It Ain’t What You Do.

The best leaders focus, almost exclusively, on culture.

Culture is the way your business behaves. Especially when no one is looking.

Culture is the attitude with which your team comes to work, it is the generosity of spirit they do or don’t show to their coworkers; it is, as a whole, is the way you as a group of people think, act and interact.

It’s not what you say. It’s what you do.

And this matters, a great deal, because culture is how, as a leader, you actually get things done.

If you have a positive, can-do culture that is generous, permissive and creative then your vision for your business – your ‘Shining City On A Hill’ – is so much more likely to be realised.

Without it, your ideas – no matter how ‘good’ – will remain just that; ideas.

Because, as the song says, in the end, it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.

That’s what get results.

Monticello LLP

A Little Less Conversation….

There is no value in values.

Well, that’s not quite true. What I mean is that there is no value in writing down your corporate values.

Because values are something you live, something you do.

Let me ask you a question – do you have values in your family?

I bet you do.

And they’re strong, right? Stronger, no doubt, than the ‘corporate values’ you see emblazoned on the office wall every time you walk through reception?

But, and I’m willing to bet a fair amount on this, you haven’t written your family values down, have you?

Because you don’t need to.

Because either you live these values, day in, day out, eat-sleep-breathe them, kind-of-without-thinking-about-it, or, very simply, they are not your values.

The same is true of corporate values. Writing down that you are ‘innovative’ (or whatever else – ‘innovative’ is just the value du jour) does not make you innovative. Often, indeed, it only confirms that you are not – because those people and corporations who are truly innovative are just doing it, getting on with it: innovating. They don’t have say they are doing something. Because they are actually doing something.

That’s not to say you can’t change a culture, the way a business behaves. You can. Just like you can change the way a family behaves.

But you don’t do it by writing down a load of clichéd mumbo-jumbo and then just somehow expect it to ‘happen’. You work at it, strive for it, model it constantly and continuously, you demonstrate it, relentlessly, 24/7. You hire people who reflect the culture you want, and fire those who don’t. You reward the behaviours you want to see and not those that you don’t.

It’s simple. Damned hard, and incredibly demanding in terms of leadership energy and time, but simple. So simple, in fact, that when it comes to ‘corporate values’, there is no one who has come close to putting it as succinctly as The King himself:

A little less conversation, a little more action.

 

Nick Jefferson is a partner with Monticello LLP, the advisory firm, and a curator of The Library of Progress.

 

 

I’ve Got Hurt Feelings.

I’m offended.

I’m offended by all the people who keep saying they’re offended.

Actually, I’m just bored of it. Really bored of it.

‘Outraged’ and ‘offended’ are the mots de nos jours.

Hypertense, strangulated tones surround us. It’s like everyone in the country is engaging in their own equivalent of being the nutter at the bar; coiled springs goading you into spilling their pint so they can feign ‘offence’ and have a swing at you.

Being offended is the opposite of being tolerant.

And tolerance is the goose that lays the creative golden egg.

Tolerance is a precondition to novation; the willingness to think that little bit differently, to accept new ideas from new places. It’s what produces genuinely fresh thinking.

Orwell’s Big Brother knew that if he stifled freedom of speech, he ultimately stifled freedom of thought, which in turn would mean no creativity – just what he wanted. ISIL are trying to pull the same stunt, albeit more clumsily, barbarously and murderously.

Thankfully, the history of the world is pretty clear that murderously intolerant regimes like ISIL, whilst brutal and hugely damaging, just do not last over the long term.

The same is true of corporations run on an overzealous ‘command-and-control’ model. They ultimately break down.

This is because humans need something different.

We need to feel that they can thrive. Together, for sure, but also as individuals.

Smart leaders, political, religious and corporate, know this. And they create structures and cultures that enable and underpin tolerance.

Ironically, perhaps, given ISIL’s desire to recreate the ‘Caliphate’, the ‘Golden Age of Islam’ was one of the most tolerant civilisations ever. And it was because of this that muslims were able to dominate, over centuries, an empire that stretched from what is now Iraq in the east to Southern Europe in the west.

The Caliphs of the Golden Age deliberately filled their jasmine-scented, fountain-adorned courts with astronomers, doctors, mathematicians, physicists, philosophers and thinkers of all kindsl

They tolerated other ideas, other religions – not pointlessly, but because they recognised that the resultant technologies and truths that would emerge from such tolerance could be leveraged to ever-strengthen power and dominance.  They saw that progress, development and growth were good: good for individuals, and so good for society overall, and so good for its leaders too.

Historically, at least, we Brits have also been famous for our tolerance. And there can be little doubt of the extent to which this fuelled the success of our own empire too.

We Brits don’t like the state-knows-best dirigisme earnestly pursued by some of our European neighbours. We prefer instead to put our faith in the eccentric ingenuity of our (often odd, and quirky) people.

Tolerance is the Magna Carta; tolerance is John Stuart Mill, the Non-Conformists, the Suffragettes, Alan Turing, Quentin Crisp, Sid Vicious and Vivienne Westwood.

Tolerance is the creation, lauding and awarding of a TV spot that would never even get thought of in the US, let alone commissioned.

Tolerance is Britain and Britain is tolerance.

Tolerance is what makes cultures – national, tribal, corporate – truly sustainable.

So let’s stop ‘being offended’ and start ‘being tolerant’; reclaim it as our own.

Apart from anything else, tolerance makes the world a kinder, more fun and inextricably more creative place.

Nick Jefferson is a partner with advisory firm, Monticello LLP, and a curator of The Library of Progress.

 

Why Do You Build Me Up, Buttercup?

‘What on earth do you think you’re doing?,’ snarled the imperious, plump little woman from behind her clipboard.

‘Hi’, my friend grinned. ‘Just taking a picture of the brilliant model’, he said, genuinely. For he wasn’t just anywhere. He was deep within his employer’s ‘Creativity Lab’.

(Let the record show that the ‘Creativity Lab’ is no ordinary corporate workspace. Oh no. No grey furniture, no drab pastels here. The ‘Creativity Lab’ is all brightly coloured bean bags, and squidgy balls; PostIt notes and trail-mix.)

And there, in the heart of what to the outside world might have looked like a regular corporate meeting room hurriedly filled with some hideously clichéd ‘creative’ accoutrements (because it was), was the offending model.

I’ve seen the picture. It was, indeed, brilliant: a searing tower of Meccano excellence. You could say it was the poster child (at least for this corporation) of what the ‘Creativity Lab’ was all about – the chance to break out, to explore a different way, to offer and experience a flash of colour (and perhaps even insight) in an otherwise dull world.

And yet the beady-eyed little woman was aghast.

‘Did you make that? No one is supposed to use the Meccano. It makes a real mess of the room. We can’t have that. You’ll need to dismantle it. Straightaway.’

Her brusque tone left no doubt in my pal’s mind. She definitely wasn’t joking.

But she should have been.

Making your corporate culture one that is more creative is not a luxury. It is business critical. In the 21st Century, success, in part, is defined by how differently you can think.

That mindset has to come from within. Each person in your business needs to live it, breathe it; nurture it. The fragile flower of creativity needs the light and warmth of tolerance, diversity and fun in order to grow. Not the suffocation of the Poujadiste, risk-averse, computer-says-no mentality of an idiot with a clipboard.

The whole idea of a ‘Creativity Lab’ is, for my money, absurd. Creativity does not have a ‘place’, for a start.

But if you are going to ram A. N. Other meeting room choc-a-bloc with things that you earnestly (if misguidedly) believe are going to make your people more ‘creative’, then, erm, shouldn’t you at least let them use them?

Nick Jefferson is a partner with Monticello LLP, the advisory firm working across Brand, Culture and Digital, and a curator of The Library of Progress.

 

Let It Go. Let It Go. And I’ll Rise Like The Break Of Dawn.

One of our partners, Nick Jefferson, was recently invited to speak to a group of the world’s most powerful Chief Procurement Officers.

Here is the text of what he said…….

‘Tonight I’d like to talk to you a little about the ‘3Cs’:

  • Culture
  • Creativity
  • Communication

Continue reading “Let It Go. Let It Go. And I’ll Rise Like The Break Of Dawn.”

Careless Wispa.

When I was a boy, my Dad said to me:

There are three types of people in this world. There are people who make things happen. And there are people who watch things happen. Then there are the people who simply say, “What happened?”

Rose Fass has written a genuinely brilliant book about being, and staying, in the first category.

Continue reading “Careless Wispa.”

I Am He As You Are He As You Are Me. And We Are All Together.

In 2013, at least on one reading, the heart of the creative world was knifed; violently, and by one of its own.

Continue reading “I Am He As You Are He As You Are Me. And We Are All Together.”