In our recent blogs; 'The costly impact of Mediocre Leadership in uncertain times', and 'Stepping up as an Exceptional Leader', we explored leadership styles and how leaders, by transforming their leadership style, can focus on transforming their organisation's culture during challenging times.
Over the past 25 years, The Oakridge Centre has worked with organisations of all sizes to create transformational leadership programmes that are consistent with the culture of the organisation. In order to build and administer the best culture change programme, that will satisfy the demands of the organisation and its employees, we closely collaborate with business leaders.
Understanding the difference between a manager and a leader can be difficult. Leaders oversee the organisation's people; managers manage the business. A leader handles interactions with staff members, developing strong bonds to build a connected culture where staff members experience relational alignment and support.
Businesses who purport to being a culture first organisation are those who put their employee needs at the top of the agenda. They do this by empowering their employees to enable them to perform better in their jobs knowing that business success will follow.
We often claim, as leaders, that our organisation is being led by the ethos of a culture first environment. However, and especially during times of uncertainty, we can lose sight of our culture values through the busy-ness and the knee-jerk reactions we display in trying to manage the volatility of the day-to-day challenges that arise.
This has a profound impact on employee motivation and engagement due to the lack of leadership time spent in prioritising employee needs.
It would be wonderful to see your teams working cohesively, in sync with one another, empowered and motivated and happy in getting the job done well.
That might be a rose-colored view of the future in these trying times. In actuality, performance and productivity's finely tuned cog can slip, leading to low morale and motivation across teams and disturbed business success.
Definitive steps need to be taken to unclog the culture funnel; to streamline employee happiness, engagement, and cohesion, to ensure the cog is once again fine-tuned to achieve the high-performance levels expected of your employees.
Human connection is vital in developing a strong organisational culture and it is integral to employee wellbeing as it has the power to uplift key business outcomes.
In a recent survey conducted by Enboarder, they identified that connection is a key differentiator for employee performance, satisfaction, and retention:
As leaders we are faced with the added challenge where the working environment is often made up of a mix of in-office, hybrid, remote and flexible employees. Getting the human connection to work across these varying strands of employment is important. We know that to be, or remain, a culture-first organisation, leaders need to:
We know that to be, or remain, a culture-first organisation, leaders need to:
1. Maintain constant and authentic communication with employees
2. Keep connected to employee feedback
3. Show solidarity with employees
4. Keep employee development a top priority
We also learn through the same research, that peer and co-workers are the primary sources of employees’ feelings of connectiveness, but that often it is the managers and leaders who break the connection.
The top reasons employees report feeling disconnected are:
1. 34% - lack of understanding between co-workers of different personalities and workstyles (social identities)
2. 29% - unsupportive/passive managers
3. 26% - lack of transparency in business decisions
4. 19% - working remotely
As a leader, it is essential that you transform your organisation’s culture to encourage a free flow of ideas and information, and to create more feedback loops for you to take direct inputs from across the organisation. Not only will you benefit from a wide range of ideas being shared, but this will also strengthen your employee experience.
In appreciating that human connection is vital to performance success, the following 10 key process changes are encouraged:
1. Create virtual watercoolers:
Encouraging interaction by creating open channels of communication across virtual platforms and meetings is important. This promotes greater sharing of information across the organisation and stimulates discussions. Mix your communication approaches across different platforms such as setting up a specific platform for innovation and fun, another for business and task focused updates, and another for support through allyship. It also helps to set up guidelines of engagement so that employees know why, when, and how to use the various channels.
Team leaders and managers are often the go-between executives, direct reports, and team-to-teams. Revisiting their skillset capabilities and providing the necessary training and coaching support to further develop their talent will help to build their confidence and competence as a manager.
As a leader, if you have let your “open door policy” slip during turbulent times, now is the time to re-instate this and commit to it, no matter the challenges. Consider additional concepts like implementing “Ask Me Anything” events between different teams and leaders or initiate casual coffee and chat sessions between executives and staff. These can be managed in-person with in-house teams and inviting hybrid, remote and flexible working colleagues to virtually be in the room at the same time.
Encouraging a culture that has strong listening and critical thinking capabilities creates a more agile workforce. Evaluate your existing training programmes to help understand how these capabilities can be improved.
Encourage and inspire more discussions and ideas creation across the organisation through peer coaching and cross-mentorship programmes. Consider the mixed working environments of your employees and review the best programme approach for each individual or team, be it face-to-face or virtual sessions, and be consistent in delivering on this support.
Investing in team effectiveness training will help to drive team performance to achieve improved business results. This will ensure you get your team onboard, self-motivated, and fully committed to engagement.
EQ mitigates the purely transactional focus to work. When managers and employees are equipped with empathy, they are more inclined to take time to understand one another better which results in stronger cohesion and more affirming interactions. Investing in training or psychometric assessments, like Emergenetics®* to develop EQ, will help individuals to better understand one another’s different thinking and behaviour styles.
Your organisation’s culture should be one where all employees feel they are a valued and respected member of the team. Individuals should feel they have support from their leaders and peers and feel that their opinions and views are listened to and considered.
The most common issue relating to the breakdown in workplace relationships is miscommunication and lack of understanding. This occurs when a person delivers a message with one intention and the recipient interprets it differently. This could be a simple misunderstanding of the objective which could impact productivity, or it could be that the recipient feels hurt or slighted, especially if the individual delivers the message in a bullying, racist, sexual, or derogatory manner. Designing a culture where employees feel aligned, supported, and confident that their psychological safety is protected is essential. Communicating these values on a relational level and providing clear guidance for the action to take when reporting issues, is imperative.
Positive and constructive feedback can cause emotional reactions. Individuals react differently – some welcome feedback as they see it as a great way to learn and improve, while others may see it on a negative level and become defensive. And, if you are one of those organisations who are guilty of only having a once-a-year performance feedback meetings, consider the emotions of the employee as it is more than likely to be the only time their performance is discussed, and they will have no idea what to expect.
Consider training and coaching support to better equip managers to have more engaging conversations with their teams, along with training support when handling difficult conversations, conflict at work, and managing grievances and disciplinary actions. And equally important, as a leader, keep your door open to encourage the human connection with your employees.
*The Oakridge Centre is a certified provider of the psychometric assessment tool Emergenetics®
Below are a few additional resources to support your Transformational Culture Change Journey:
Human connection is vital in developing a strong organisational culture and it’s integral to employee wellbeing as it has the power to uplift key business outcomes.
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