Commitment versus compliance

In this video, Dr Paul Victor of Vmax Consulting draws the distinction between cultures of compliance and commitment.

Compliance cultures are characterised by people adhering to the rules only when sanctions are likely to be enforced, whereas commitment is demonstrated where there is shared ownership of results, bought about by an engaged workforce and engaging leadership.

Developing the leaders of the future at Shred-it

Shred-it 2014 EMEA Hipo Program

We are delighted to announce the commencement of the Shred-it 2014 EMEA High Potential Program.

Vmax Consulting are partnering with Shred-it, the world’s leading secure information destruction company, to deliver an intensive 2 year program to develop the leaders of the future.  The program combines interactive learning modules with intensive projects aligned to the business strategy and designed to deliver substantial return on investment.

Throughout the program, peer and faculty support is provided through the use of an secure online portal, allowing the participants to communicate and collaborate regardless of location, availability and time-zone.

Module 1 focussed on Leadership & Learning, with emphasis on understanding their own behaviours and the challenges these would bring in a leadership context. The importance of their individual and team contribution in delivering business value was a constant theme, and provoked much questioning and reflection.

The High Potentials were joined in the first module by members of the Shred-it leadership team, including the EVP for EMEA, Robert Guice.  Robert ran a session on the key components of leadership within Shred-it that provided an opportunity for the participants to contextualise their learning and position themselves effectively as future leaders.

Robert Guice is a key sponsor of the program, and stated “Shred-it believe that investing in our people – creating a motivated and passionate leadership culture – has a positive influence throughout the business, which is ultimately reflected in the high quality of service to our customers”.

Daniela Seitz, Shred-it Director of Human Resources, EMEA welcomed the focus the Vmax Consulting team are bringing to the program, describing the program design and delivery as “highly challenging of the participant’s leadership preconceptions, and a driver of significant business value”.

We look forward to working with the participants over the next 2 years.

The power of ‘voices’


I recently ran a strategy session for a client and revisited the idea of ‘voices’ to help them make their strategic focus more concrete and contextually specific.  It is some time since I used ‘voices’ and it was great to see and remember how very powerful this methodology really is.

We had worked very hard to create the future state operating model for the business and the team were pleased with progress but were struggling to understand how they needed to change their behaviours to support the transition to this ‘go to state’.  As we know, the real demonstration of leadership through change is ‘constancy of purpose and consistency of practice’ and, whilst many leadership teams frequently assert that they will make the required changes, few truly carry this through into action in a sustainable manner.

To help in the process I asked the team to re-view their target operating model from a behavioural perspective and consider the following questions:

  • “What behaviours do you currently demonstrate that align with this future state and will help you to be role models?”
  • “What behaviours do you currently demonstrate that will inhibit your achievement of this future state?”
  • “What behaviours can you demonstrate that will accelerate the achievement of the future state and deliver a leveraged impact?”

These are powerful questions and inevitably result in a behaviourally focused debate about leadership, role-modeling and the need for evidentially-based commitment to the future state.  The words and commitments can, however, still lack real power and this is where the ‘voices’ provide absolute clarity and focus.

The approach here is to ask, “If you are, individually and collectively, behaving in this way, how would you be viewed by those around you and, most importantly, what would they say?”

I have found that the most powerful voices tend to be:

  • Voice of the Shareholder – your value return
  • Voice of the Employees – your engagement proposition
  • Voice of the Customer – your value proposition
  • Voice of the Competitor – your competitive threat
  • Voice of Me – your personal perspective

The responses always provide genuine insight and understanding that not only refines and validates the target operating model but also provides depth and focus for the behaviours that the leadership team need to overtly demonstrate in order to purposefully drive achievement.

Organisational leaders, as with all of us, find behaviour change a challenge so having the focus on driving towards a target operating model augmented by the voices of key stakeholders really does support and engage h team to try harder. The target operating model provides the concrete information about how they will deliver sustainable competitive advantage, whilst the voices provide the concrete feedback that they are able to generate as they increasingly behave in line with the blueprint they have created.  A further advantage, of course, is that the team have defined performance characteristics against which they can measure progress, provide feedback and challenge each other to perform.  In short, an accelerated pathway to their ideal future state.

Is your business ready for the ‘Teampreneurs’?


Today members of the Vmax Consulting team spent a fascinating morning working with the students and coaches of the Entrepreneurial Business Management degree at Northumbria University.

Based on ‘Tiimiakatemia’, an experiential learning philosophy developed and honed in Finland, this is a degree without lectures, exams, or defined boundaries.  Instead the students (or ‘Teampreneurs’) are building a real business, in the wild.  They are responsible for everything that is involved with their fledgling startups, with little in the way of directive guidance, but all the support they could possibly hope for.

In addition to the faculty support, the Teampreneurs are completely self-supporting. Collaboration and knowledge sharing is baked in from the outset, as this is the only way that their businesses will thrive.

What is intriguing to know is how businesses in the outside world will handle these budding entrepreneurs when (or perhaps if) they enter the traditional job market.  Will their entrepreneurial spirit be nurtured, or snuffed out in order to maintain the corporate status quo.

We can only hope that the wider world is open to the Teampreneurs’ new ideas and ethos.

The essential elements of a performance culture


There is an increasing focus on corporate culture across contemporary organisations, and a growing recognition of its value and importance.  Indeed a recent global survey by Booz & Co reported that 84% of people in business (at all levels) agree that culture is a key to business success and furthermore, 60% placed company culture as more important than business strategy.

This is great to hear but still too many business leaders pay insufficient time and attention to culture and only address it as a problem that needs to be rectified, sadly often with a change programme or new strategy which will ‘unite the workforce.’

I have long argued that leaders ignore culture at their peril and that a fundamental element of a leaders role is to define and drive the performance culture for their business.  In this way we create the culture that we need rather than accepting the prevailing culture as inevitable, or indeed tinkering with the culture through a series of, often disconnected but well-intentioned, interventions that simply create confusion and demonstrate lack of coherent leadership.

So what are the essential elements of an intentional performance culture?

  • It is ‘designed’ as part of the overall company strategy – successive research shows that businesses perform much better when there is a clear alignment between strategy and culture.
  • It is owned and led by the senior team, with constancy of purpose and consistency of practice.  They know and deeply understand that they are role models for the culture and demonstrate this all the time
  • It is defined by reference to how we want people to behave within the business – not a set of ephemeral values that are so often open to different interpretations, but rather a clear and concise definition of what ‘outstanding performance looks like here”
  • It values and respects the legacy of the business to date and uses this a platform to build forward into the future
  • It is defined within the competitive landscape the business operates within and is sufficiently robust to withstand the foreseeable pressures from customer demand and competitor activity
  • It is used as the central defining essence of the business and as the template for recruitment, succession, and development

I recently worked with the leadership team of a global business to help them define their performance culture.  They very quickly understood what needed to be done and crafted a coherent design for their global performance culture.  The challenge, here, as always, is not defining what you want, it is purposefully and consistently modifying your behaviours and work practices to ensure that you live the desired culture – from day one.

Coaching and internal action learning sets helped immensely but all reported the journey to be “significantly harder than they first imagined”.  No surprise at this, and also no surprise that many leadership teams fail en-route as they seek to rise to this most fundamental and important leadership challenge.

Leadership crisis: is a daily protest happening in your organisation?


As I listened to the news story of the 15 Yorkshire Regiment soldiers who were jailed for protesting against being “led by muppets”, I found myself applying this to the world of leadership in other work places.  Of course not so much the “muppet” part, I think leaders have a tough job!

I can imagine some of our baby-boomer leaders thinking of this as another example of the crisis of discipline; something that “wouldn’t have happened in my day”.  Their behaviour could be seen as undermining the sacred rule that responding to a command is the only way to avoid chaos.

Leadership development efforts in recent years have focused on encouraging leaders not to use command and control, but rather to use coaching and empowering techniques.  With this in mind, what leadership lessons can we take from this demonstration by the soldiers?

The soldiers actions should not be seen as being insubordinate or anti-disciplinarian; they were angry at not being engaged.  The prosecutor at the court martial said members of the platoon had been seething at the way they were being managed, and felt that they were “not appreciated”.  The troops were said to have been furious at finding their two commanders asleep, rather than greeting the soldiers as they crossed the finish line.

I recalled the recent statistics that only 13% of employees report being engaged at work and wonder how much simmering anger is in our work places?  While perhaps not as dramatic as the soldiers who were prepared to be court-martialed for taking a stand (or in this instance, sit!), we see daily examples of loss of energy, focus, and attention.    Are there undercurrents of bad feeling and anger in your workplace arising from people that do not feel appreciated, or are badly managed?   Could it be as high as 87% of them?

In the modern workplace we need leaders who will act. Leaders who acknowledge anger and recognise that their words and actions need to align with the expectations of their teams.  We need leaders who:

  • Pay attention
  • Sit with people
  • Are at the finish line waiting
  • Ask people how they want to be appreciated and led

This isn’t about the old guard versus the new, however beware the millennials in your organisation who may start demanding change!

Delivering value from employee engagement surveys


The 2013 Gallup State of the Global Workplace report identified that worldwide as little as 13% of employees class themselves as engaged in the workplace.  This is a shocking statistic and one that belies the incredible focus on leadership development that has taken place over the last couple of decades, with a clear and determined move away from securing compliance towards aligning employees in an engaged and committed manner to drive business performance.

Doubtless the Gallup report will result in many questions being asked within organisations about the actions required to lift the percentage, and doubtless many organisations will embark on surveys to measure their own performance.  This rush to survey is ostensibly admirable but will, in all probability, lead to limited real impact.  The reason being that many organisations will seek to evaluate their performance against the wrong measure.  They will use a survey that enables them to measure against the benchmark instead of creating a survey which enables them to measure against their own strategy and aspirational culture.

I have long argued that we ignore organisational culture at our peril, and that leaders need to see culture as a strategic performance tool that will deliver very real and tangible business benefits.  Leaders should spend their time and energy determining how they want their business to operate and what operational culture they want to create and sustain before even thinking about running an employee engagement survey.

Once these critically important elements have been defined and agreed then, and only then, can we sensibly create a survey that measures current practice against our aspirational agenda.  In short, a bespoke survey that, in addition to measuring current state, also signposts the desired future state.  In this way everyone across the business will have a clear view and understanding of where they are heading, and, of course, what they engaging with.

It is clear that once a survey has been initiated, employees, quite rightly, expect action.  It is good leadership to ensure that those actions are undertaken to demonstrate that they are listening to their employees, but it is even better leadership to ensure, before even designing the survey, that the resultant actions are strategically aligned and demonstrably support development of the desired culture.

In this regard, measurement against a benchmark is interesting but not valuable.  Value comes from creating your own baseline measures that are appropriate to strategy and operational context and focused through your aspirational culture.  Only then can real progress be effectively determined, implemented, tracked and measured.  Employee engagement needs, after all, a specific organisational context.

Change is for everyone


I read an interesting question posed on a Linked-In group the other day which asked “Given all the change management processes and methodologies, why, still, do many change management initiatives fail?”

Of course change is increasingly complex and challenging but fundamentally I think that the flawed assumption within the question is that the ‘correct’ approach to change lies in one or other of the various processes and methodologies.

The majority of change methodologies adopt what I would term a ‘change architect’ perspective, in that we logically and rationally understand where we are, where we need to be and then put in place the sequential steps that take us from here to there as expediently as possibly.  Many of the better methodologies talk about people as a determinant in the change process, but very few place people at the very heart of the change.  There are few changes that do not involve the need to engage people and support them to modify their behaviours and work practices, yet very little is written about how to influence these personal change journeys.

We refer to the Change curve developed by Kübler-Ross and imagine that all we need to do is manage people through the various stages of resistance through to acceptance. It seems to me that the fundamental issue here is that we still, through this ‘management process’ objectify the people and their process of change.  I would suggest that a far better proposition would be to put people front and centre in the change process.  This means that we need to take time to understand how and why they perceive the world today and the desired changes; how to fully respect the legacy of past and current practice and use this as a building block for the future; how to ensure they can meaningfully contribute to the change process; how to monitor and measure progress in terms which are meaningful in their world; and how to appropriately celebrate achievement of success en route through the change process.

In the 2012 Olympics we saw a segment celebrating the creation of the world-wide web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee.  The visual imagery at the event was the message “This is for everyone” lit up across the stadium.  Successful change places this principle at the very heart of the design, the execution, the management and the celebration of success.

Change is indeed for everyone so let’s accept the need for the logic of the change architect, but augment this with a subjective and empathic understanding of everyone involved in the change and then, only then, we have a chance of making it for everyone.  What follows is surprisingly swift alignment, engagement and commitment to the change – after all, everybody benefits.