indisputable, regardless of who scores the most points on Sunday, it's the Patriots that are the winners. 

You see, the Patriots organization has figured out how to cultivate team success on a consistent basis over nearly 2 decades, by developing a system that not only is expert in identifying talents, but that understands how best to consistently transform those talents into organizational strengths. The team's leader prime mover - the initial source of energy directed towards a goal - is the coach Bill Belichick. 

Results don't lie, as you can see in this great piece on the subject from the Harvard Business Review.

Since 2001 under Belichick, the Patriots have finished first or second in their division every year, failed the make the playoffs only twice and been to eight Super Bowls, of which they've won at least five. This consistency is a demonstration that leadership development linked to success is often formulaic. 

For our purposes, we'll define talent as naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling and behavior that can be productively applied. Strengths, on the other hand, are defined as the ability to consistently provide near perfect performance in any given activity. And to achieve the kind of consistent success that Belichick and his Patriots have enjoyed, they have applied a simple equation: Talent x Investment = Strength.

But you might be wondering, what does this have to do with my business? Perhaps you don't have the luxury of hand-picking talent to fit into a system relies on million-dollar coaches and athletes. Regardless of your organizational challenges, we believe the Talent-to-Strength equation can be successfully applied to your teams and result in improved performance across a multitude of domains. And it is this philosophy of system design that many organizations fail to connect to their activities regularly.

Here are some ways to begin thinking about how to convert your team's talents into strengths:

- Adopt a strengths assumption approach to problem solving

- Establish an awareness of individual and team strengths

- Apply a team's organizational strengths daily

- Identify and track key performance metrics 

This is what we do with our clients. We work with them to understand how best to leverage the talents of their team members. It's a way to develop a framework that helps team leaders to put teammates in the best possible positions to help the organization succeed and encourage individuals to utilize their talents more consistently.

For more information on how to help organizations uncover the talents of its employees and turn those talents into strengths, please contact OVP Management Consulting Group Inc. We look forward to helping your organization grow and win!