How would you describe your relationship with your board? Would you say that is harmonious? Or would you say that it is contentious? If you and your board are at odds with each other, then it is likely that you are not in alignment.
I have found in working with myriad boards and CEOs that oftentimes the confrontation is caused by confusion. There is discord between the CEO and the board because they are not in alignment.
The good news is that—as long as there is no executive malfeasance— a skilled facilitator can usually restore CEO-board relations by clearing up the confusion. However, a mediator may be required if the standoff is deep-seated.
If you are your board are not in alignment, here are the three areas where there may be confusion in the CEO-board relationship.
The other day a fellow CEO told me about another CEO who found their staff camaraderie suffered because of telecommuting. He said that lack of regular contact took its toll on their organizational culture. That was a lesson that he took to heart, especially in this day of social distancing. We don’t have a choice about where we are physically located at this time, but we do have a choice about whether or not we will make an impact on those we are in contact with, even virtually.
During this COVID reality, you can’t necessarily be with the people on your team, but you can still reach out to them. Your good intentions don’t have to shelter in place.
Your organizational culture will likely suffer because your people don’t have regular human contact with each other. You will need to be intentional about the contact you do have with your team in order to make up for that loss of face-to-face interaction.
Don’t forget to be human when social distancing. In a COVID world, here are some ways to make an impact on those you can’t physically have around you.
In these unprecedented times, the world is looking for stability. Just as the markets crave stability, so does your team. That’s because both are afraid of uncertainty. So in your workplace you can use your leadership to provide stability—and help combat fear in your team.
Right now everyone is trying to stop the spread of COVID-19, but no one knows if the resulting economic damage from the virus will be worse. And right now everyone on your team is wondering if they will lose their jobs later down the line. So all the fear of uncertainty is taking its toll on your team.
Even if you don’t have all the answers right now, here’s how you can provide some stability for your team and help them combat fear in this crisis.
At one time one of my team members acted out of character. At first, I didn’t say anything to her. I just let it go and didn’t press the issue, although I found it concerning. But the next time she said the same thing, I realized I could not let it go. I took the time to ask her about it. As a result, I discovered what was making her act so unlike herself. Although it was an uncomfortable conversation at first, it gave me a window into what was going on in her head at the time. But that would not have happened if I hadn’t been willing to maximize the moment.
We are in unprecedented times now. People on your team—and in your family—are going to act in ways that will be unlike their normal behavior. Take the time to find out what’s going on in their heads. Be fully present when leading your team. And don’t avoid these uncomfortable conversations.
In your efforts to maximize the moment, here are three rules of engagement when dealing with people on your team.
In any crisis—whether it’s COVID-19, the 9/11 attacks, or the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007-2010—leaders have to act. Leaders need to act decisively and do what’s necessary to navigate through it. At the same time, leaders have to communicate. They need to explain what’s going on and provide their team with perspective.
Max DePree said that the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. It is important for you to take the time to put the situation in context so that your team can properly interpret what is happening. Since you are the leader, they need you to act like the leader—and communicate like the leader.
Here’s how you can lead your team in a crisis by telling them what they need to hear.
I attended a conference recently when someone asked me, “What exactly is a good culture?” That was a great question, considering that a lot of people don’t understand what it is or why it is important. And here was my answer: “Good culture is your team’s understanding of how they are to behave even when you are not around.”
Without that definition, it’s easy to ignore the impact and importance of culture. But when people understand it in those terms, they see why it impacts everything that their employees do. And they understand the precarious predicament they put themselves if they don’t take their culture seriously.
Here are five ways that a good culture benefits your organization.
My family once hosted a foreign exchange student at our house for about a month. When he arrived at our house, his first question to me was “What are the rules at your house?” Not wanting to sound like some kind of ogre, I said, “We don’t have too many rules at our house.” And I told him a couple of rules that we had in our house. And I thought that was that.
Over time, I noticed that he did some things that annoyed me. And my thought was “That’s really rude. Why doesn’t he know any better?”
I told him that I was disappointed with what he was doing. Later he told me, “You didn’t tell me what all the rules were.” Then I realized I couldn’t hold him accountable for something I didn’t tell him. He had asked to know what the rules were, but I didn’t tell him what they all were.
This same thing applies to your employees at your workplace, but they won’t necessarily ask you what the rules of your culture are. That’s incumbent on you to tell them. They won’t know how to operate in your organizational culture if you don’t tell them.
Here are the things you need to tell your people so they know how to follow the rules of your culture.
Our society today has a self-awareness crisis. It doesn’t matter where we look—business, politics, entertainment—we see its effects. The news regularly reports about the financial improprieties of business executives. Politicians get caught all the time doing something they knew they should not do. And the grocery store tabloid headlines are always proclaiming how such and such movie star is cheating on so-and-so.
We see people in positions of authority at our workplaces doing things that we think are ill-informed at best and malicious at worst. We see people around us making poor choices that are out of our control and we shake our heads, saying we would do things differently if given the choice. It seems like everyone around us has lost their mind—everyone except ourselves, of course.
But perhaps we are not so immune from making poor choices as we might think. As Dan Ariely tells us in his book Predictably Irrational, “Even good people are not immune to being partially blinded by their own minds.” Dr. Ariely goes on to explain that “we are pawns in a game whose forces we largely fail to comprehend. We usually think of ourselves as sitting in the driver’s seat, with ultimate control over the decisions we make and the direction our life takes; but, alas, this perception has more to do with our desires—with how we want to view ourselves—than with reality.”
If we are more concerned with how we want to view ourselves than with reality, then we will not be self-aware. And these are three things that will get in the way of our self-awareness.
From all the culture analyses I have performed, I find it interesting that the vast majority of the organizations I survey have shortcomings in the same area. In my surveys, I look at how these organizations score in Appreciation, Morale, Trust, and Communication. In three out of every four organizations, the Culture Competency that needs the most attention is Communication.
I find it particularly interesting that this is true even in organizations with high scores. Even where organizations that otherwise have a good culture foundation still struggle with communicating effectively. And unfortunately, when the Culture Competency of Communication suffers, then all the efforts to build Appreciation, Morale, and Trust are undermined as well.
Here are five reasons why organizations have difficulty with getting the Culture Competency of Communication right.