Meeting behavior is *NOT* a small thing

From the recent WSJ interview with Alan Mulally:

WSJ: Are you worried that Ford will go back to its old ways if, someday, you're not there to hand out the cards [printed with a summary of his "One Ford" strategy]?

Mr. Mulally: I am not only not worried about it, but I am very excited about the institutionalizing of our management systems inside Ford.

WSJ: So you feel it's not just you at this point.

Mr. Mulally: Absolutely. We have it built into the audit process. We actually audit the process and the behaviors.

WSJ: When was the last time you had to remind someone: "No, you didn't get it."

Mr. Mulally: Every once in a while someone in business-plan review will, say, pull out their communication device and start working on it. We have the entire leadership team networked around the world, and somebody would have the audacity to start working a specific issue instead of being laser focused on helping everybody?

Or they'll talk. At Ford, one of the behaviors is you listen, and you don't have side conversations during the meeting. It's just so important everybody stays focused. So if someone has a side conversation, we just stop and we just look at them, and it's amazing how it doesn't happen again.

Here you've got a guy who's universally credited with rescuing a $63 billion market cap company talking about how not using smartphones, or avoiding side conversations during meetings, is an essential element of sustaining the new corporate culture.

Pay attention, people: small behaviors are NOT small things. They're critical symbols of what the company values. Mulally cites these seemingly minor behaviors as evidence that Ford has become a different kind of company. More importantly, he uses them as a way to monitor the behaviors that underpin the company's transformation.

Disregarding others, and not being present to support and aid colleagues in meetings -- these are the leading indicators of a dysfunctional corporate culture. They're not the only reason why Ford teetered on the edge of bankruptcy a few years ago, but they're emblematic of a culture that is rotting at the core. That's why Alan Mulally attends to these seemingly minor indicators. And that's why you should, too.

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