Archive for the ‘Greater-Good’ Category

How to make sure your "talk" does not overpromise

We chose our logo to represent the balance between “walking” and “talking” when building the culture you want.  And we wanted it to portray how the “walker” is usually hurrying to catch up with the “talker”.  It is common for the talk to be a little ahead of the walk, but in many cases it gets way too far out in front.

You build trust with your employees and your customers when you walk your talk.  There are two paths to closing the gap between these two.  One is to improve your “walk”.  The other to downplay your “talk”.  Ultimately, if you want a sustainable culture that will allow you to deliver on your promises, you need to improve your walk.  However, until you reach that point, there are dangers to be found in hyping up the “talk” too much.

Take a look at this article in the Harvard Business review.  It makes some excellent points about the additional burden BP as placed upon itself by its positioning of being ultra environmentally friendly.  It contrasts BP’s culture with that of one of its Brazilian competitors, Petrobras, where there has been deep, consistent work achieved to lay the foundations of a safe, environmentally aware culture.

It is tempting, when you hold a vision of having a great culture, to communicate this both to employees and customers.  How can you word your communications so they describe aspiration without making claims that you cannot fulfil?  From an internal perspective, communication that is worded as an absolute:  “We are customer centric, open and a meritocracy” will evoke cynicism if employees see a lack of investment in customers, an unwillingness to listen and non performers being given bonuses.  This will actually put your culture efforts into regression.  “We aspire to be customer centric, and we need your feedback and your help” evokes a very different response.

When it comes to marketing campaigns, the temptation to overpromise is often even more embedded.  And it may cost BP dearly right now.

How WE maps help corporate culture and the environment

Last month I was invited to participate in a symposium called Climate, Mind, Behavior, held at the G


rison Institute in upstate New York. My fellow participants included neurologists, economists, environmentalists, researchers, community organizers, business leaders and US government people. The purpose was to apply how what is now being learned about the motivators of behavior to the challenge of changing behavior fast enough to reverse the damage of global warming.

It was a valuable experience. Distilling what I learnt into thoughts for this blog, there are two neurological functions which have to be humming for people and governments to behave in an environment-supporting way. These two also make a positive impact on corporate culture too.

One is the ability to hold what is called a WE map, as distinct from a ME map. Those with a WE map literally see the themselves as part of the whole world, and of the earth. They feel problems of the whole as being their own problems. Most people do not have empathy which extends this broadly, defining themselves as a narrow ME against the broader world. Apparently our brain needs these maps to be built first, because only with these it is able to send the impulses that cause behaviour change.

The second is the ability to see sufficiently into the future to experience future pain with sufficent accuteness to take action now. Human beings are the only animals capable of planning for the long term future, but, even in us, it is a part of the brain which may not still sufficiently developed to enable us to make the decisions needed to reduce global warming.

Both of these neurological states are more conscious, more developed, with a world view more expansive, than is common. They both link very closely to many of the leadership development efforts I see in the best organizations around the world. Break down silos, support global initiatives, think for the whole, hold firm for decisions with long term benefits, define the organization in terms of all its stakeholders.

The most inspiring speaker I heard: Dan Siegel, neurologist and author of “Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Tranformation”. Awesome links between behaviour, the mind and shared decisions, and a belief that the brain can be retrained.

What depressed me most: Learning much more about the US political system and how its built in checks and balances makes it so open to be influenced by single interest lobby groups. Look how hard it was to get a health care system approved which most people wanted, and imagine getting the environmental legislation that will be required passed when most people operate from ME maps, and a significant number do not see there is a problem at all. Not hopeful.