Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Peter Drucker
Most people think or assume that leadership comes from the top. Remember what has been said throughout this book – leadership is not positional. However, for all practical purposes, it is true that whenever a new top leader takes office by either an in-house promotion or a political appointment, things are bound to change.
Every leader carries a vision and a strategy with them when they come on board to a new challenge. It wouldn’t be wise not to have a plan to implement when hired as the new leader of a team or a new organization.
This also applies to the merging of departments and other components of an organization that is fluid and constantly changing.
How much and how extreme it changes from the past is based on the strategy and the culture that exists within the organization at the time of the change of leadership. Under most conditions, we will almost always experience an immediate clash between strategy and culture and it’s not pretty.
Even the smartest man or woman cannot defeat culture without doing something about it with a deliberate strike of the new tone set by vision or mission.
What reflects the strength in culture is the time of existence without the work group – the time it has impacted the root values of the workplace and the amount of pressure there is to uphold such cultural practices, customs or traditions. The longer the existence, the stronger the ties with workers to keep it in place.
Even a bad culture can survive strong leaders. The change cannot be successful without the buy-in of the workforce – the rank and file and most importantly, the buy-in and ownership taken by leaders, managers, and supervisors who must implement and enforce these new cultural changes.
Keep in mind some of the variables of a culture and if the change is very extreme, the longer it will take to grab roots and grow. What works for one business does not necessarily work for another, even in a similar industry such as the prison industrial complex it has been shown that there are various factors in place that determine growth and success, doom and failure.
Some of these factors are plain to see and others are well hidden through either a wall of deliberate silence or just shoddy background checks on the new investment.
Every new move requires a new assessment of operational values and pros and cons. These variables of success or doom are based on the geographies, the economics and the location of the business.
Some businesses do better in rural settings while others do very poorly in such a setting and prefer the suburban or metro areas for their workforce and their business.
Manpower pools are a serious consideration for prison. The more remote the prison or jail location, the harder it is to recruit good people for the job. This is shown in the high failure rate of mergers. Other factors are also considered such as utility costs, infrastructure to and from their facilities, taxes etc.
According to a study done by the Heidrick & Struggles, a leadership advisory, and consultancy group, 74% of mergers fail. The two major reasons they fail are incompatible corporate cultures and poor leadership of the merged companies. Of course, just having a strong culture isn’t a guarantee of success either; just ask the MTC organization- Management, Training Corporation who operated the troublesome private prison in Kingman, Arizona.
They had extremely strong cultures built on greed, lack of pride in their workforce, excessive staff vacancies, extreme overtime costs, shoddy record keeping and last but very important to the entire operation, weak leadership and alleged fraud.
Cultivating the right kind of culture for your company is part art, part science, but the most important tactic is hiring the right kind of people for your type of culture. There are other examples out there that include state agencies in various states that have undergone extensive reforms and changes due to corruption and poor management practices by greedy and selfish leaders. This is rampant still, and it's likely to continue for a very long time until the right people are in the right places.
It is certain you can see the instant conflict developing inside the workplace. People are pitted against each other based on morals, ethics, customs and practices and most of all, their individual belief that what they are doing is the right way to get the job done.
Disorder and chaos are at the front door as good people exit out the backdoor. It becomes an urgent priority to guard the front door to your organization without exception.
Without exception, it becomes even more important to guard the doors to your organization brutally and selectively, repelling anyone who doesn’t fit. Now, this is easier said than done, and each organization must find ways that make sense for their company.
It has been demonstrated many times over that the quality of personnel has often been compromised by the need for quantity not quality. Good leaders think of the future – their successors and their growth.
A good leader will hire someone who is smarter, wiser, better skilled than he or she is and not be intimidated by them. This is a critical key to success. Hiring people who are better than you in all phases of the job.
Certainly this may work on your own ego and pride but leadership is not about the ‘self’ but rather, the others. We all have egos and desire to be the most skilled and smartest person in the room. In order for our organizations to grow, we must learn to humble ourselves by hiring better experts and more accomplished workers than we are.
If we do follow this path, our organizations won’t be limited by our own weaknesses and faults. This is exactly why most privately run businesses reach a ceiling and can’t seem to break through it. They operate on an incestuous manner and level. They only seek those from within and not from the outside as a general rule.
They choose their own way of mediocrity because they can’t humble themselves and recognize their organization’s need for better leaders. If you find yourself in this spot, strongly consider whether you have passed up smarter and more talented people than you in favor of smaller and less gifted folks.
If you have, it’s not too late to stop this practice and start placing value on those who are more capable than you are. The truth is that there is always someone more gifted and adept than we are; we can choose to ignore or deny it, but it doesn’t change the truth.
The world has enough selfish people. How many of us have known a leader who surrounded himself or herself with yes-(wo)men or followers who are exactly like him or her in character, values and traits but only on a smaller scale?
Unfortunately, we have all seen too much of this kind of leadership. That is why this book is so important to read and understand. We need to break this ‘it is all about me’ cycle and find others who are better than us.
Sadly, the weaknesses of that type of person as a leader are amplified throughout the team or organization. If only people were hired that cover the leader’s blind spots aka perceived weaknesses, the whole organization would be strengthened.
Hiring is always tricky especially if you hire someone from the outside of the team or organization. Looking for someone with the right skill set and the right cultural fit for the organization, but we should intentionally guard against hiring arrogance and egotistic people by interviewing with another trusted team member who is wired and motivated very differently from ourselves.
This doesn’t mean we can’t hire people that have similar values; it does mean we must guard against hiring an entire army of people whose skills, personalities, and strengths and weaknesses are too similar to the leader.
This is not as easy as it sounds. The fact is some of your best leaders are commonly bonded by friendships. The difference between leadership and friendship means that sometimes you have to fire your best friend or at the very least, pass them over for another choice.
This is hard to do and very few people can actually do it with class. However, the necessity outweighs the loss of the friend and in the long run, it all works out for the best. Nepotism isn’t all bad—just mostly bad.
In the majority of cases, it is terribly destructive to the inner strengths and confidence of a team or organizations and the individual family member’s long-term employability, but there are some exceptions.
If expectations are set up right from the beginning, and there is a healthy dose of respect and genuine accountability, there can be incredible strength from employing a family member since there is a higher level of trust based on years of witnessing their character. If you want to hire a family member, ask yourself the following questions:
a. If there comes a need to fire them in the future, will you hesitate and procrastinate about it?
b. Do they have an established work record or history that they can work for someone else faithfully as a relative or friend without problems?
c. Do they have enough of the skills that are required for the position?
d. Do they fit the company culture we are trying to foster?
If you can honestly answer all of these with a resounding yes, then you are ready to take the first step to hiring them. The second step, and just as important as the first, is setting up guidelines/expectations on how you will work together. It should be obviously made clear that the business place is not the same setting as the home, and the professional environment should change how you interact.
For example, I used to work for my brother. I was a captain and he was an associate warden of operations. While on the job, I chose to call by rank and last name just like I did the Major who was my friend but an intermediary boss most of the time
I did this to ensure the chain of command was intact. he never asked me to, but it was a sign of respect to him and an implicit indication to all the other team members that I wasn’t above the same etiquette that applied to them. I put myself under the same rules as everyone else.
In that instance, it was the team member who took the initiative, but it is important for the leader to clearly define the rules of engagement, so there are no misunderstandings on how things will work.
Giving favoritism to anyone, especially family, is terribly destructive to team morale. Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.
Policies only work if we hire good people to follow them. If we think we need to add more policies to fix a human resource problem, we are fooling ourselves. A good leader will take good people over good policies any day of the week.
Now, we might need to change policies, but this alone won’t fix most issues. We must hire the right kind of people who will do the right thing for the business or profession regardless of policies in place, their pay, or how they feel today.
Sad to say, these types of people are scarcer and harder to locate. Not because of the lack of availability of people out there but rather because the organization isn’t looking for them hard enough or the locality where they are located are lacking sufficient manpower pools to find these characteristics.
Another factor is the recruitment and selection process. If it’s severely flawed, this trait will never be extracted from the application.
But if you attract these sorts of people to your organization, you will build a strong, positive, nearly impenetrable culture that will reject the wrong type of people (i.e., the lying, gossiping, self-serving variety).
If you hire a team of good people, they will not want to leave, and the policies will mostly take care of themselves. Hire the wrong people, and it won’t matter what policies you enact: The guidelines will never have the intended positive result.
Recruit, don’t just post a job and make it target the right kind of applicant. Post your expectations as well as fringe benefits. Many people think they are “recruiting” for their organization by merely posting open positions on a job website like monster.com or careerbuilder.com. using the internet is often abused.
Try recruitment through the ‘word of mouth’ and offer incentives for their efforts. Sure there will be friends and family in the group but as it was explained before, there are good people out there that can bring a good positive change to the organization if identified to be such persons.
As a leader you should express such concerns to your staff and encourage them to do some informal recruitment for the purposes of hiring good people.
It really is that important to do it. Another activity a good leader gets involved in is the participation in the recruitment drives at schools or colleges. Do what the military does and show them the good side of corrections by presenting the best side of the job – the people and their character, skills and knowledge in their respective fields of expertise.
Make sure the recruitment team is well groomed, well prepared for the questions asked and wears their best Class A uniforms and go visit them or stand beside them.
Demonstrate the professionalism that is part of the job. But this is only one of many tools in the human resources toolbox. And then those same people complain profusely to their colleagues that “good people are so hard to find these days.” This is a fallacy or myth that must be countered or answered by facts, not rumors or gossip. Merely posting a job is highly unlikely to uncover the high quality candidates that we all want and strife for during such times.
Again, this the most common mistake made and a flaw in hiring good people. While it is agreed that it is harder to uncover those candidates with solid work ethic, you can access them if you are fishing in the right ponds or going to the right places – hence schools are the best places to recruit and visit.
Most of them are either full time students or fully employed presently and wouldn’t run across your post anyhow unless they happen to be looking or searching the job ads or an employee reaches them somehow.
Now, I do believe that posting on niche job boards is useful and a worthwhile effort, but even that is only a small percentage of the entire recruiting energy. We need to engage our network to its fullest extent. It has become customary to regularly use e-mails, phone calls, texts, and posts on social media groups both personal and professional especially niche LinkedIn groups depending on the field the team or agency is recruiting for.
Take the time to think about all of the different network connections you may have from volunteering in the community, serving on boards, past job connections—the list goes on and on if you are well connected. And if you aren’t well connected, then start developing that network now before you need it for critical and urgent reasons to recruit others or looking for a job yourself.
Leveraging your network is way more effective if you have previously and intentionally looked for ways to help your network system before you ask for something in return and when we get to the interview stage of the hiring and selection process, we shouldn’t forget to sell both the opportunity and challenges and reality of the situation.
If we sell the ‘golden’ opportunity too much, we risk under-delivering on our promise once they realize how bad of a state the company or position is in, and if we focus solely on all of the negative reality of the situation, no one will accept our job offer in the first place. It is best to heap equal interests of good efforts made of the upside potential when it is for the selection, recruitment and interview process. Absenteeism or a heavy staff turnover isn’t the goal of the human resources function – it is an administrative function. Employee turnover should be viewed as an opportunity to make the team stronger, even if we are losing a strong team member.
It has always been hard to deal with the turnover in corrections. How many times have we heard top leaders expresses their frustration on this matter? Who has heard them say to the workforce, the media or the leaders in government, ‘we need to eliminate staff turnover.’
Too much turnover is definitely a problem in the profession and in the workforce related to jails and prisons, but having too little can be just as damaging.
It is odd to say this but it’s true. The right amount of turnover is highly positive; it allows new blood and ideas to enter the group. Remember what I said about incestuous management practices – this is one of them.
Some private prison companies don’t innovate because they are myopic and focused on their current product and market. They think of expansion without a growth in their infrastructure.
In other areas it is purely focused on stock market profits and shareholder demands. Inside prisons, whether it be private or state or county run, there are many variables that drive staffing and costs but one thing is constant – the funding is always short and in need of more attention or fiscal commitments.
So what is that perfect amount of turnover? The answer is that it depends. Some organizations may need a high level of turnover, others need very low, and some will need something that lies in between the ratio or percentage of turnovers. Surely we can recognize what is high and what is low based on the industry standard and comparison factors.
This is where it is critical for leaders not to take exits personal. The upside of an employee leaving is the opportunity to do an exit interview and ask questions about the reasons why they want to leave.
Whatever you do, don’t encourage or entice them to stay if they are unhappy. This could contaminate the whole team if this person remains with an unhappy attitude or behavior. Let them go but find out why they are dissatisfied and you will find that aside of asking or looking for more money, a better position or getting better benefits, no matter what you offer, they won’t stay for the long run.
No amount of money offered will keep them from looking elsewhere even when they are offered a better pay, job or position. Some people will never be satisfied no matter what you offer and many come from the ‘entitlement’ angle where they feel you owe them for their work while employed there. Nobody is too vital for any organization to lose.
Nobody is that critically needed as it turns out that they are in fact disposable or replaceable if you look hard enough to find such a person. Some bosses, usually not very good leaders, are absolutely terrified of losing somebody on their team or organization.
As ridiculous as this sounds, they work hard to appease and not lose anyone hence keeping on those who are disgruntled or dissatisfied with the work conditions and sabotaging the workplace.
If the culture expresses such fear, then this would be a strong indicator that the organization or team does a poor job of recruiting replacement talent and that we have allowed these team members, no matter how unsuited they are, to become too critical to the agency to lose them.
In essence, we had done a poor job of delegating vital responsibilities and priorities to other team members and relied too much on one specific person. This creates an imbalance that is hard to restore without losing good people along the way.