A good friend of mine recently bought in his five year-old daughter an oboe, and signed her up to a year’s one to one tuition.
He wants her to learn an instrument, convinced it will lead to a more a fuller life with greater opportunity, and instil a bit of discipline at the same time. Hard to argue with that.
But, as good a friend as he is, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know one end of an oboe from the other. He knows a great deal about Arsenal FC, and does a half decent spaghetti bolognese, but all things being equal, rarely strays into the world of art and music, aside from a few Shed Seven LPs, if that counts.
My next door neighbour, on the other hand, sits with her daughter after school and plays along on the piano with her. I see (and hear them) every night, playing the scales and the sheet music the five-year olds talent will allow.
Now, I can’t be certain, but if I was a betting man (as my good friend is) I would put good money on which of these two children is likely to be playing their respective instruments in five years’ time.
Despite my friends best intentions, if the adults in the house are watching Cash in the Attic every night, rather than going through the scales, this is more likely to be the inherited behaviour.
Culture, as they say, eats strategy for breakfast. No matter your best intentions, the culture of a place will always overcome the best intentions of those at the head of the household (and business).
What can we learn about this for internal communication. Many people at the top of organisations will have ideas about how they should run. Innovation, collaboration, flexibility and creativity feature large in most off-the-shelf value sheets. But until these ideas are practiced as well as preached, they’re unlikely to be reality.
As with my friend, if you really want your people displaying certain behaviours, you’re going to display that too. And if that means learning the oboe yourself too, then so be it.