Organizations that standout from their competitors have leaders who are disciplined and consistent when it comes to demonstrating behaviors that mirror the journey their organization is on and taking action that matters to employees.
This is what creating a successful culture is all about.
And the truly great ones not only adopt new values required of an ever-changing environment, they also make bold decisions to maintain those values that worked so well in the past and continue to hold incredible prospects for the future.
Conversation is lost
One of the most important traditional values is the art of conversation, which has essentially been lost with the inundation of modern technology and social media platforms. Real-time conversation — actually using the “good old” telephone to talk to another human being — is a dying act about to become extinct with the changing demographics in organizations.
Many would condescendingly describe making a telephone call as old school and not worthy of consideration — it’s not cool. After all, why bother picking up the phone, when you can deal with another person more quickly by sending a text message or some other messaging app? And who wants to be known as the person who picks up the phone and actually speaks to someone else to resolve issues and get things done?
Well, some things never change regardless of technology advances and “new” ways of doing things.
For example, the fundamentals of standout leadership — serving employees, focusing on strategy execution, bashing barriers that prevent people from doing their jobs, killing rules that infuriate customers — haven’t changed over time even though new leadership responsibilities have emerged. Sustaining a healthy environmental and giving back to the community are examples of new values that have the ear of the new leader.
The importance of the fundamentals of building a high performing organization hasn’t diminished. On the contrary, their importance has been magnified as competition and the power of the consumer have become more formidable than ever.
But it seems that making a phone call is struggling to keep its prominence as a value that can separate a high performing culture from a mediocre one.
This needs to change; we need to get back to the basics.
“Making the call” is a critical element of standout leadership and has a resurgent role in shaping a successful authentic culture that honors the importance of talking to one another.
The phone call is retro and it’s cool
When we had no choice, we made the call. It’s something we had to do when email, texting, and social media didn’t exist. We left word when we missed connecting with someone, we were pissed off when the line was busy but we were relieved when we finally had the conversation.
Making the call is retro; it’s a remnant if what made the world work. It’s cool and it has to come back.
It slows us down
A rapid exchange of one-way messages is perceived to be fast but it isn’t necessarily effective in arriving at an outcome that is mutually satisfying. Sometimes you just can’t achieve anything important through a quick exchange of texts or emails. You need to be able to progress through real-time engagement. Speak — observe — listen — evaluate — revise — speak …
It’s a window on execution
The call to a customer, employee or supplier provides a window into how an organization’s strategy is being executed in the field. It’s one thing to have a brilliant strategy, but it’s quite another to have it executed the way it was intended.
If a strategy is rarely executed the way it was originally intended, the call will provide feedback on what to reinforce that’s working and what remedy to take to get the central idea back on track when it’s not.
It builds employee engagement
Mass distribution of an email may be an efficient way of disseminating information, but it rarely does anything to build employee commitment to the company’s goals and priorities. A continuous flow of real-time conversations with employees, on the other hand, enhances their personal commitment to and engagement with the organization’s objectives. People see a leader who cares and is interested in them as individuals; the leader sees people respond with the emotional energy necessary to achieve great things.
It balloons the leader’s currency
The call boosts the leader’s personal currency as word spreads that they actually care about their various constituencies both inside and outside the organization and are willing to take the time to engage in real conversations. Human engagement — an essential ingredient of authenticity — allows the leader to get real-time feedback on the issues facing the organization and on how the leader intends to address them. It draws people in to finding solutions and paints a picture of honest leadership.
It improves decision making
The call enables more effective decision-making with feedback and advice from the people who are contacted. What works and what doesn’t work on ground zero makes every successive decision a better one.
Authentic cultures are made by including the views of the complete range of stakeholders who are at work in the field every day trying to execute the strategic imperative of the organization.
So every day, make a call to a customer, an employee, a supplier or a strategic partner to find out how things are going. Listen, learn, make notes and that call will likely be the most productive 20 minutes of your day.
Roy Osing is a former President and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience covering all the major business functions including business strategy, marketing, sales, customer service and people development. He is a blogger, content marketer, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead.
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