Culture fascinates me. I’ve always had an overwhelming curiosity to understand the culture that is the basis of groups. Culture binds people. Countries have a culture, groups of like-minded people have a culture, almost everything has a culture...even groups of bowlers have a culture. Culture drives groups to behave in specific and often predictable ways. Companies have a culture.
Corporate culture is hard to create and even harder to manage. A leader needs to manage a company’s culture carefully and with intent.
In Japanese business, culture dictates that the senior leader in the room sits furthest from the door in a meeting room.
The most junior member in the room sits closest to the door. I’ve heard this stems from a historical requirement of protecting the leader from enemy combatants that enter through the door. The pawns are to fall first…interesting, isn’t it? As a business leader, this Japanese cultural phenomenon is something that has stuck with me. I’ve sat in well over ten thousand business meetings in my life. When meeting with a group I don’t know well, one of the first things I try to understand is their culture. To do this, I often take stock of where the leaders sit in the room. It’s one of many queues that give insight into how a company is managed.
When I sit in a meeting with my team, I sit in the first open seat I can grab. I intentionally try to not sit in the “power spot.” As a leader, I try to reinforce a culture of creativity, openness, safety, respect, honesty, fairness and equality. The contribution from each member of the team is as important as any other’s contribution. As such, I’ll find myself as the senior leader in the room sitting in the “worst” chair. It’s a little thing, but the little things matter when managing culture.