The Leaders Top Job

I recently read an interview with Richard Bracken CEO of HCA one of the world’s largest healthcare organizations. I was struck by his perception of his job as the leader. He said. “For me, that means a continued statement, restatement, communication, and validation of the company’s mission and values, which includes reinforcing its culture. This is the CEO’s first and most important job”.

Yet so many managers view culture as soft and squishy. It’s hard to measure culture so it is hard to manage. AND THAT is one of the key differentiators of a leader versus a manager. Leaders recognize that the culture, what Joe Tye calls the Invisible Architecture of an organization. It is what guides the organization when we as leaders can’t look over everyone’s shoulder. It is made up of the values, the habits and behaviors of the organization.

Most organizations have a statement of values. It typically goes along with the mission statement. And like the mission statement, many employees have no idea what it says.  Strong leaders use opportunities to re-enforce the values. I once saw the president of a midsized firm send out a company-wide email praising and employee who had received a compliment from a customer.  His words we, “This is a great example of our values in particular our value to be open and forthright in our communications with customers”.  

By calling out and rewarding the employee and tying that praise to the values this leader clearly identified for people what gets rewarded. Behaviors are driven by values. As employees note what gets rewarded) and punished) they modify their behavior to avoid pain and to optimize gain. In this case the work and clear and open communication with their clients.

Behaviors that are repeated over time become habits. By reinforcing and rewarding behavior the organization develops habits the lead to success. Organizations can facilitate this through training, newsletters and other communication strategies. But the job one of a leader is to continue to communicate the mission and values of the organization.

Take Good Care,

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