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What We're Reading
"Creating Corporate Cultures Through Mythopoetic Leadership" by Chip Jarnagin and John W. Slocum. Organizational Dynamics, 2007 (36:3) pp 288-302.
"Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups" by Vanessa Urch Druskat and Steven B. Wolff. Harvard Business Review, March 2001.
I've had the great fortune of being mentored by SMU Professor John Slocum for the last 15 years of my career. I've always had a passion for corporate culture and John explains it better than anyone I've ever met. He and co-author Chip Jarnagin have penned a very interesting article tying the concepts of myth that Joseph Campbell made popular to corporate culture. Myths are "mental models" that "explain the unexplainable", as the authors put it. It's a fresh look at a complex subject that truly impacts corporate success. They remind us that 90% of corporate mergers do not live up to their promise; mainly because the different cultures are incompatible. I'm always amazed that the 'due diligence' part of pre-merger activities rarely includes a culture audit. It's as if it doesn't matter and doesn't need to be addressed. For anyone who has worked in a corporation, you know differently. And according to this article, what matters most is how you as the employee feel about the corporation's real mission. I couldn't agree more as I have yet to meet anyone below the "C-level" who works for ROI or market share. People want to make a difference through their work and they are often keenly aware of the discrepancy between the stated formal mission and the real mission of the company.
Mythopoetic leaders are able to communicate the myth or the "way we do things around here" in a way that helps employees understand how to behave. How employees are supposed to "dress" and how they address one another are often communicated through stories and examples. Those leaders also understand the role of rituals. Rituals are the way myths are played out. They often include 'initiation' rituals where new employees are introduced to the values of the company and told numerous stories of how those values are enacted. Many organizations have large public reward ceremonies for the most successful (especially in sales), where symbolic tokens are handed out and each 'hero' gets his or her moment in the spotlight. The authors mention Mary Kay Inc. in several examples. I have vivid memories of one afternoon in the Dallas airport watching a group of Mary Kay sales people enacting their rituals while waiting for our delayed plane. They all had on their special pins denoting their sales accomplishments and they enthusiastically broke out into song and cheers several times during the afternoon. This was on their way home, after their formal convention!
A good companion article to mythopoetic leadership is the one on building the emotional intelligence of groups. In this article the authors articulate 3 universal attributes of successful groups. They are: "mutual trust among members, a feeling that the members belong to a unique and worthwhile group, and that the team can perform well and are more effective working together than apart" (pg 83 of the reprint R0103E). These attributes represent a simpler version of what the mythopoetic leader accomplishes; although I have to add, the three attributes are deceptively simple.
Slocum and Jarnagin make this point that I believe sums up a great deal of both the understanding and misunderstanding of corporate culture:
"Many managers talk culture but have little idea of how to shape it. Managers typically go to rational tools like structure and polices alone without ever going to the power that meaning develops through myths, rituals, and policies working as a coherent whole" (pg 291).
Do you use the power of myth, ritual, poetry and inspiration? Or do you only rely on rational tools that have little inspirational value?
Thin Book Webinars Return!
After a summer break, the Thin Book Webinars are available once again. Click on this link for more information and to enroll in these webinars:
- How to Work Effectively With Indian Partners
- Effective Listening Skills
- The Five Most Common Unnamed Elephants Roaming in Your Workplace
- Virtual Team Building: Best Practices of Virtual Teams
New Thin Book Available Soon!
The Thin Book of Smart People Skills: 8 Tools for the Savvy Leader is in final production! This is our first new book in over 3 years and it is worth the wait. Katina Cremona is a coach, consultant, and psycho-therapist with over 23 years experience. She has distilled that experience in a book designed to help you become a more savvy leader. There are 8 tools provided in succinct chapters with many practical tips and examples of 'how to say it.' Each chapter ends with specific tips including 3 for managing up, virtual teams and cross-cultural teams. We will have an extensive review next month. Watch our web site for more information.
September Sale Items
Mythopoetic leaders know the power of story telling. They also are usually masterful listeners. I have always found listening very difficult to 'teach' and I was thrilled to find the listening profile among the suite of Inscape products and their terrific new idXready program. We're featuring those products this month, all designed to help you improve your listening skills.
The Personal Listening Profile and the idXready program, Improving Your Listening Skills, will be 10% off this month. The only downside of these idX programs is that I can't run them over the Internet. I've created a Listening Skills webinar that focuses on the profile and delivers solid information on how you can truly enhance your ability to listen. The Listening Skills Webinar is offered on Sept. 21 at the special price of only $26, the normal price of the profile. The profile is pre-work to the webinar and included in the webinar's special price.
Click on the following links for more information:
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Thanks for your interest and support.
Sue Annis Hammond