Today I was able to experience what I would call real and true leadership in action, in the corporate environment. Which as a SME consultant; isn’t usually the setting I find myself in.
Recently I have joined the team at LIVIN (www.livin.org) contracting as one of their program facilitators. Presenting their LIVINWell program to schools; workplaces; clubs etc. Today is R U OK Day; Sept 12; and I’m in Cairns airport, having just completed 2 LIVINWell programs to the local base of one of Australia’s (and the world’s) largest machinery supplier to the construction, mining and agricultural industries.
In a male dominated environment; that is built on generations of ground up training and development with 40 year long careers from apprentice to senior management, it’s easy to see that not so long ago; the culture of this company and it’s 3000 odd employees would have been very different. Tough, full of bravado, testosterone and pride; with a top down approach to leadership and management, in a most hierarchical culture.
However, with a heap of effort over the last 18 months or more; as I was told by my liaison; you can see that the new culture is beginning to really take shape. There were 3 things which I noticed in my half day visit that were highlights of leadership in action.
1. A system was created for the team to submit ideas to improve the business. Ideas that are channeled into a direct feedback loop with the right department and decision makers to discuss implementation. Now for SMEs who are agile, this may not seem that great. However this is huge to see in action for a $3 Billion company. What this system means is that ANY team member, in ANY role at ANY site, can make suggestions on how to improve ANY area of the business, operations, systems, communications etc, put that suggestion into the ‘box’ which then get directed to the right department for consideration. THEN.. that department will communicate with the team member to discuss viability and implementation etc. Meaning that a first year apprentice mechanic, can make a suggestion to the sales process on how to sell the machinery better based on his experience making the product. This is HUGE.. any team member, impacting any part of the business… positive, engaging, loyalty and retention are just some of what I see in this. Brilliant.
2. A company wide inclusion initiative is currently half way through roll out; building a culture of inclusion across 5 key implementation pillars. Culture, Gender, LGBTI, Abilities, and Generation. This program is delivering impacts in each of these 5 key areas, and the best part, is an internal initiative run by the employees themselves. There is no “inclusion department”. This is purpose based leadership at it’s best. Providing the team to be apart of something bigger than their roles or their own agenda. How to create engagement that lasts, is by providing your team to be apart of something amazing for your business’ purpose. And this model is great. Any team member from international sites, can contribute via remote involvement from wherever they are stationed.
3. Leading from within was another great takeaway from this visit. Watching a senior manager, live and breath an open door policy. I was there running a program that discusses normalising the conversation around mental health, and removing the stigma associated with it. At the end of each workshop; this senior manager, who I later found out was only 6 weeks into his placement at this site; shared a very personal story to his team, one that you wouldn’t have expected in that workplace only a few years ago. It was groundbreaking and sincerer and was actually the best thing that team could have heard for the entire day. If we want to create cultural change; IT MUST come from the top down. Our Senior Manager, Directors, CEOs must be engaged in the change, BUT they must also, join the team in the discussions and be shoulder to shoulder in the drive towards a new purpose.
As leaders if we invest in our team, and create the right environment, information and communication systems; it’s the TEAM who will create the actions to make the change. This is how we engage, and empower our people to do great things. This is how we become great leaders and provide a benchmark for new leaders coming through.
Turn up for your team… realise that as a leader YOU WORK FOR THEM .. and they will out perform you and take care of the business every time.