You know the types. There’s the office yeller, intimidating others with vitriolic rant. There’s the passive-aggressive underminer, nodding assent but then dragging her feet. There’s the colleague who gets angry over a perceived slight, but then quickly shifts tone. Conflict in the workplace is pervasive and unavoidable. And it isn’t always a bad thing. Healthy debate can be good for your corporate culture. It ensures that diverse perspectives are considered or lights the fire a team needs to move from a stalemate to a creative solution. But when they turn ugly, conflicts can damage your culture—straining relationships and putting teams at risk.
We have used stories to pass on information for thousands of years and they remain the most powerful way we know to communicate. Indeed, the power of story is magnified in today’s super-connected, transparent world – the truth gets out fast and can be widely communicated – to millions of people all over the world – in such a short space of time.
Here is a story which illustrates how employees’ “felt experience” every day strongly shapes their perception of an organisation and how the impact compares to official “corporate messaging”. This, in turn, highlights the critical (often underappreciated) role played by facilities management in reinforcing organisation brand and values. What are the implications for the role of Facilities Management and the wider HR agenda?
Ask 10 random people in your organization “Who is our customer?” How many different answers would you get? Ideally, the answer is the same. There is only one customer. Your strategy, resources and goals and objectives must be aligned around a singularly defined customer.
Lack of customer clarity creates organizational challenges that extend far beyond customer service. A lack of clarity and alignment about the customer leads to confusion and uncertainty about critical organizational priorities. A consistent definition of customer, can break down silos, unlock lost productivity and empower your people.
When Cultures Get Sick
Measles, a disease once thought to be completely eradicated, is making a comeback. The flu vaccine was only 23% effective this year as long-identified strains continue to mutate. Hospitals breed superbugs and must continuously adapt to stop the spread of potentially fatal infections. Just as healthy people can be felled overnight by a new disease or drug-resistant bacteria, companies can sicken and even collapse if their culture is allowed to get seriously unhealthy.
Consider the historic demise of technology giant Nortel Networks. At its peak, the century-old enterprise was the largest company in Canada with sales of $30 billion and 100,000 employees worldwide. An innovative powerhouse that invented the digital switching capability of telephone networks, the company had a long history of creating new products, and, indeed, new markets. It had developed a leadership system that valued and rewarded both risk taking and value creation.
And then it caught something, and fairly suddenly the culture began to show symptoms of serious illness.
Is your workplace inspiring, engaging, and productive or frustrating, dull, and stagnant? Or is it somewhere in between?
Effective leaders pay attention to the quality of their work culture, every day. They know that culture drives everything that happens in their team or department or company, good or bad. They invest time and energy observing interactions, engaging with players and customers, celebrating aligned behavior, and coaching misaligned behavior.
Unfortunately most leaders don’t pay much attention to the quality and health of their team, department, or company culture.
They’ve never been asked to manage their team culture. They’ve been asked to manage results.
Not surprisingly, most leaders spend a great majority of their time and energy on processes, performance, and profits. That’s all they know. That’s what their bosses did. They’re simply modeling what they’ve been exposed to over the years.
Most leaders haven’t experienced a successful culture change during their careers. Even fewer have led a successful culture change.
This wouldn’t be a problem if most organizational cultures were healthy, engaging, and inspiring. But, according to the research – and to our own experiences, they’re not.