Attitude is a big deal. The way we look at things and the beliefs we hold about them influence what we choose to do and how we choose to behave when we’re doing it. That’s why I think it’s always a good idea, especially for those who lead, to conduct something of an attitude inventory from time to time. And, what better time to do it than at the beginning of a New Year?
So, with that in mind, here are five attitudes that I think will be necessary for business leaders to work on in order to achieve success in 2014 and beyond:
1. Diversity is not a black-and-white subject
There are a myriad of distinctions between human beings. Leaders who believe that diversity is limited to cultural, ethnic and gender differences must go deeper and wider to make optimal use of the richness in knowledge, thought and experience that exists in their organisations.
For example, today’s organisations include people from three generations, each with their own set of experiences and expectations. Leaders who don’t seek to understand both the benefits this promises and the tension it creates will be disadvantaged. More importantly, if they fail to constructively accommodate these differences, they will also fail to create an environment in which people from each generation are willing to do their best work.
The upshot If you look at building a diverse workforce as a nice to do initiative, you are missing the point … and the boat. Making optimal use of available talent brings optimal results and will keep you in the game. That makes valuing diversity a business imperative.
2. Communication is only effective if it results in understanding
Communication is a huge topic in most organisations. It, or lack of it, is often pinpointed as the culprit when things go wrong. And yet, so many cling to the idea that because they understand the message they are sending, it is reasonable to assume that those on the receiving end will understand it in the same way.
The upshot If you view communication as something that creates understanding, you may also see the wisdom in seeking out and engaging a wider range of communication tools – there are a great many about, thanks to the wonders of technology. This attitude can help to reduce the confusion that comes from unclear messages and increase potential for greater overall productivity.
3. Learning and training are not synonymous
Opportunities to learn are everywhere and yet some leaders continue to believe that if they have a wide array of training programs in their organisations and encourage, or even require, people to attend them, their job is done. While it would be nice to think that, the truth is, learning doesn’t really happen in a classroom, on a webinar or from a book. Learning happens when training is applied in real-life circumstances. To create learning, you also have to create the culture and environment that welcomes it.
Lots of people who attend classes will come away with new ideas and yet have no place to apply them. When this happens, the ideas, no matter how good, drift off into the ether. Also, when people try something new and fail, the response to that failure becomes critical to the learning process. Too many organisations make punishment the reward for honest mistakes. When that happens, learning takes a back seat to survival.
The upshot If you want people to learn, grow and increase their value to your organisation, create a whole learning environment that includes the opportunity for the application of new skills; a balanced attitude toward failure; genuine recognition of accomplishment and; a well-constructed framework for individual accountability.
4. Collaboration is the watchword of the 21st century
In successful organisations, there’s no such thing as a one-man (or woman) band. There’s just far too much going on for a single person to manage successfully. And yet, there are still those who try to keep tight control over everything that goes on around them.
The upshot Taking a collaborative perspective and putting it into practice is hard. It means making the work more important than you. But, doing so often reaps better results. That is reason enough to take a collaborative attitude.
5. Vision, values and purpose matter more than rules and policies
In every organisation, there have to be boundaries. For instance, legal and ethical boundaries are permanent fixtures in any reputable company and must be strongly enforced. However, beyond that, encouraging people to contribute their best work relies on the strength of their understanding of, and belief in, your organisational purpose, vision of the future and the values you espouse.
The upshot Leading from vision, values and purpose requires greater focus and discipline than enforcing a set of rules. However, those who do it successfully create workplaces that attract talented, enthusiastic and committed people. In a world where competition for the best is fierce, that has to be a good thing.
That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?