What is a High Performing Culture? What does it feel like to work in one? We have all hopefully had experiences of working in great teams – even if this is outside of work e.g. organizing a holiday with friends/family. Once we have had an experience of working effectively in a group, we seek it again and know what we are missing when we sit at work and realize that our team is not functioning as well as it could. Petty quarrels and office politics lead us to feel low in energy and disappoint somehow that we can’t work in a ‘better’ place.Look at this website:http://www.culturecodex.com/
We All want to work in a High Performing Culture
I’ve worked with a lot of different organization and when it comes to discussing what culture each organization is trying to foster, there seems to be little or no difference! Yes there may be an emphasis on ‘innovation’ or an emphasis on ‘commercial awareness’ but at the end of the day, nearly all the manager, directors and company owners that I’ve worked with want what I call a High Performing Culture -one where employees are energized by their work and contribute in meetings, buy-into new ideas and take responsibility for change. No-one has said ‘I want a workforce that only does the minimum that is required of them, are not engaged in the organization’s improvements and refuse to contribute in meetings’!
How do Cultures Form?
The Culture of an organization can briefly be described as the general values, attitudes and behaviors of the people that work in that organization. How does a culture form? Human brains are designed to copy, we see this clearly in children who copy what we do and say. As adults, this function of the brain is still working to help us ‘fit in’. We unconsciously copy those around us. This is how cultures are created. Those at the top of the hierarchy (The CEO and Directors) will have the greatest influence on the culture of their organization. This is because inherently we take our lead from those above.
So if the Leaders at the highest levels of organizations are arrogant or bullying, then this behavior is seen as ‘acceptable’ or even a good way to behave to get promoted! It is copied like a waterfall effect by Leaders further down the hierarchy. To effectively change the culture, the Leaders need to change those behaviors and attitudes that are not conducive to high performance. It becomes a matter of WHO you are not so much WHAT you do. After all would you follow someone who cannot even control their own emotions?
Using OD – Training and Coaching
Training and coaching are the ultimate tools for obtaining a High Performing Culture and the Organizational Development program should be addressing the barriers in the organization that are currently preventing the organization from achieving a High Performance Culture.
The Restrictions on Head of OD
If the barriers to high performance within an organization include the way the CEO and/or board members behave then this will be extremely difficult for the Organizational Development practitioner to address if they do not sit at board level. The lower down the hierarchy the Head of OD sits, the less effective they will be in obtaining a high performing culture for the organization. Not only will it be more difficult for them to gain buy-in from above, it also demonstrates that the organization as a whole deems OD to be less valuable and important than any of the other disciplines represented at board level. It is most likely that the CEO and Directors do not fully understand the bigger picture when its comes to Training. They are unlikely to join the dots between training their staff to do their jobs more effectively and creating an overall high performing culture. They are also unlikely to join the dots between high performing cultures and the increase profits that this would inevitably bring to the organization.
Carrot and Stick
To really create a High Performing Culture, the incentives given to people for ‘good’ work also needs to be addressed. If a company implicitly promotes people that are ‘go getting’ and take lots of risks, then this behavior will be encouraged. Those that fit in best will be ‘go getting’ and risk taking and as we tend to promote people like ourselves, the organization will end up with a strong bias of managers who all share a similar attitude and therefore behavior. The actual reward system needs to be aligned with the new behaviors that the organization wants to promote.
Psychologically we grow up doing the behaviors that we get attention for, even if that is negative attention. We need to gain attention from adults (preferably parents/primary carers) in order to feel valued and have an identity. Therefore if, as a child, we were given most attention when we were loud, or naughty, or very well behaved, we will unconsciously continue this behavior to feel valued as adults.
So the workplace is full of us all unconsciously doing what we were ‘set up’ to do as children! We are then still learning to gain attention and praise from our managers and this is a very powerful force for getting people to adapt their behavior.
The Key to High Performing Cultures
The key to gaining a high performing culture is in the ‘quality’ of the leadership. It is really about who the leaders are as people. What unconscious ways of behavior are they carrying from their own childhood conditioning? How do they act under pressure/challenge, can they maintain a calm/adult state? What makes them frustrated and what makes them anxious? How do they view people in general? Do they think that some of their staff are inherently ‘lazy’? What are their prejudices?
The difficulty is, that often we become Leaders but are given no access to understanding WHO we are and HOW we instinctively behave. We may not really know what High Performance Leadership looks like. We stay unaware of our ‘bad habits’ or simply don’t know how to change them even if we’ve tried.