The Unfinished Leader - Enhancing workplace culture.
This week’s podcast features an interview with Nathan Krieger, the co-head of Client Group Australia for Dimensional Fund Advisors.
Nathan shared many insights into enhancing workplace culture through well-defined principles and authentic leadership.
Enhancing workplace culture with Authentic Leadership
Either as a response to listener requests after he missed the previous interview, or due to technical issues, Simon missed the interview but joined Kirralea for the other segments. The opening of the pod centred strongly around the role of Authentic Leadership in enhancing workplace culture.
The Good, The Bad or The What-The?
This week was all about the Good. At a recent event, we challenged a group of managers to step out of their comfort zone and teach their peers a new (and non-work related) skill. There were so many examples of managers displaying strong leadership, but one stood out for Kirralea. This leader taught a group of three people how to dance the Zorba and then jumped in the deep end, as he concluded the day by teaching the entire group. The way he blended the assertiveness and guidance the group needed, with his own gentle and supportive natural style, was a reminder to everyone–you can do the thing a leader needs to do, while also doing leadership your own way. He even got Simon dancing! You may recognise him in this video.
Words of Authenticity
This is a quote relayed by our guest that inspired the title of the show: None of us are a finished product (Dave Butler, Co-CEO of Dimensional worldwide and ex pro basketball player)
Worth The Time
Another one from our guest, Nathan, who is currently listening to the audio version of Shoe Dog, written by the founder of Nike.
Nathan has a strong focus on applying sound academic principles in practical ways, an approach he brings to the services Dimensional provides to clients and to the way he leads and shapes culture.
Enhancing workplace culture at Dimensional with Guiding Principles
Nathan’s background – sporting, educational and workplace – helped him develop a focus on creating great cultures through feedback, inclusivity, and open mindedness. This made for a natural match with the Dimensional Guiding Principles – and that alignment has helped Nathan buy into the culture and embrace his leadership role.
The Guiding Principles are:
- Act in the best interests of clients.
- Act in a way that is ethical and legal.
- Compete aggressively to succeed.
- Base investment strategies on a scientific methodology.
- Emphasise financial sustainability.
- Create opportunities for our people to contribute both to our success and to their own.
These guiding principles, in place of a mission statement, guide the way Dimensional operate as a business and allowed them to grow rapidly while staying stay true to what they are. They facilitate people doing the right thing number, doing it the right way number, and doing it right now. If it’s worth doing, let’s go ahead and get it done.
The treatment of ideas
When an idea is brought to the table, it is debate and challenged, remove the individual perspective or ownership of the idea. The focus in a better outcome and allowing the best idea to stand the test of time – do the best thing we can
It requires collaborative effort and must be the right thing for the client.
Creating a culture that tells new people what is expected
- Create an environment of trust which takes time to build, can be eroded quickly
- Failure is great if used the right way – have some guard rails
- Opportunities for people to try things
- It’s not personal if people disagree, it’s actually good
- Foster inclusiveness and empathy
Client Group Attributes – identifying behaviours that represent the culture
The culture and values that unite us as one team.
- Purpose Driven (What’s the purpose in doing that?)
- Team Based
- Goal Oriented
Cultural statements and value statements can sound a little nebulous at times unless they are brought to life.
These attributes existed well they put them down in writing, but it was important to translate cultural expectations into practical terms.
The three attributes are used to help describe good behaviours, to encourage self-reflection, in recruitment, and when calling out behaviours both as recognition and for accountability. The key is in them becoming part of the way that we do things.
Attitudes that support the attributes
These are really helpful when people start using them in practice, and means cultural excellence is not reliant on any one leader – we are all the custodians of them.
The Dimensional Attitudes, which are specifically relevant to the reality of their role are:
Enhancing culture and building leadership
The framework of guiding principles, attributes and attitudes can be used to positively impact people coming in with strong technical skill but no background in formal leadership. It provides a starting point they can embellish with their own style.
It also sets up coaching conversations:
- How do you feel you have performed in relation to the framework?
- Helps them set their own perspective rather than telling them. It’s always better when they can use the framework to arrive at their own conclusions
This, alongside a program which encourages new people to develop skills, prepares them for formal leadership roles. For example, new team members are encouraged to run the team meeting and highlight great behaviours of long-term team members. When people move into formal leadership, they have demonstrated their capability through these sorts of opportunities and by developing others.
There are so many opportunities in life to learn as a leader.
Keeping everyone on board in fast paced, ever-changing climates
- Through shared purpose – when people feel bound by a purpose they will make stuff happen no matter how difficult the circumstances
- Focusing on the things they can control rather than worrying about what they can’t
- Building cultural alignment
- Learn when you need to run and when you can walk -get in tune with the pace of things and take the opportunity to walk when you can in a fast paced environment. A career is a marathon, not a sprint
- Know your strengths
- Prioritise and reprioritise – even though it is sometimes hard to even find time to do this. If you aren’t good at this, enlist the help of team members who are
- It isn’t possible to over communicate. Focus on listening and work hard to convey clear expectations
The (surf) board meeting
Nathan shared a story of a recent board meeting – surfing with a colleague and catching up on business between waves.
One of my beliefs is that work personal has sort of become a bit of all the same. Some people do a really good job of holding them very separate. Others are happy to have them entwined. I Like to think of them entwined and I like to think of what I do day-to-day as being something that I really enjoy. It doesn’t feel, it’s just what I do and I like it.
We managed to find time one morning and chat about business and life and it was a really productive meeting. We were both in a good headspace because you’re not challenged by everything else that’s happening around you in an office environment or on a phone, so I quite enjoy those sorts of scenarios. For others it could be golf.
A final piece of advice for leaders in fast paced environments
Be OK being uncomfortable.
None of us have got this dialled in and none of us are a finished product. There’s always going to be circumstances that we’re faced with that feel different but they’re the opportunities for the greatest learning. With a little patience and a bit of okay being uncomfortable, we can get through challenging circumstances.
The debrief – what we learned
The combination of an Authentic Leader (Nathan) and a great framework (the Dimensional Guiding Principles, Attributes and Attitudes) is a great platform for enhancing workplace culture.
Nathan is ‘real’ – what you see is what you get, and he isn’t frightened about being authentic and vulnerable. He is also a humble leader, striving to be his best self while accepting that he is imperfect.
When we first saw the Dimensional framework, it looked complicated and we wondered why they needed all three components. Having worked with the organisation and got to know Nathan, we understand. Most importantly, we have witnessed the way they bring all three to life in the everyday reality of working together and servicing clients at Dimensional.
Would the same framework for you? Probably not. You need a framework that relates specifically to your organisation, the people that work there, and the people you exist to serve.
What the Dimensional framework does is clearly define their ideal or aspirational culture – this is what great looks like. What leadership from Nathan and his colleagues does is translate that into everyday actions and behaviours.
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Thanks to our Podcasting producer, Josh at Deadset Podcasting for all his work behind the scenes.
Thanks for listening!