By Sam Robinson
Have you heard this one before?
“Policies and procedures don’t matter, no one takes much notice of them”. What we see is different: no-one takes much notice of policies and procedures (rendering them now counter-productive) because people in leadership roles either haven’t grasped or don’t accept the extremely negative result of their inaction.
There are a lot of signs that work is needed by leaders in this area:
- People say “our procedures are bureaucratic and over the top”
- No-one knows where to find the Code of Conduct
- There is overwhelming cynicism about organisational values, vision, and mission
You can spend many hours, much energy and a lot of money trying to address the symptoms: fine-tuning the values statement so it’s “perfect,” designing the most beautiful webpage about your vision and values… I could go on.
What’s actually needed is much simpler but it requires courage and honesty. It’s about acknowledging that leaders create the culture that then delivers the results. People in leadership roles must understand and accept their accountability in that process.
Cultures (good and bad) are held in place by many things – but at the core of cultures are systems, symbols and behaviours.
Policies, procedures, values statements and codes of conduct are all part of an organisation’s systems of work.
It follows that anyone in a leadership role must have the ability to:
- Back those systems even if they don’t agree with everything (with a few exceptions)
- Translate the requirements in a way their team will understand
- Hold their team to account to follow them
- Continually listen and change the systems so they improve over time (or use their influence to change the system)
Where leaders ignore or don’t do this, the impact is profound – for the worse. Where leaders do this sensitively and purposefully, the impact is profound – for the better.