106 Communications

6th Sense

The Democratic Workplace: what can business leaders learn from the election?

April 2015 | Democratic Workplace, Leadership

We’ve seen Cameron and Milliband get the Paxo treatment.  We’ve had the Leaders Debate between the Not-So-Magnificent Seven.  Insults and handbags are being thrown between the leaders on a daily basis.  What’s to make of this leadership behaviour?  And what are the best ways for leaders to communicate their vision and build a following?

Some of the lessons from the campaign to date were discussed in an article by Stephan Shakespeare in The Times (April 7, 2015).  In research conducted by Shakespeare, the public were asked to assess the main parties on eight central values.  Labour win on caring for others, equality, fairness and family.  The Conservatives win on patriotism, hard work, common decency and freedom.

Both parties are building their standing on core values that we associate with them – i.e. playing to their strengths.  And herein lies a lesson to leaders.  Be authentic to who you are – and what you and your organisation stand for.

Now here comes the more interesting bit.  While the Tories have been criticised for being ‘narrow, negative and boring’, the narrowness of their focus seems to be working.  According to Shakespeare’s research, they are making it clear what they stand for (scoring Net +46), much more so than Labour (Net +16).

A great lesson in having a clear message that is reiterated again, and again, and again. So it is simply a case of repetition, repetition, repetition?

Yes, yes and no.

Recently we conducted a survey with an organisation to assess the employee experience.  While there were various engagement issues about the distance of leaders and trust in management, respondents said that they were quite clear about the strategy of the organisation – and the drive for great customer service.

The secret to this success?  Reinforcing the message time and again.

But repetition alone is not the answer.  Just because you keep saying something doesn’t make it true.  Of course, it’s easy to point at the banks in this regard and their sudden emphasis on values – and yet the fines keep coming.  Okay, easy target – and most of the fines are historic abuses – but you get the gist.

The reason that banks and other organisations continue to fail is the disconnect between leadership message and workforce behaviour.  It’s one thing to say something; it’s another to make it relevant to workers and make sure it happens in the everyday world of work.

In this regard, business leaders and politicians, take note…

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