Some time ago, a friend and client asked me to work with one of his teams.
His request was quite clear: “…they’re very different. You’ll need to align them with our corporate culture. They don’t look at all like the rest of us. I had high expectations… but they’re just not coming through at all. They haven’t understood how we do things around here…”
So… I went out to meet with the team… or should I say “the group”…
There were finance people, lawyers, technologists, engineers, consultants… They were from different generations, different gender, different racial backgrounds, and different cultural backgrounds. They had also been very globally mobile over the years, which meant that any cultural biases associated with their original national cultures had been mutated through different experiences over time and places. Their individual personalities were very different, as were their personal objectives and ambitions. Their ability and, indeed, desire to embrace and use technology varied tremendously. They worked from different locations and, although they met up as sub-groups, only occasionally did they come together as a group.
This group had many cultures… and it certainly wasn’t much of a team.
People were different. Their experiences were rich and they were rather unique. Their points of view and their approaches were challenging. There was energy in the room. People felt genuine… in the way they smiled… in the way they spoke… there was a sense of respect…
One thing became clear to me: my one objective was to preserve, cherish and optimize the diversity of cultures and experiences in the room. Embracing one culture wasn’t an option.
If we could bring together the passion, the diversity and the richness of each individual (both personal and professional) in the group, we would generate the WOW factor.
So, my aim was to align the group with one Corporate DNA, whilst preserving the many cultures!!!
And by now my friend was asking: “what is a Corporate DNA?”
In order for a group to become a team… it needs a common language. In order for a team to become a high performing team… it needs mutual trust. A Corporate DNA provides the ingredients to build and sustain a high performing team over time. It provides the ingredients to create the common language and the mutual trust.
The Corporate DNA provides a space within which all team members cohabit, interact and work towards a common end… whilst preserving individual cultural identities.
And by cultural identities I mean not just one’s national, regional or local culture, but also the local office culture, the culture of being a finance person or a commercial person or a production person, generation culture, gender culture, the culture one acquires through education… both formal and through the school of life, culture born out of successes and failures, out of happiness and sadness, the culture shaped out of achievements, what we experience with friends and enemies, the legacy from our families… both the good, the bad and the ugly, and so much more…
When we talk people, when we talk professionals, when we talk talent… we are talking about this rich complete collection of experiences that we want to preserve, cherish and harness into value creation energy and passion.
What does a Corporate DNA look like?
A Corporate DNA blends eight powerful ingredients to create a common language. It creates a playing field that is embraced by all members of the team. The Corporate DNA becomes the cements upon which the team builds its story. In a matter of speaking, the Corporate DNA is the common thread that runs through all members of the team and creates a unified sense of purpose.
The 8 ingredients of the Corporate DNA are divided into three levels of hierarchy.
The first level sets the cements for understanding and bonding:
Purpose and Strategy
Some may say the first ingredient is a classic… but you need to gather people around a common fire. You need to be able to tell people what the project is all about. What are you trying to achieve? What will the endgame look like? What is the light at the end of the tunnel that you will continue to work towards? In broad lines, what will the end of the road look like? People need to feel the passion and they need to make it their own. You need to tell the story… and then, they need to tell the story… in their own words, with their own anecdotes but, in the end, you will recognize it as the same story… You need to talk value… and to whom. People need to own the purpose and the strategy. If you want them to engage and be passionate about it… they need to make it theirs… they need to own it.
Values and Behaviours
Mutual trust is the key element in building a powerful high performing team. In fact, mutual trust is the key pillar to any relationship. A key ingredient to this Corporate DNA is the adoption of a set of values and behaviours that foster mutual trust in the interactions among the team and with others. But it’s not just about trust… what other values and behaviours need to underpin our relationships in order to facilitate and reinforce the vision we have for this team. A team that shares the same values and behaviours is a team that interacts well together, it’s a team that moves out of its comfort zone, and it’s a team that’s willing to take some risks.
The second level sets the cements for building efficiency into the day-to-day interactions
Decision Making Model
What filters will be used to make decisions? Time? Fulfilment? Happiness? Inclusion? Money? Efficiency? Quality? Innovation? What will we base our decisions on? How will we make decisions? How will formal and informal decisions be made? By one person? By committee? By consensus? By delegation? Decision making is key in the engagement, empowerment and ownership of team members.
Conflict Management and Innovation Model
Conflict is both necessary and desirable. It is an integral part of the team’s daily life and it is key to stimulate creativity and innovation. Conflict moves us “out of the box”… it helps us to shift and transform paradigms… it makes us question the status quo… it puts the “…what if” questions on the table. However, human beings tend to personalize conflict and see it as negative personal criticism. There need to be some clear rules of engagement to generate the desirable environment to promote constructive conflict within the team. The team also needs rules of engagement to engage in productive conflict with its broader business ecosystem.
The third level sets the cements for building communication and understanding
We manage things. We lead people. Management is a science and it has clear and defined rules. Leadership, on the other hand, is an art. Since leadership is about people and people are unstable, we need adaptive leadership styles to deal with instability and fast changing complex business ecosystems. There will be various types of leaders within the team and there will be more than one leadership style available to deal with the multiple situations that arise. What will those leadership styles be? And how do we make them ours and fully connect with these models… Leadership, passion and engaging people’s hearts and minds go hand-in-hand…
There is tremendous power in diversity… and yet, in organizations (as in society), we seem to react uncomfortably to anything that falls outside the norm. However, in a world of complex business ecosystems shifting and evolving at the speed of light, we should be welcoming diversity and all of its power and energy to innovate and seek out answers to new challenges. Cultural diversity, gender diversity, racial diversity, generational diversity, skill and knowledge diversity, technological diversity, etc.…etc.… we need to preserve and utilize all of this diversity to contribute to the success of the team. Unfortunately, many times we tend to want to normalize a team… we want everyone to look the same, to smell the same, to act the same… and we loose the power of diversity. So, how will we harness the power of diversity to add value and contribute to the team’s success? How will we ensure that all the team members feel valued and feel like they’re contributing from within their rich and diverse experience and background?
Internal and external communication… formal and informal communication. Communication is another powerful element in building trust. Clarity, transparency, timely, simple and accessible… these are some of the words that come to mind wen we think of trust and communication. The team will be constantly communicating… so, communication is a key ingredient in the team’s Corporate DNA. What ingredients will be key to the way in which the team will communicate, both within and outside the team?
Relationships are important… and within a team they’re really not optional. Trust is a key element of relationships. The team will operate within a complex business ecosystem. Relationships mean different things to different people in different places. However, there is one thing that people operating in a business ecosystem share… they all understand that we are interdependent. The team and its members will build fluid relationships that will shift over time. From competitive to collaborative. From suppliers to advisors. From clients to partners. etc…etc… we need a relationship model that is trust based, that evolves over time and that allows for the flexibility of fast changing business ecosystems.
Many cultures… one Corporate DNA.
Well… it’s been nearly two years… and the group became a team… and it became a high performing team…
It has retained the diversity and the richness of the individual experiences and cultures it started out with… and it has developed its own local cultures (I remind you that this team operates in a number of locations around the Globe… and often collaborates virtually)… but, above all, it has embraced and it has helped to shape the Corporate DNA that serves as the common space (both physical and virtual) where everyone comes together to co-create and collaborate using the same language: a Corporate DNA that everyone identifies with and that makes them unique and differentiated.
We want to captivate the hearts and minds of intelligent, passionate and experienced people to integrate our projects, our teams and our business ecosystems. We need collaboration models that preserve and harness this richness. In the fast changing and instantly communicated world we live in, the old cultural biases no longer hold true. Acknowledging diversity, in all of its dimensions, means wanting to preserve and cherish the richness of people’s experiences and cultures. It also means recognizing the value they bring to the team, to the process and to the outcome. Ultimately, we attract intelligent, experienced and different people because we value what they bring to the table. Our Corporate DNA must recognize this diversity and create a dynamic space where people come together, using a common language, to generate sustainable value.
So… next time you hear the word “culture”… think… not culture, but… “Many cultures… one Corporate DNA”… for this is the common language and the way to capture people’s hearts and minds.
NOTE: PLEASE READ THE ARTICLE ON “HOLISTIC TRANSFORMATION”… OR LET’S NOT TREAT TRANSFORMATION LIKE “THE FLAVOUR OF THE MONTH” – : IT IS A KEY ELEMENT TO FULLY UNDERSTAND THE CORPORATE DNA MODEL.
About Luis Soares Costa
From the very beginning, coaching has always been at the core of my passions.
For the past 38 years I have been an Executive and Team Coach working globally with CEOs and their C-Suite Executives, Business Owners and top talent in a significant number of the major global companies (including a significant number of Fortune 500), innovative companies operating in new ecosystems and dynamic family owned businesses.
During the past 28 years, I have also been an Executive and Team Coach and a “consultant to consultants” developing partners and top talent at major consultancies, Big4 Firms and Legal Firms
As an Executive and Team Coach, I partner with you and/or your teams in a “real play” thought-provoking and creative process which inspires you to “connect the dots” and maximize your personal and professional potential. The aim of the partnership is to bring about a sustained behavioral and performance transformation and profoundly shift the quality of your and your team’s working and personal life, whilst maximizing your potential and generating sustainable value.
You can contact me at coach@LuisSoaresCosta.com and visit my Website at www.LuisSoaresCosta.com