To my surprise, there are three people in the room already when I enter at 7.45. The meeting is only starting in 45 minutes and I like to have some time on my own with the client to set up the room and prepare myself. You might expect that these people are talking to each other as they are part of the same global client team, but the opposite is true. The three have a strong connection with their screens and if it was not for my ‘good morning’ they would not have noticed me coming into the room.
The company they all work for could be called a ‘focused’ culture. I like the ‘Character of the Corporation’ model of culture, which defines four cultures in descriptive terms. The model claims that all four can be successful or less so, depending on how they manage their ‘shadow side’ and whether they there is a good fit with the industry environment they are in. Focused cultures work well in less complex environments, which require speed, and agility.
This company thrives on its ‘focused’ culture: performance driven, measuring all that matters, incentives to reward individual performance and ‘deals’ are made when performance is not satisfactory. There is a strong internal promotion culture. A high percentage of their most Senior Executives started with the firm. They are accustomed to the ‘up or out’ model and they have become fanatic –read addicted- to meeting their objectives.
The particular global account team has higher ambitions. They want to transcend (and include) their focused culture to become tribal. A stronger sense of community through deeper relationships with each other and with their client, is what they aim for. There is of course a level of self-interest in the movement. They realize that the next wave of large programmes will be awarded on transformational- rather than transactional relationships.
We talk about it in the meeting. They intellectually get it quickly. We have a laugh when I mention how I entered the room in the morning, giving me a sense of ‘autistic-ness’ in the room. They fully engage around our conversations on teaming and leadership development. The meeting is supposed to end at 6 PM. Towards 5 PM a sense of quiet restlessness seeps into the room. First person is leaving. A few others ask for a 5 to 10 minute slot to present a few of their slides before we close. It almost feels like a negotiation for time. At 10 to six I mention that we will close soon to help the final presenter who is talking passionately about his plans. At 6 the presenter is still talking despite several signals to keep him on track of time. Reality kicks in, people start leaving the room: little nod or a waving hand. At 6.15 the room is empty. The presenter has understood the message of people leaving. Right outside I see the left overs when I leave the room: some 5 or 6 people are attending conference calls from the lobby of the hotel. The ‘focused’ nomadic worker.