Leadership capability patterns: Culture

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Oct 5th, 2014

Part of an ongoing series of articles on leadership capability patterns; this article looks at some leadership patterns that relate to culture and behaviour.

In 2006, I joined Sky TV in the UK on their sky.com project. Sky already had over 8 million customers with satellite subscription, and had just acquired Easynet, bringing in another 1 million broadband accounts. For these lucky customers, their default homepage changed overnight to sky.com, which at that point was a simple product sales website. Sky recognised that this was a lot of eyeballs that they were immediately losing as people browsed their way to their chosen destinations; so they formed a new division, the Online Business Unit, to make sky.com a place worth staying, and to monetise this through advertising and pay-to-view content.

Realising this was a major undertaking, I was tasked with recruiting a new media analysis team to scope out the work. As the online business unit had several product managers with no single voice, I also became the product owner for the project, helping negotiate priorities and develop a the roadmap with them.

Challenge

As I worked at leading on both these fronts, I came across some challenges, not the least being that some managers behaved in a way that was at odds with agile values and principles. I had to work to overcome this, to hold the line, and to ensure the team didn’t see that as an acceptable form of behaviour.

Insights

stones-balanced

We needed to understand what our own values were. We agreed that we wanted to work in a environment where:

  • we had accountability and autonomy for our work
  • we could admit our mistakes and strive to put it right
  • we were listened to when we needed advice or support

Above all, we realised that it was vital to behave in a way that was congruent with that (at the time, this felt like a Zen moment for us).

Leadership capability framework

Being a good leader means being able to draw out our values and understand how we can align them with those of our organisation, and being clear on the culture in which we work and how we need to behave to be successful. I represent this with the culture–behaviour axis in the leadership capability patterns.

davidjcmorris-leadershippatterns-culture

Some leadership patterns relating to culture and behaviour

  • Self-managing: Once the team understands their values and have agreed on behavioural norms, give them responsibility and autonomy, allow them to make mistakes (within reason), support them calling each other on their contribution to the team.
  • Humility: As a manager realise that it is actually a sign of strength to recognise when you’ve made a mistake and to put it right straight away … ideally, do this proactively before someone has even mentioned or suggested that to you.
  • Availability: Ensure your team know where you are, be visible to them; if they need to speak with you, make yourself available; when you are talking with them, be present and engaged, don’t mentally multitask; and be open to suggestions.
  • Congruence: Lead by example, ensure that your behaviour is always consistent with your values, and when you cannot, let them know what’s going on, trust them, risk saying too much.
  • Feedback: Give good feedback, be direct and constructive, say what needs to be said rather than tying yourself in knots trying to be tactful.

I think of this as the fourth capability level in the leadership capability patterns, focusing on our values and behaviour.

Explore the related articles in this series:

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