In this week’s blog I want to roll back the curtain a bit and get to the reason I am passionate about transforming culture. I think it had it’s origins when back in my school days towards the end of my school career I found myself on the wrong side of a bully. It wasn’t a terrible experience, but it marked me. What I remember most is the intimidation and fear they used to try and control me. As I reflect on my working life, I have observed the same intimidation and fear being used in the workplace. You may have been part of a working culture where this was happening. This can stop those who have a valuable contribution to make from being heard.
The light bulb moment for me was realising that it is the leader who sets the culture. The burning question is: what effect does a culture of fear, intimidation, and blame have on the productivity and performance of the team or organisation? As a result my passion is to enable leaders and teams to transform culture for high performance and greater productivity.
What have you found in your leadership journey which transforms culture so that those you lead can make their best contribution, be fully engaged, and reach their potential?
Reading an article from McKinsey recently I came across this quote from Paul Knopp CEO of U.S. KPMG:
“You have to be a fantastic listener, work hard to make sure that people are heard, and engage people in a way that the team recognizes that everyone has something to contribute.”
How can you as a leader enable the people around you through culture?
Enabling Positive Culture Change
1. Be clear about the kind of culture that will enable people to thrive. When you know what is required you can clearly stop things happening which undermine it.
2. Create safety for all at the table to enable them to be creative, innovative and inventive. They need to feel safe that they won’t be spoken over, belittled, possibly humiliated, or blamed if mistakes happen in the course of trying new things. How safe is the environment in which your team members operate? This factor is huge. The presence of psychological safety was identified as the main factor in creating high performing teams at Google during Project Aristotle.
Julia Rozovsky led the project. She comments that the results of the study led to the following surprising discovery:
“Researchers found what really mattered was less about who is on the team, and more about how the team worked together.”
In 2015 the New York Times reported on this study:
“When Rozovsky and her Google colleagues encountered the concept of psychological safety in academic papers, it was as if everything suddenly fell into place.”
This is not about tolerating poor performance. For teams to perform at the highest level then keeping performance and quality standards high will be as important as operating within an environment of high psychological safety.
3. Listen to your team. The people you lead don’t all see things in the same way. In order to lead well it is important to discover and understand better these differing perspectives. There are great tools available to help do this. In any situation where you are looking to change things, even if positive, knowing how to communicate that in different ways is critical to how people will react to it.
Companies and teams come together for a purpose. For everyone it makes sense for the environment to be optimised so you get the best out of the people working together for that purpose. Having fun while you do it will definitely increase morale. You will have far more opportunity for success in a good culture than a toxic one where there is low trust and engagement.
“A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms. Lack of candour, if unchecked, ultimately leads to dysfunctional environments.” Ed Catmull, President of Pixar
These are challenging things to change. As part of this community you can access the tools and expertise necessary to help make 2023 your best year yet. Whether you lead one or a hundred, the principles run true.