Precision and Discipline

It was an incredible performance of Swan Lake by the Mariinsky Ballet Company. So many breathtaking moments and so many questions, such as: "How does she do that pose while balancing on his bent leg?" The precision of the swan maidens dancing in unison, four of them with their arms linked and dancing on their toes, was somewhat mind boggling. If one missed a step, it was over for the rest of them. "How do they learn to do that?" Barbara wondered aloud. Lots of practice, hard work, and discipline -- so much a part of the culture and traditions of a ballet company.

The very next day held an equally fascinating experience. My husband Carl and I visited the National Museum of the Marine Corps. It is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Marine Corps history, culture, and tradition. If you ever get the chance, visit it. For us it was special on a personal level, since Carl served in the Corps for four years. Touring the museum reminded me that I knew and remembered a great deal about the Marine Corps and that there was a lot I'd never known, or had forgotten, about its history and culture. There was one glaring comparison to the ballet the night before. Just like the delicate dancers, these rugged warriors were precise and disciplined, and they learned it through their marching drills.

Marines practice marching to learn how to work cohesively as a unit. They learn to react to a command at split-second intervals as a team. If one person makes an error with his rifle, you would pick it out right away. The flaw would be apparent. One missed step for either the ballerina or the warrior would impact the entire formation. Both professions are built on the values of confidence and trust, precision and discipline.

I recently read an article about confidence and the sales culture. "Of course," I thought. Sales professionals tend to be extroverts and project confidence in their very presence. However, the author was talking about a sales professional's ability to answer hard, smart, incisive, and challenging questions so they can persuade and convince a potential customer or client and close a deal.

Individual professions are unique social groups. Just as organizations have their own unique cultures, every profession within the organization also has its unique culture. It is that culture which often shapes the behavior of that social group.

It is important for leaders to recognize the different cultures and behaviors unique to each profession that resides within their organization. Many time these cultures clash. Within some professions, the approach to work is more task focused while others are more relationship focused. Think of the difference between engineers or IT professionals versus sales and business development professionals. Their approach to problem solving may also be at opposite ends of the spectrum, with engineers being more linear and logical and sales professionals being more intuitive. Yet, what they both have in common is integrity and passion for their work. The exciting challenge for leaders is to recognize the commonality and differences among all the cultures within their organization and put this diversity to work in order to build a positive work environment to make the organization succeed!

Cornelia Gamlem, SPHR

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