High performance culture. What does it mean to you? For me, it’s hard to define using logic, it’s something that you feel. You know you have it when you feel part of something bigger than yourself, and most importantly, that ‘something’ is aligned to your own values and ways of thinking. If you get the culture right, the rest will follow, and as the leader of the London Business Partner team at Grant Thornton UK LLP, I feel in a really fortunate position to have influence over this kind of culture, every day.
I believe the time has come for all businesses to reframe culture as something to actively manage, invest in and hard-wire into the success of their organisation. Many businesses set a vision which translates into strategies, objectives and plans. They put in place well thought through business structures and processes. Over time they achieve the goals and objectives they have set themselves, yet research shows that organisations who pay attention in equal measure to both strategy, systems and their culture, values and behaviours, deliver results and cultural change considerably quicker. Only when both the strategy and the culture are well aligned can sustained commercial success be generated.
At Grant Thornton, our culture has helped to define our brand and approach in the marketplace. Our cultural stance is made up of over 5,000 unique perspectives, and opinions. It is through these opinions that we are encouraged to grow and develop so we can give the very best value to our clients, and we have created our culture to allow this unique thinking to happen in a collaborative way.
I have worked with a talented team to transition Grant Thornton’s culture from focussing upon day-to-day management issues, to one where leaders are supported to think about vision and long term goals. Many managers had previously relied more on logical reasoning and thinking. While that is certainly important, when we polled 3,500 business leaders we found those leaders of dynamic organisations relied on their intuition, were open to feedback through coaching, developed future talent and were collaborative. We have created an environment that enables our people to think and feel, to trust their instincts and rely on their strengths. We knew the best decisions for our clients came from a blend of instinct and reason, so we aligned our board to ensure shared commitment across the firm to this agreed vision.
As business partners, we have supported this cultural shift, encouraging our leaders to own the firm’s vision and role model the behaviours we wanted to encourage in others. We found through expressing positive behaviours and language it had a ripple effect around the organisation. The role of the people manager in influencing this change of direction has been key in this transition. Coaching is now increasingly sought by senior leaders as a space where they can have reflective conversations about their work and be challenged on their thinking and approach. We know that when it comes to getting the best out of teams and fully engaging our people, a coaching style gets results.
The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has also seen a rise in coaching. The CMI’s research shows managers rate coaching as one of the top five most effective means of developing management skills in themselves and others . We have developed a coaching culture for everyone, and encourage people managers to use a ‘coaching’ style in leading their teams and influencing others. Peer and team coaching has helped to shift thinking and ensure teams are more collaborative. What’s made the biggest shift? Our coaches are internal, they are the leaders of our business, and have taken the time to become qualified and accredited coaches. They seek out mindsets that underpin a particular behaviour and help bring about changes. This emphasis on coaching has enabled our leaders and individuals to grow to their strengths.
Norman Pickavance author of “The Reconnected Leader” has noticed business leaders becoming increasingly isolated in the past five years, as organisations have become more complex. As business partners, we use coaching techniques in every conversation; giving leaders an opportunity to reflect on their performance and their leadership with a trusted adviser who is able to give honest and constructive feedback. We have focused on talent; spotting it, moving it and developing it and we want to continue to do this transparently and authentically.
Like all exciting changes and programmes, energy and excitement can wane and we know we have some way to go before our thinking becomes ‘business as usual’. We know we need passion, energy and innovation to thrive and it is near on impossible to predict when this will end, perhaps it never will and maybe that’s the really exciting bit. We need to continue our coaching role, enable people to take responsibility and to bring a holistic view to work. Our culture will continue to evolve and we know to maintain a high performing culture we need to go deeper, and work harder to take the mind set and capability to an even higher level.
Jenn Batey, will be speaking at the HRBP Conference in London on the 18th November 2014.