What does it take to be a high performing organization? A 2011 study undertaken in Australia went somewhere towards answering that question. The study is called Leadership Culture and Management Practices of High Performing Work Places in Australia. Here is the link to the full research document.
According to the study's findings, a standout feature of high performing organizations is the internal leadership capabilities of managers at all levels of the organization. This factor has the highest correlation to productivity and profitability of the organization.
What are those internal leadership capabilities? One of them is the employer-employee communication ability to increase employees' belief in the organization's shared internal values. How do they do that? When those leaders communicate, they come across as highly credible individuals who walk the talk, lift the values, and practice what they preach. I'd like to share some thoughts about what that means using Gandhi as a reference point. Let's imagine for a moment that Gandhi is a high performing organizational leader. He walks into the office of the internal communications team, and he says, "I've got this change program coming up, and I need you to develop an internal communications plan for me." The head of leadership communications says, "Whoa, what's the change program about?" And Gandhi says, "Well, it's about gaining India's independence from the British." "OK," says the head of coms. "Well, who's the target audience?" Gandhi says, "Every class of society across India." "OK. What's the key message?" Gandhi says, "That we will achieve independence through passive resistance and non-violence."
Let's assume that Gandhi, as a typical high performing leader would, goes straight into tactical mode, and says, "I think some posters reinforcing those key internal values of passive resistance and non-violence are the way to go." So the internal communications team produces some really impactful posters, and organizes to have them displayed everywhere. But then, let's imagine that at the first sign of aggression from the British, Gandhi responds with resistance and violence. And those posters are suddenly without meaning. Worse still, they’re damaging to the change program, because the internal communications now represents propaganda. Gandhi's greatness as a high performing leader was that more than his words, his life was his message. He embodied passive resistance, and non-violence, regardless of the consequences.
As the Australian study shows, living internal values is a communication attribute of leaders in high performing organizations. Many organizations struggle with how to make their internal values more than just token words inscribed on a pretty plaque decorating the office wall. Internal values become embedded in the organizational culture when leaders give meaning to those values by walking the talk of those values every second of every day. The best internal communications in the world will not save an organization's values from being nothing more than empty words if leaders fail to reinforce those words with their behavior and actions that bring them to life.
Gandhi gave meaning to his leadership through internal values-based communication in three ways. First, he demonstrated the values of passive resistance and non-violence through example. Second, there was no gap between what he said about passive resistance and non-violence, and what he did. And third, he was consistent throughout his life in living those values. Internal values based communication is intrinsic to being a high performing organization. There is no place for values tokenism in any shape or form in today's highly competitive marketplace. OK. That's it for this time. Hope to see you next time. Until then, happy communicating.
Lorri Lennon is an award-winning advisor, trainer and author in leadership communication. She has 20 years’ experience managing communications for large global organisations.
Lorri conducts master classes to help participants maximise their communications ROI.
Mariska Mannes is an experienced communication consultant. She holds a Master of Management majoring in Communication, which allows her to bring a blend of qualification and practical experiences to her training programmes. Her expertise is in business and cross cultural communication and behaviour. For more information visit Mariska's LinkedIn profile.