Organizational Character: A Competitive Advantage
Change is all around us, and it’s imperative that we get ready for change rather than continue to be surprised by it. For centuries, organisations have been trying to defy, deny or slow down change. On the contrary, they need to learn to embrace it. But what’s different is that the kind of change we’re going through today is truly remarkable in our lifetimes i.e. COVID-19 Pandemic, financial uncertainty, Disruptive social change, job losses and what not. Now more than ever, we are watching to see how companies and individuals navigate these changes and show who they really are. We’re asking our leaders, our organizations, our coworkers and everyone who’s important to us what they stand for, and then we’re comparing what they say to what they actually do. The gap between what they say and what they do is a pretty good measure of their character.
Whenever I speak to my clients and audiences about the organizational character, I don’t just mean a list of core values or their vision and mission statements that they have published on their official websites or on office walls. Character is having the personal fortitude to do what needs to be done to foster the continued growth and success of any organization, their leadership team and most importantly, people. It’s challenging everyone — to do everything they can to provide their customers with real value, which means doing new, sometimes risky things but that starts inside out. Customers will never receive a great product or service, unless employees are prepared to deliver the same. It’s as simple as that and it’s better to make the organisations understand this, sooner the better.
Here are a few pointers to understand this subject further:
1. Detach From The Past Glory
To move ahead, you’ve got to build on the past but not be stuck in it. Some organisations love to use the expression “Institutional Memory”. They simply love this expression. It’s important to retain this but don’t get stuck in those memories forever. As Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm, explains, “Technologies from a prior era, once the focal point of innovation, now become the scaffolding upon which next-generation innovation will build”. The key message here is to keep building; keep innovating; keep trying new things. Keep moving forward.
2. Measure The Character
Character is fundamental element by which organizations are steered. Trust me, that the stakeholders (shareholders, customers and employees) will be listening attentively to what leaders say, and they will be watching what they actually do. In short, they’re constantly measuring the organisational character. Remember that the way companies conduct themselves, demonstrating what they stand for — has become a deciding factor in what their customers want to buy, where the employees want to work and who shareholders want to partner with. A company’s character matters to everyone.
The traits and attributes now attracting the aspiring candidates to organizations push the requirements of culture beyond simply creating an appealing workplace, stating values, and offering great benefits and perks for employees. A company’s character matters to employees. At the intersection fusing culture and strategy, long-term business value is gained, protected or lost today by a company’s character. The organisational character, in the fast-changing marketplace, is a competitive advantage where employees and customers have many choices.
3. Integrate Character
The real question is: What’s the best way to ensure that character is an integral part of every decision we make? The answer should be: By adopting the new Leadership Ethos for the 21st-century — one that looks to the future for inspiration, constantly keeps a finger on the pulse of relevant trends in the world around us, and considers how they will likely affect our business, our people and our customers today, tomorrow and well into the future. An ethos that puts the focus on character.
Today, every organization needs to live and demonstrate its true character more than ever before — to its shareholders, employees, customers, communities and to the world at large. The past three years were unlike any other before. These events have made business leaders take a deep look inside their organizations to see if what they do is actually aligned with what they say they believe. While many businesses have risen to the challenge — putting their character on full display.
4. Assess Your Organizational Character
Always remember that Without character, there is no trust; Without trust, there is no business. Ask yourself whether you agree or disagree with these statements as an initial assessment on the health of your organisational character:
- Leadership team embraces change and has the ability to be agile and fluid.
- Leaders encourage creative thinking.
- Organisation allow their employees to commit mistakes and tends to learn from those mistakes.
- Organisation does have a clear vision, mission and values and are being sincerely practiced.
- Important decisions are made at every level of the organisation.
5. Personal Character is the KEY
Last but not the least, it goes without saying that the top leadership either makes or breaks that very organisation. Their personal moral character of the hugely influences the organisational character. Gone are the days when top leaders were hired simply on basis of the amount of experience and knowledge they bring along. This may still be true for some specific industries where ‘Skillset’ takes the driving seat but with the changing times, ‘Character’ and ‘Attitude’ have overtaken the skillset.
Through my own experiences, I have been involved in hiring process of the top teams for some organisations and gives one such a relief to hire people from some geographic parts of the world knowing their value system. The ‘real’ effort in invested in bringing in people with sound cultural, educational and professional background with an intention of how inclusive leadership they are going to practice in their new organisations / projects. Therefore, the top companies, worldwide, employ greater effort in bringing in ‘right’ kind of people to the top ladder.
Viewing your character practice as similar to a workout regime can be helpful to see that it is ongoing, should involve others, and should be tailored to your specific goals. The four tools to utilize in your practice include feedback, advice, support, and most importantly, Applied Intelligence.
Your character is the sum of your traits. Others perception of your character-or reputation, is a vital part of being an effective, happy, grounded person in today’s world of exponential change. The good news is that character and therefore reputation can be changed and thus working on it through a conscious practice makes tremendous sense. The choice is yours, the cost is immeasurable, but the real question is: what is it worth to you?
Muhammad Sajwani is the Founder and Managing Director of Evolve HR which aims at transforming, enriching and evolving Human Capital of Pakistan, At Evolve HR thrives in challenging assumptions that hinder organisational aspirations, by creating innovative solutions that yield maximum impact, scalability & benefit to a wider base of stakeholders. As a Business Coach and Organisational Consultant, Sajwani knows how to combine business insights with people insights to transform organisations and put them on the path to growth.