(615) 656-0465 mark@markkennyspeaks.com

An organization, department, agency, or team cannot thrive in the midst of change and disruption if the leadership team is experiencing unnecessary turbulence due to personality clashes or negative behaviors. Yet the reality is that many leadership teams are experiencing these types of issues. I recently had the privilege of interviewing Gary Garfield and Liz Weber for my new podcast season, Becoming Unassailable. Gary is the former CEO of Bridgestone Americas, while Liz is a well regarded consultant who has written ten leadership books and has worked with organizations and leadership teams in over 20 countries. In this article, I will share three pieces of advice from these conversations to address these issues on your team.

Interestingly, these steps are not to go and address the behavior. These are almost pre-requisites to addressing the behavior. You’ll see what I mean…

[Note: for the purposes of this article, I am using the term “organization” in a general sense to refer to an entire company or agency, a department, a division, or group.]

Create a Cultural Lever

Your organization needs a lever to drive cultural change throughout the organization. Wanting to change the culture doesn’t change the culture. Creating an initiative to change the culture doesn’t change the culture. There must be a rallying point that makes changing the culture matter.

When Gary Garfield became the CEO of Bridgestone Americas, the company was under threat by underpriced tires from Asia and their financial performance was suffering as a result. Gary rallied the company around the cultural lever of becoming the most innovative company in their industry. After diving into what innovation actually meant, he asked his top leaders the question, “do you think our culture will allow us to do what this gentleman just described?” The answer, of course, was no. Gary put it to his leaders to decide on the cultural blueprint that Bridgestone needed to be the most innovative company in their industries. The leaders came up with four pillars that were embraced and driven by every segment of the company.

In my own work with executive and leadership teams, I use Patrick Lencioni’s thematic goal model, which is very similar to the concept of a cultural lever. Lencioni’s model provides a great framework to actually put this into practice.

Know the Fundamental Why

Liz Weber takes a similar approach. She says that before you can deal with the personality clashes, there has to be a fundamental thread that holds all of us together. We can’t do this apart from each other and we have to believe in why this entity exists and the work that’s being done. To me, this is similar to a cultural lever, but a little different. This gets to why we are doing this work in the first place. How can we work together if we each don’t a) have the same answer for why we are doing this work and b) believe in it?

Some examples of why statements that I have used in my keynote presentations include:

  • Southwest Airlines: democratizing air travel
  • A coffee shop I visited recently: improve mental health for its customers
  • An engineering company: Project management is going to be the strength of our company
  • A government agency: we are going to outcompete the private sector

The key is not the specific why but that everyone knows and believes in the why.

Clarify What Is Needed from a Cultural Perspective

Liz Weber goes on to talk about simply having the conversation around what our team culture needs to be and answering the right questions:

  • What type of team do we want to become?
  • What is needed from each of us as team members? What is needed from Mark, Enrique, Liz, Damon, etc.?

This isn’t complicated. It is taking the time to have the conversation. Too much of our time is spent back-to-back fighting everyday battles. Technically, we’re on a team, but in reality we feel isolated and disconnected doing our own work. To borrow a marriage analogy from Larry Kaiser, we need to face to face time to do the work of being a team, which means having these types of conversations.

What I love about these pieces of advice is that they don’t start with “go and address the behavior.” Do we need to address behaviors? Of course! But that is sort of putting a band-aid on the problem instead of getting clarity on the why and the culture. We need to provide a reason for us to pull together. We need something to pursue together. Otherwise, why should we put aside our differences and work together? Then, if someone isn’t living up to that new expectation, it’s easy to call them up to the new standard.

Want to Hear More?

Listen to the first two episodes of the new Becoming Unassailable podcast season, including my interview with Liz. My interview with Gary will be published next week, followed by several more interviews.

Listen on Spotify

Listen on the podcast website

Book a 30 minute consult call with Mark to discuss what your leadership team needs to thrive in change and disruption.