The art of being a culture builder: Be Specific

I am off to Guangzhou tomorrow for a very brief session on “being specific.”  One of our friends and a client in in the Economic Development District has a very proactive set of leaders in their supply chain division who have identified three guiding principles.  The problem with guiding principles is that unless we are specific about them then it is as good as not having them at all.

In this case their team has identified three Accountability, Professionalism, and Execution.  For a small experiment take anyone of these three words and ask a group of 5 or more people to define it.  Then ask for them individually to write out three or four things people who display these kinds of principles do.

It won’t matter much if they have similar backgrounds, personality types, or even work together every day.  The reality is that, unless their is a pre-existing definition and accepted list of behavior traits that each person knows by heart, the results will be different… in some cases wildly different.

I once asked a group what kept them from being able to execute effectively.  We started by asking them to define execution.  From a group of 7 people all seven had different definitions.  For some people the idea of execution as they defined it was so unsavory they simply couldn’t buy into their Plant Managers mantra of “execute, execute, execute!”

So if you are a leader and you find that your message isn’t quite getting through maybe it is time to test if you and your counterparts are working from the same framework.  Maybe it is just time to stop being verbal and start getting specific.

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2 thoughts on “The art of being a culture builder: Be Specific

  1. Vague words don’t help either. (i.e., execute) Your clients may have better success with words with more commonly accepted definitions.

    Are there cross-language issues? How well does “execute” translate?

    • Interestingly execute is about as vague in Chinese as it is in English. I once asked there Sr. Mgt team (eight people) to define execution and got 8 different definitions some wildly different. The problem in part with buzz words is that they carry a lot of different connotations. It’s like asking for a definitions from a room full of managers for leadership. The odds of getting matching definitions or behavior traits are very low, unless you let them run out long lists of behavior traits or there is a certain amount of cultural dogma.

      In China there is a degree of linguistic dogma that comes from breaking down characters into radicals. This to though can lead to room for interpretation…

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