DMG Media head of talent: Choose 'mindsets' over 'values'

What makes a great place to work? Company values and mindsets form a large part of the culture and can be inspirational. Positive mindsets influence how employees work, communicate and interact, which affects performance.

Leaders often endeavour to create a culture of high performance for people to achieve great things and for the business to thrive. Yet people are unique and have differing skills, capabilities, values and beliefs. From an individual’s point of view, besides salary, what drives you to want to work for a particular company?

The late professor Sumantra Ghoshal, founding dean of the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, provides an enlightening insight. A short YouTube video featuring Ghoshal, ‘The Smell of The Place’, explains how it is possible to create the culture needed. In Ghoshal’s opinion, organisations implement ‘control’ (management structure), ‘compliance’ (systems, processes and procedures), ‘constraint’ (boundaries) and ‘contract’ (an employee’s role). 

But to enable growth and change, he says, we should disregard ‘the four Cs’ and focus on ‘support’, so leaders can help staff achieve great things; ‘self-discipline’, so individuals are all striving for business success; ‘stretch’, to enable people to go over and above their day-to-day activity; and ‘trust’ in an employee’s ability.

Company values can help define how the business works, how individuals fit in and a sense of identity. However, they can be easily forgotten and are becoming something of a cliché. More often than not, the values of one organisation can be very similar to those of another. So, what is it that gives an organisation a competitive advantage? Surely it comes down to the people, how they behave and how they perform?

Organisations are shifting towards a culture of ‘mindsets’ – a collection of assumptions, methods or beliefs that cause people to behave subconsciously when faced with certain situations. Mindsets are specific to a company’s culture and can describe collaboration, innovation, customer focus, entrepreneurialism, technology and creativity. The list goes on but, when clearly defined, mindsets describe an organisation beautifully and can create the desired culture. 

We have values within many of our DMG Media departments. However, mindsets form a key part of our leadership development programme, so leaders can dedicate quality time to identifying what they need. Within technology, we aim for an ‘e-Disrupt’
mindset: people should  ‘deliver, inquire, share, respond, umpire, practise, test and be sprightly’.

Back to my question, people are unique, so how do you foster a working environment that resonates with all employees? It is not easy, but mindsets guide how an individual will act in a specific situation. Ultimately, you want positive mindsets for how people behave. These should broadly fit the ‘support’, ‘self-discipline’, ‘stretch’ and ‘trust’ categories that Ghoshal believes stimulate proactive change.

Whenever I am invited into an organisation, I often arrive very early so I can quietly sit back and observe people. I like to watch how they interact with each other and their working environment. And I ask myself, “Would I want to work here? Could I flourish here?” Given the ‘war for talent’, organisations need to attract the best people quickly, easily and frequently, and create a working environment that inspires people to operate at the top of their game. Now, watch Ghoshal’s video, then observe your surroundings. What are the mindsets? Are they what you want? Are they what you need?

Catherine Rush is head of talent for technology at the media company DMG Media