The culture of an organization is manifested in the way that people behave in that organization. Of course, behavior is prompted by antecedents or activators. Behavior should also result in consequences, hopefully good but sometimes bad.
When leaders think about developing a culture in their organization, they really are trying to position a set of antecedents or activators and consequences to behavior. These are the things that can be affected by the leader. Behavior is the decision of the employee.
So, what can leaders affect and what do employees want and need?
- RESPECTED LEADERS – Leaders who Care; A Leader I can Trust; Delegation; Empowerment; Work-Life Balance; Reinforce Behavior Aligned with Values; Sensitivity to the Power of Symbols; Eliminate Uncertainty; Understands Motivation; Well Thought-of in the Organization; Use Influence
- STABILITY AND SECURITY – Desired Financial Outcomes; Healthy Business; Investment Being Made in the Organization; Fair Compensation; Bright Future; Proactive versus Reactive; Short-Term versus Long-Term Thinking; Leaders Defend Their Charges
- OPPORTUNITY FOR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL GROWTH – Learning Environment (Training; Experiential Learning; Advanced Degrees and Certifications; Mentoring and Coaching)
- FEEL GOOD ABOUT CONTRIBUTIONS – Professionally Challenging Work; Valued; Recognition; Reward; Part of Something Bigger than Themselves; Quality Products that Satisfy Customers
- WORKING WITH COMPETENT COLLEAGUES – Two-Directional Respect; Part of a Team; Appropriate Organization Structure; Inclusive
- ENCOURAGE INNOVATION – Continuous Improvement; Efficient and Effective Use of Resources; Processes; Tools and Equipment; Facilities; Product Upgrade; New Products; How the Work Gets Done; Ideas Listened to
- COMMUNICATION – the Foundation of Everything; Context for How each Individual’s Work Contributes to Business Success (and Theirs); Upward; Downward; Peer-to-Peer
- JOY – It’s a serious thing we do, but we can do it in a light-hearted way.
Leaders leverage 1) who they are within, 2) portraying themselves as a person appropriate to the situation, 3) transacting with others, and ultimately 4) creating and fostering a culture around them.
Each employee places different value on each of the elements of the culture and the attributes within. Sometimes, employees place unreasonable expectations on any one of them. I once heard an employee say that they wanted the president of the company to deliver a message about a new company policy to them personally. This was in a company of 7000 employees world-wide. That did not, nor should it be expected to ever, happen.
Organization culture is set from the top down. Leaders at each level in the organization have a limited set of authority or ability to create micro-cultures within the larger organization. There should be upward-facing communication enabling challenges through which higher-level issues can be identified and handled.
Communication is very important. It allows data, information, knowledge and wisdom to flow in the organization. Every organization has formal and informal communication channels. They both must be used to motivate change.
A telltale of a healthy culture is joy. When you enter a work area and hear busy people being courteous to each other, and sometimes laughing aloud, you know that this is a good culture. I’m not talking about having play balls flying around (a safety hazard) or a ping-pong table in the break room. I’m talking about people who work well together and enjoy each other’s company.
NOTE: This work updates and augments the previously posted leadership model. (REFERENCE: Leadership is about more than the leader: https://macouinc.org/2016/05/20/leadership-is-about-more-than-the-leader/)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mr. Czerniak retired after a successful career that culminated in fifteen years of experience as an internal consultant and “change agent.” He is currently an Expert-in-Residence at the Macomb-Oakland University Incubator and a volunteer with other clients.