What Do We Want Our Culture to Be?

In “The Deep Change Field Guide: A Personal Course to Discovering the Leader Within” Dr. Robert Quinn points out that launching a company-wide change effort without considering the role of culture in the process is the equivalent of “learning that your brain surgeon is ignorant of the organ known as the heart.”

Striving to create a flourishing culture as your team or organization moves through change makes great business sense. As Dr. Michael West (one of the experts I interviewed for “A Better Place To Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture”) says, for one, it is so much easier to manage an organization that is flourishing. And secondly, they perform better.

West tells the story of starting a business school using the principles developed through years of research on creating positive and resilient teams and organizations. For example, they made sure there was a clear vision for the organization; that there were understandable, challenging and agreed-upon objectives that were established in their performance appraisals; and that the appraisals were good conversations. They created a positive climate using the practices of appreciation and gratitude. They supported and rewarded innovation. They focused on good team-work, as well as good communication between different teams. Here is an excerpt from my interview with Dr. West in the book:

“What was remarkable was how extraordinarily well the organization functioned. It achieved a 50% growth in revenue, the morale of the staff was sky-high, it was the best of any academic institution in Britain, and student satisfaction was very high. But also, what was really striking for me was that it is so much easier to manage that way than any other way. It’s just a joy.

“Of course, you must deal with those people who behave aggressively, inappropriately, or who are just not trying to perform—that small, tiny percentage of individuals. But if we manage organizations by focusing on those sorts of behaviours then we’re lost. We must focus on the positive behaviours, but be prepared to deal with those exceptional cases that come along, in a decisive way. For me that was a profound and joyful learning experience, about putting the principles we’re talking about into operation in an organization.”

As West and Quinn both say, the research shows definitively that we need to create positive environments for people to work in, and when we do, everyone wins. When going through major change in the workplace, often the focus is on the vision for the change, and the technical aspects necessary to achieve it. Culture is often overlooked.

Try this practice:
The next time you are embarking on a major change in your team or organization, start by asking the question, “What is the culture that will support the change?” or simply, “What do we want our culture to be?” Find forums and opportunities to start a discussion on this new vision. The next important question to ask is, “What are the practices that will get us there?”

Follow this blog for bi-weekly ideas to create your “better place to work” from Deborah’s new book A Better Place To Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture.

If you want to delve deeper into these practices join Deborah’s online course “8 Weeks To A Better Place To Work” starting again October 18/18. Registration closes on Oct. 11/18 so register now! Log in every week from the comfort of your office or home and join others, like you, who are engaging in new practices to improve the health and positivity in their workplaces. A complimentary copy of A Better Place To Work will be sent to you as a part of this course. It’s like book club, with online coaching – fun, informative and hugely practical!

Order your copy of A Better Place To Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture, with reduced prices available for bulk orders for your team and organization.

Deborah Connors

Deborah Connors teaches leaders to radically shift culture so that people can flourish. She is an engaging speaker, storyteller, author and coach.

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