What will the first permanent female leader of an organization facing harassment suits, claims of negligence, and desperately in need of modernization tackle first? This was the question I had when I went to hear a presentation by recently appointed RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki. In her insightful remarks she talked about leadership, courage and culture.
The value of a picture
Commissioner Lucki gave us a wonderful visual of her organization. With over 30,000 people in the RCMP she sees it as a large puzzle. When there are pieces missing, you can’t see the big picture. One of her biggest challenges is to help her people see where they fit in and to take hold of their piece. She has a strong vision for the RCMP to move forward and become more innovative and better users of technology. She is looking for an organization that is more agile (aren’t we all?), innovative, respectful and inclusive.
She also believes the RCMP does a lot of things right and she wants to tell that story. I loved this comment because as leaders, we need to let our employees know that we are supportive and acknowledge their best work. For her to publicly go out and promote that best work is very motivating to her people. I’ve seen first-hand how far appreciation goes towards increasing employee pride and productivity in their work. What pictures and stories are you using to show your vision, appreciation and support?
Personal courage and accountability
Lucki told us a story of how if she lit up a cigarette in the office, she would immediately be told this was not allowed. And yet, when other inappropriate behaviors occur, nothing seems to happen. She is tired of dealing with the 2% who cause problems and the implementation of policies to address their issues, in essence branding all employees with the same paintbrush. She is calling on the other 98% to have the courage and conviction to hold others to account. “Every employee in the RCMP must own our organization”.
While the cigarette story is powerful, it requires every employee to ask themselves how they can be that agent for change. Courage doesn’t show up just because you’ve been asked to be courageous. Speaking up can happen in all kinds of different ways along the feedback continuum from constructive to caustic. Leaders within the RCMP will need to model courage and coaching behaviors for their teams. What one behavior could you more consciously model this week to improve how work gets done in your organization?
Finding new opportunities to shift culture
Another avenue Commissioner Lucki is using to evolve the culture of her organization is through a change in personnel. She believes they can teach the “way” but not the “will”. Apparently, RCMP work is 97% verbal and relies heavily on soft skills. As Lucki observed, the skills may be considered soft but they are the hardest to master.
Over the next 4 years, 25% of the front line workers will come through the RCMP training program. This shift could have a big impact on the culture of the organization if certain attributes are prioritized. This is a great opportunity for Lucki to bring in those people who value collaboration, diversity and empowerment. As you think about your business five years from now, what culture shifts should you be making to respond to the ongoing changing business landscape? What modifications in your recruiting practice should you be creating now in order to anticipate the needs of the future?
A final reminder
It was a short sentence, buried in the middle of her presentation. It almost appeared to be off script, a tangent of sorts. It was a call out to all leaders no matter what industry. “Make every workplace better than when you came” declared the Commissioner.