Your people are your culture. So, naturally, it follows that the most immediate way to form an innovative culture is through the people you hire. This is especially true of the first few hires you bring on board. Their demeanor will radiate out into the organization, becoming the default set of actions for newer employees.
Part of leadership is having organization-wide mindfulness, not only regarding how customers experience the organization, but how the team does. What presence does the organization have in their lives and how do they relate to it? How do the ideas and narratives they hold about themselves relate to those of the organization?
We need to be transparent about the way organizations and individuals link themselves together.
By now, the idea of the company man is resting peacefully in the dustbin of history: though we value commitment, the organization is no longer a parental redeemer figure that will nurture an employee for a lifetime.
Today’s economy is also, it seems, shifting towards the gig economy: people are working for shorter and shorter periods with specific organizations. We need greater transparency about this situation.
Reid Hoffman, cofounder LinkedIn, and his collaborators Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh have proposed a solution: a new compact between employers and employees that they like to call “tours of duty.” While maintaining trust and investment between the individual and the collective, the tour of duty appreciates the impermanence of the employer-employee relationship. Rather than sharing loyalty, they say, both sides have an alliance.
“As allies, employer and employee try to add value to each other,” they wrote in the Harvard Business Review. “The employer says, ‘If you make us more valuable, we’ll make you more valuable.’ The employee says, ‘If you help me grow and flourish, I’ll help the company grow and flourish.’”
There’s an honest clarity to this arrangement: I help you guys get better, you guys help us get better. It’s an honoring of the temporality of working together and of life, a deromanticization and defixation of organization as savior. Instead we have an arrangement that appreciates the fluidity of our working lives.
Why is this effective? Since an organization is made of people—not the name of the brand or the building housing it—we can contend that if the people grow, the organization grows.
As leaders, we’re trying to arrange our organizations so that there’s a mutual flourishing between their different parts, as a gardener does with a garden. This is what the word engagement is beginning to scratch the surface of: when people are doing the work that expands their skill sets and sense of self and feels meaningful to them and impactful, they will be deeply invested in the work they do.
This is the difference between having to work and getting to work, between having a job and developing a vocation. We want all the people in our fellowship of adventurers to be practicing their vocations.
I believe much of the job of the leader is to become a curator of talent: to find the talented people who can do their best work in the environment of your organization. In order to connect individuals to the organization for creativity and innovation, leaders need to realize a few things:
Building an organization is the gathering of people for a common cause. Gathering the right people together at the right time is curation.
To do their best work, people need to feel like they’re able to bring all of their effort into the task, which requires an open, autonomy-oriented culture.
This is not anarchy; with freedom comes responsibility. Responsibility can be ensured with both quantitative and qualitative methods—and springs from a thriving culture.
Adapted from Everything Connects: How To Transform And Lead In The Age Of Creativity, Innovation And Sustainability (McGraw Hill, 2014) by Faisal Hoque with Drake Baer. Copyright (c) 2015 by Faisal Hoque. All rights reserved.