I recently attended a conference on leadership and heard Rob Murray, CEO of Lion, speak about their cultural journey. What I found inspiring about Rob’s presentation was both what he talked about and who he was being – authentic, committed, inspired by creating a high performing culture and clear about the difference it makes to business outcomes.
As Rob shared about the work they have done, and continue to do, with the development of leadership in their business it was very clear that he was talking as ‘we’, not as ‘I’. There was 100% congruency between who he was and what he was talking about. He also had a grounded, balanced understanding of the relationship between developing leaders who can create an engaged culture and bottom line business results, and a full appreciation of the ongoing nature of that journey.
For a lot of the last 20 years talking to businesses I encountered many leaders who were unable to see the relationship between leadership/cultural development and high performing businesses – or who got the connection at a very superficial level. Yet the data and evidence for that is overwhelming and has been around for years.
For a recent event with 50 leaders we put together some of that data from recent studies done in Australia, to newspaper and HBR articles. We did that in order to provide evidence to the group that working on the so-called ‘soft skills’ produces real results, thinking that may not be obvious to all the attendees. Interestingly, everyone got it and they didn’t need the data to get it.
I know this is ‘mother-in-law’ research, but it seems to me that in the past few years a corner has started to be turned in Australian businesses. It could be partly due to the shift in connectedness as a result of things like Twitter and Facebook – both of which give an immediacy of feedback never before seen, or maybe the facts are starting to sink in.
Businesses are getting that if they want to be successful, they have to engage with their people and that engagement has to be done by leaders who are real and available. Its not about having a set of values or an ‘open door policy’, its about listening, being truly interested, able to connect and ‘walking the talk’.
It’s a thrilling time to be around. There is an openness and a willingness in more and more of Australia’s largest businesses to developing and truly valuing what makes business work – people and their relationship with their peers, their managers, their leaders and their customers.
One of the most exciting things about what is happening now is that we are witnessing an era where business is moving from being only about profits to being institutions where individuals get to grow and expand and become better friends, partners, family members and citizens.