organizational culture

How Can Being Instead of Doing Affect Your Organizational Culture?

Years ago I worked at an organization that had a cultural norm of “respect for people." This norm was carried out in many positive ways such as compassion with the loss of an employee's family member, care with paternity and maternity leaves, and even performance-reflected pay-base in this respectful culture.

In one department, a leader swooped in with an agenda. He would make changes in performance standards but only select favorites would be told of these new rules. Low-performance ratings were given to people who had traditionally been top performers. The culture shifted dramatically and the organization became chaotic and fragmented. The previous cultural norms were no longer reliable. All anyone knew was to "please the leader or you are out."

Six months later the entire department had been decimated. The leader had to be replaced. What was once a high-performing organization had been completely and utterly destroyed by the actions of one person. One really loud voice was able to take down an entire team, exiting many top performers from the company in the process.

The culture you define as an organizational leader impacts the development of your team members. If they don't feel safe, they definitely won't feel valued as a team member. And if they don't feel valued, then they won't be motivated. When you have unmotivated team members you run the risk of losing them or leaving untapped potential on the table.

So, how do you create a culture that allows your newest team members to feel safe as well as your current colleagues to be motivated? Perhaps it's not something that you DO, but instead what you can BE.

Focus on developing your Emotional Intelligence. This effort on your part will impact the culture you want to create. As you create this positive culture, the desired behaviors will become part of who you are and not just something that you do occasionally. Think deeply about the kind of culture you are shaping as you lead your team.

Here are five things you can become that will positively impact the culture of your organization:

Be Self Aware

Know yourself and be confident in your abilities. Understand how you handle your emotions and how they impact your company. Your team is watching to see how you will react. In fact, they may be able to predict your behaviors. Become just as aware of yourself and how you can choose your emotional responses.

Be Assertive

Communicate your what, how, and why in a simple, clear, and even repetitive way so that your team understands.

Be Empathetic

When I teach seminars on Emotional Intelligence, I often ask the group for a common definition of empathy. The response I get back more than any other is “walking a mile in the other person’s shoes.” I love this definition, but to take it one step further (pun intended),I would add that empathy is “walking a mile in the other person’s shoes, even when the shoe doesn’t fit." Being empathetic is about being compassionate, caring, listening, and being flexible as needed. I strongly believe we should not neglect the impact empathy has on shaping the culture of your company. Showing regular empathy will instantly invoke safety and value in your teammates.

Be in Control

Don’t waver or change things based on emotional reactions. When something comes up that causes an emotional response, remind yourself of the company’s mission and your principles to ensure your decisions align with your mission. This way, your team can feel confident that you won't make changes at the drop of a hat. As they trust you, they can focus on the work they need to do.

Be Optimistic

Positive people are magnetic. Their energy makes others want to be around them. In order to be optimistic, you have to change the way you talk to yourself. Begin to see the best in yourself, recognize setbacks as learning opportunities, and realize obstacles are unique, temporary events that you'll get through.

How are you doing with these five things? Look back over the list and fill in the rest of these phrases:

I want to be more…

So that my team can feel …

And we'll create a culture that is ...

Share what you wrote with a mentor or coach and have them help you with this development. If you can't think of who to share this with, write it in our comments below or contact me directly. I'd love to hear what you have to say and find out how we can help you!

5 Ways to Positively Impact Your Organization’s Culture

There is a lot of conversation in the “blogosphere” these days about the types of cultures leaders can create in organizations. Here are a few examples:

  • Learning Culture
  • Performance Culture
  • Service Culture
  • Command & Control Culture
  • Customer Centric Culture
  • Employee’s First Culture
  • Shareholder’s First Culture

Frankly, there are probably thousands of cultures and subcultures that organizations can identify with. Leaders can be left in a state of ambiguity about what is really acceptable in a culture unless organization-wide consensus can be found.

Confusion can lead to inconsistency in strategy implementation or even complete chaos, which can result in paralysis. This fragmentation in organizational culture can leave the strongest subcultures defined by those with the loudest voices, which may not actually be representative of the culture at all.

Perhaps a story can clarify:

Years ago I worked at an organization that had a cultural norm of “respect for people." This norm was carried out in a lot of very positive ways throughout the organization, such as caring and compassion with a death in an employee's family, paternity and maternity leaves, even pay based on performance was weaved into this respectful culture.

In one department, there swooped in a leader who had an agenda. A change in performance standards would take place but only a select few favorites would be told of these new rules in the culture. Low performance ratings were given to people who had traditionally been top performers. The organization became chaotic and fragmented as no one knew what the cultural norms were in order to perform at high levels. All anyone knew was to "please the leader or you are out."

Fast forward 6 months and the entire department had been decimated. The leader had to be replaced. What was once a high performing organization had been completely and utterly destroyed by the actions of one person. One really loud voice was able to take down an entire team, exiting many top performers from the company in the process.

The culture you define as an organizational leader impacts the development of your team members. If they don't feel safe, they definitely won't feel valued as a team member. And if they don't feel valued, then they won't be motivated. When you have unmotivated team members you run the risk of losing them or leaving untapped potential on the table.

So, how do you create a culture that allows your newest team members to feel safe as well as your current colleagues to be motivated? Perhaps it's not something that you DO, but instead what you can BE.

Focus on developing your emotional intelligence. This effort on your part will impact the culture you want to create. As you create this positive culture, the desired behaviors will become part of who you are and not just something that you do occasionally. Think deeply about the kind of culture you are shaping as you lead your team.

Here are 5 things you can become that will positively impact the culture of your organization to give you great results:

Be Self Aware Know and be confident in yourself and your abilities. Understand how you handle your emotions, and how they impress your company. Everyone is watching you to see how you will react. In fact, they may be able to predict your behaviors. Become just as aware of yourself and how you can choose your emotional responses.

Be Assertive Communicate your what, how, and why in a simple, clear, and even repetitive way so that your team understands.

Be Empathetic When I teach seminars on Emotional Intelligence, I often ask the group for a common definition for empathy. The response I get back more than any other is “walking a mile in the other person’s shoes.” I love this definition, but to take it one step further (pun intended), “walking a mile in the other person’s shoes, even when the shoe doesn’t fit." Being empathetic is about being compassionate, caring, listening, and being flexible as needed. I believe strongly that we should not neglect the impact empathy has on shaping the culture of your company. Showing regular empathy will instantly invoke safety and value for your teammates.

Be in Control Not wavering, or changing things based on emotional reactions. When something comes up that invokes an emotional response, remind yourself of the companies mission, and your principles, to be sure that the decisions being made align with your mission. This way your team can feel confident that you won't make changes at the drop of a hat. As they trust you, they can focus on the work they need to do.

Be Optimistic People who are positive are magnetic. We want to be around them and we can be inspired by them. In order to be optimistic, you have to change the way you talk to yourself. What I mean by that is being able to see the best in yourself, see setbacks as learning opportunities, and see obstacles as unique, temporary events that you'll get through. Learn more about this by downloading my eBook, Optimistic Thinking.

Homework

Think about the 5 "Be's" above. Choose one you would want to work on.

To help organize your thoughts, grab a piece of paper, then write and complete the following sentence:

I want to be more ______________, so that my team can feel ______________ and we'll create a culture that is ___________________.

Here are three ways I will be more ____________ this week: 1. 2. 3.

Share what you wrote with a mentor or coach and have them help you with this development. If you can't think of who to share this with, write it in our comments below or contact me directly. I'd love to hear what you have to say and find out how we can help you!

How You Can Win in the Role You're In

[callout]This week I am happy to share this blog space with Gretchen Holcomb. Gretchen is spending a few months fine-tuning some things in our organization before going off to Spain for a year to teach English as a second language. I am excited for her to share with you about her last two months working with our team and learning our organization's culture.[/callout] I love to travel and have been blessed with opportunities to spend time in multiple countries around the world.

In just the last few years, I've enjoyed curry cuisines in India and exploring historical cathedrals throughout Germany and Switzerland. One of the reasons that I travel so often is because I enjoy learning about other cultures. I've experienced different cultures in each country, all unique due to their location, language, history, agriculture, and so much more.

Being so passionate about travel, imagine my excitement when Scott shared with our team that he wanted to discuss the topic of culture on the blog this month! Yet after reading last week's blog, I began to think about how there are many more layers to culture than merely those we generally categorize by country or state. We each belong to overarching cultures, yet we also fit into subcultures that make up who we are and what we believe. These subcultures may be determined by your religion, gender, generation, upbringing, etc., all of which have influenced your behaviors and values.

As our team engaged in conversation about the cultures of organizations, I reflected on my first team meeting with Livingston Consulting Group and the organizational tension "culture shock" that I experienced.

You see, it was a very productive meeting where each team member shared what they were working on, brainstormed collectively what to do moving forward, and each identified our action steps for a project. As the meeting was wrapping up, my mind had already shifted gears towards what I needed to work on and how I would do that. Yet instead of just ending the meeting with assigned tasks to each member, Scott asked each of us to share one thing we learned from the meeting. I was not prepared and felt uncomfortable by what he asked us to do. I simply wasn't adapted to the organization's culture that was deeply invested in the development of the individuals on the team. Talk about a team that practices what they preach!

To overcome this cultural difference that I felt, I did a self-assessment of my emotions that Scott talked me through. Here are some questions I answered for this assessment:

What do I know about myself and my values?

Personally, I am very task oriented and focused. I value punctuality and deadlines for projects as a way to be organized and efficient. I feel that I am at my best and most productive when I complete several tasks and quality projects in a certain time frame.

What do I already know about the culture of my organization?

Each time our team meets, we spend some time sharing our thoughts, ideas, and opinions that may not necessarily be related to our projects and daily tasks. Although LCG appreciates work completion and meeting deadlines, our organization cares about the well-being and development of its employees and clients. There is an overarching vision of working on yourself and your emotional intelligence to be the best you can be.

What can I appreciate about the new culture I find myself in? How will it help me grow?

LCG recognizes work will always be there and will always get done, but the effectiveness and passion behind it is largely dependent upon our attitude and approach toward it. Spending time to reflect on what I'm learning and invest in my development will help me not only improve in my current role, but also position me to take on more leadership responsibilities in the future.

How can I use my strengths and skills to help me adapt to this new culture?

Since I am task oriented, I've challenged myself to write in a journal as a weekly assignment. This allows me to personally spend some focused time of reflection on my development. Sometimes I use Scott's questions as a writing prompt, or write a reflection based on our projects just like this blog post. This practice has helped me feel more comfortable when we share in our meetings, and has even stretched my thought process while I work.

So, what about you? Have you ever assessed yourself and your organization's culture to see how they align or where there is tension? How would you answer the questions above and take action yourself?

HOMEWORK

Find some time this week to answer the questions above in your journal. Ask someone else in your organization how they would answer these questions and start a conversation about culture at your workplace. You might be surprised by others perspective and what you can learn about your team.