Business leaders learn how to turn their organisation into a cause: Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas
An account of Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas’s recent address to the 5th Global Conference on Social Responsibility in Lisbon. The conference was organised by the World Council for Corporate Governance in association with India’s Institute of Directors’ Centre for Social Responsibility. It was held at the Hotel Radisson Blu in Lisbon. Speakers included business and political leaders, academics and opinion formers.
Turning one’s organisation into a cause with a compelling vision can differentiate an organisation and energise its people according to transformation specialist, Colin Coulson-Thomas. Speaking in Lisbon to the 5th Global Conference on Social Responsibility he showed how new lifestyle options can further green, healthcare and commercial agendas and help achieve both organisational and personal objectives.
According to Coulson-Thomas, “Many enterprises find it difficult to motivate their people, stand out and justify premium prices. They lack a compelling rationale and distinctive purpose. Their offerings and messages to the marketplace are largely indistinguishable from those of other suppliers. In short, they are bland, faceless or boring.”
The Professor believes there is little excuse for this sorry state of affairs: “There are countless possibilities for differentiation, and also endless opportunities for consumer, social and knowledge entrepreneurship. ‘Me-too’ approaches, copying and imitation lead to squeezed margins and consumer indifference. Increasingly, market leadership goes to those who create, pioneer and discover.”
Coulson-Thomas is convinced that “There is little limit to what people will achieve if they believe in a cause. Organizations can massively increase their impact if their strategic goals are turned into a cause. People can be energized by a compelling and demanding vision, and motivated by a purpose they can identify with and which they feel is beneficial to their customers, users, a local community or mankind generally. ”
He finds: “There are many ways of differentiating from the skills and understanding of people to brand image and reputation. Processes and ways of working and learning can differentiate, as can approaches, methodologies, tools and techniques. Relationships and risk sharing can differentiate. Many companies seek to differentiate by product, service or price, but overlook differentiation on the basis of purpose.”
Speaking on how to energise organisations, Coulson-Thomas suggests “Vision, goals and values can be important differentiators. People like to feel they are making a useful and significant contribution, so visioning and engagement are particularly relevant to corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities.”
The author of “Winning Companies, Winning People” emphasises the importance of visioning: “The right vision can ignite a cause. A stretching, distinctive and compelling vision that paints a picture of a future, desired and attainable state of affairs can focus effort and provide people with a sense of common purpose.”
Communication is critical according to Coulson-Thomas: “An exciting vision will remain as words unless it is communicated and shared. Other people need to understand the vision and what they can do to help make it happen. Successful communicators share information, knowledge and understanding with people whose cooperation is needed to achieve corporate aspirations. They do not wait to be approached. They go out and meet people. They engage in two-way communication and encourage, welcome and react to feedback.”
He adds: “Good communicators are not pre-occupied with themselves. They focus on the people they would like to establish, build and sustain relationships with. They try to understand, empathise with and reflect their aspirations, hopes and fears. They make direct and personal contact. They feel. They may stumble over the words, but they demonstrate they care. They consciously build mutually beneficial relationships.”
Coulson-Thomas feels: “Corporate leaders can do likewise with the right vision and purpose. Changes to lifestyle can enhance sustainability and benefit individual and corporate health. For example, new ways of working that reduce traffic flows can cut congestion costs and lead to fewer people with stress and respiratory complaints.”
“There are many viable alternatives to current patterns of working and living, based upon what we know and can already do using available and tried technologies. People living today have more options in terms of where, when, how and with whom to work, learn, earn and consume than any generation in history. For example, teleconferencing can be less disruptive and harmful than travel to a physical meeting.”
Coulson-Thomas considers “There is enormous scope for business and social entrepreneurs to introduce new possibilities for living healthier, and less stressful and more sustainable lives. Living more simply and slowly could be less costly and more fulfilling. It might benefit health and be good for businesses and the planet.”
Boards should ask whether people are equipped to understand compelling visions and turn aspiration into achievement. In his book “Winning Companies; Winning People” Coulson-Thomas shows how pioneers use a new generation of tools to communicate with and engage those whose help is required for the implementation of their visions. Such tools are used in over 100 countries. They can engage cynics and win them over by making it easy for people to understand complex issues and do demanding tasks. They can enable average practitioners to emulate the approaches of high performers. Large returns on investment have been obtained. Benefits also include improved performance, reduced costs, quicker responses, less stress, higher standards, and enforced and evidenced compliance
Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas, an active consultant and member of the business school team at the University of Greenwich, has helped over 100 organisations to improve director, board and corporate performance, and been the process vision holder of large and complex transformation projects. He was the world’s first Professor of Corporate Transformation and has spoken at over 200 national and international events in 40 countries.
’Developing Directors, a guidebook for building an effective boardroom team’, by Colin Coulson-Thomas, is published by Policy Publications. Click here to order
Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas is an active international consultant who has helped over 100 boards to develop directors and to improve board and/or corporate performance. He is an experienced director and board chairman.
Posted: October 17th, 2010 under The Networking Firm.