Culture is the Strategy | #MyFridayStory No. 197

Culture is the Strategy | #MyFridayStory No. 197

I’m a big supporter of common sense.

It’s common sense that gravity exists. It’s common sense the earth is round. It’s common sense that being nice gets better results than being unkind. It’s strange how often we ignore common sense and choose to do the opposite.

I called my friend and mentor last week struggling with a concept. I wanted to know:

Why can’t any organisation become exceptional?

As one of the visionary leaders in an international corporation with over 20 000 employees and offices in 120 countries worldwide, he’d know. In the almost 4 decades I’ve been working for individuals and organisations, you’d think I’d have it figured out by now. His answer was simple and brilliant:

You need a visionary leader that lives the culture.

I love reading non-fiction books. Many of the books are on business, marketing, and leadership. Most good books about business use real-life examples of organisations that are successful. Great business books such as Built to Last – Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Collins and Porras (1994) and the follow-up, Good to Great – Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t by Collins (2001), use in-depth research to find the ‘secret sauce’ of organisations that have been successful for over 100 years.

The autobiographies of visionary leaders reveal more truths. As the CEO of General Electric for 20 years, Jack Welch was a legendary leader. In Jack – What I’ve Learned Leading a Great Company and Great People, co-author John A. Byrne reveals the traits and habits that made him Neutron Jack. In Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win, the authors prove how leaders that break the mould often lead great companies. In their books Funky Business and Funky Business Forever, authors Kjell Nordstrom and Jonas Ridderstrale take a deep dive into what differentiates successful companies from the rest.

Closer to home, the story of Raymond Ackerman in Hearing Grasshoppers Jump, Denise Pritchard teases out the genius of the man that built a retail empire. Another bestseller from South Africa is Reveling in the Wild – Business Lessons out of Africa co-authored by Reg Lascaris of Hunt Lascaris TBWA and Mike Lipkin, the Imagineer and marketer who worked with brands such as Nando’s and SA Breweries.

When you include books on leadership, the full picture starts to fall in place. In bestsellers such as Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey to Who Moved my Cheese? – An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Dr Spencer Johnson, the psychology of great leadership is explained.

My mentor suggested I read another book, No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by the CEO, Reed Hastings, and Erin Meyer. A brilliant story and all too familiar. It’s common sense. Reed is simply putting together a company that is based on being nice. The book lays out a step-by-step guide on how they created the media empire that is now bigger than most Hollywood studios.

In my mind, it’s common sense to follow the advice of people that have experience and a track record of success. To create anything worthwhile, you need to work with people. Every story about a successful organisation or movement is driven by a culture of being nice to each other. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Have an awesome weekend and please be generous! 😄

As always, thanks for reading 🙏

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