In an era marked by immense volatility and complexity, characterized by technological advancements, business consolidations, fierce competition, and economic fluctuations, you may find yourself in an unprecedented time of change. The aftermath of the pandemic continues to linger, with burnout, stress, and overwhelm persisting among individuals and teams. Amidst this tumultuous landscape, the challenge is this: How can organizations emerge stronger from the trials of recent years? How can they cultivate a culture that thrives, adapts, and responds effectively to the unpredictable? The answer lies in fostering an emergent culture – one characterized by change management prowess, response agility, and a positive environment with fulfilled employees.
When more than two people come together, whether as a couple, a family, or a company, they form a human system. Within this system, culture serves as the driving force or energy. Culture possesses the power to create and destroy, providing guidelines for interaction, conflict resolution, motivation, and progress. The objective of examining and shaping organizational culture is to channel the collective energy of individuals into a productive force – one that mirrors the synchronicity found in natural phenomena, such as the coordinated movements of a school of fish or flock of birds. This is called an emergent culture.
Effective impact on company culture entails understanding and influencing the energy inherent within the human system. To initiate this process, focus on the following areas:
Start With The Leader
All culture begins with the CEO; the leader of the organization. What is their vision? Who are they as a leader? What are their values? Are they operating and living congruent with all of those markers, no matter how challenging or stressful the circumstances may be? Having a CEO who can answer those questions clearly and can live in alignment with them consistently is the foundation on which a company’s culture gets built. If the CEO is frazzled, overwhelmed, and in survival mode, that is going to set the tone for the entire organization. Whatever energy the CEO brings to the company and to their life will be the energy that other people pick up on and assimilate to in order to fit in and make it.
Thus, the CEO must be conscious. They must be awake and aware of what they’re emanating through their words and their actions. They must ensure that they have a clear vision, bolstered by positive moods and inspiring language that rallies people around their vision and engages them into action. Human systems are guided by behaviors, beliefs, actions, what’s said, what’s unsaid – all of that equates to the energy of the human system, and energy is culture. So, what kind of culture is the CEO creating?
Cultivate the Leadership Team
The leadership team further propagates cultural attributes throughout the organization. Behaviors exhibited by this team tend to cascade down to various departments. Similar to the CEO, leadership must demonstrate consciousness and accountability for their actions. This includes acknowledging their role in shaping the culture and undertaking personal growth to support a healthy, high-performance human system. By focusing on the following key elements, the leadership team can contribute to a thriving culture:
- Achievement. The company knows what they’re here to do, why they’re doing it, and how they’re measuring it. Organizational achievements are individual achievements, and vice versa. Achievements are specific, measurable, attainable results that are bound in time.
- Self-actualization. Each person is conscious. They know what their strengths and weaknesses are, and they’re responsible for them and the impact they have on others. They’re doing their own development and personal work just like the CEO is.
- Affiliation. People are partnering, collaborating, sharing ideas, and problem solving on an interdepartmental level. Cross-functional teams are committed to the noble cause and vision for the organization and are coming up with ways to problem solve together to fulfill the vision.
- Humanistic Managers. Managers authentically care about their people. They are aware of what’s going on in their employees’ lives, what their goals are, and how they want to grow. When an employee knows to their core that their manager has their best interests at heart and they want them to thrive, difficult conversations to improve performance can happen. Mentorship, coaching, and caring for people comes with humanistic management, and it supports employees who grow and thrive.
Assess Environment and Employees
Employee behavior provides insights into the prevailing environment. Key considerations include whether they experience autonomy, trust, and support in their roles. Ask these questions to assess the environment that your employees are navigating:
- How well do employees handle changes and upsets and challenges in the market?
- Do people feel the freedom and trust to share new ideas, take risks and have space to fail?
- Is there space in the time at work to ideate, innovate and co-create?
- Are the meetings inspirational and motivating or just a laundry list of getting things done?
- Is everyone clear on what the noble cause is?
- Is the right architecture or systems in place for people to work effectively together?
- Is the leadership team dismantling anything getting in the way of employees taking the ball and running with it?
- If there’s a problem, are the employees the ones to solve it?
- Are people being given the autonomy they need?
- Are people held accountable to their agreements and promises and measures?
- Can you have difficult conversations?
Achieving Resilience Through Emergent Culture
In times of uncertainty, organizations with the ability to adapt and pivot harness their power. Such resilience hinges on a healthy human system and a shared commitment to the company’s purpose. Leadership needs to exemplify responsibility, optimism, and collaborative problem-solving across departments to overcome obstacles and realize the company’s vision. This approach cultivates an emergent culture, capable of navigating challenges effectively.
While creating an emergent culture demands considerable dedication, care, and focus, the rewards are boundless. With a culture founded on change management skills, response agility, and employee fulfillment, organizations can not only weather storms but also soar to new heights.
About the Author, Margaret Graziano
Margaret Graziano is the founder and CEO of KeenAlignment, as well as a Wall Street Journal Best-Selling Author for her book “Ignite Culture.” She has been recognized as one of Silicon Valley’s Top 100 Women Leaders. Magi’s groundbreaking work is driven by her power to uncover and catalyze human potential. Go to https://keenalignment.scoreapp.com to take KeenAlignment’s Culture Assessment and see if you have an Emergent Culture.
There’s never a perfect time to pause your day-to-day work and focus on the internal team, but when you do make the effort, the dividends are immediate. Setting aside an hour, a half-day, a two-day retreat or anything you can manage as a team will provide the opportunity to gather together, grow as a team and refill your collective energy tank in order to bust out of service fatigue and return to delivering excellent customer service in every interaction.
Refill the Team’s Energy
Your first step to regaining the capacity to do your work at your fullest potential is to heighten self-awareness and lean into the responsibility that you must refill your tank. Just like a video game avatar who seizes every opportunity to grab more energy for their harrowing journey ahead, you also need to seek out and embrace the chance to replenish yourselves wherever you find it. The good news is there are easy, actionable ways to find and create more energy for yourself and your whole team. It starts with committing to a “Gather and Grow” mentality that brings a team together (virtually or in person) and facilitates the kind of growth that fills your team’s energy tank and returns your business to a thriving state in the marketplace.
This four-step G.R.O.W. process will show you exactly how.
G – Game On!
Gaming at work might not be an intuitive way to encourage your team to spend their time. But gaming on the job is an easy way to bring hearts and minds together in pursuit of your common professional goals. Friendly sales competitions, staff meetings with moments of levity, and experiential outings with your team are all impactful ways to bust out of service fatigue. To take your workplace gaming to the next level, consider uniting over a cooperative strategy that can break the boredom or monotony of a day. You can boost teamwork qualities through games that bring a team around a collective purpose and goal. These types of efforts are shown to reduce stress and help participants cope with work-related fatigue.
R – Rule Reminders
It seems every business needed to adjust rules, policies, and offerings over the last two years to accommodate the global crisis. Process procedures changed for everything from hotel housekeeping to checking out books from your local library! Frequent change without strong internal communication leads to trouble. Making time to “accuracy audit” will help your team find their footing again when it comes to customer instruction.
Conducting an accuracy audit is easier than it sounds, and it’s the perfect agenda for the next time the team gathers together. Does your website match the current offerings? Do all members of the team know the current rules, even if they only work a few hours a week? Is everyone clear on the current processes of your organization internally and externally? Francis Ford Coppola, the famous film director, was once asked what his secret to success is. He answered, “The first thing I do is make sure that everyone is set is making the same movie.” You are the director of your workplace set. Get all the characters on the same page.
O – Optimism
The dedication to sincerely working toward a better tomorrow is imperative for personal and professional growth. That’s not to say that finding the silver lining in every situation is easy. Far from it. However, when a crowd gathers, its members can feed off each other’s attitudes, mindsets, and perceptions, the good and bad vibes quickly dominoing from one person to the next. For example, observe any boat-rocker on staff who starts a rumor laced with a little over-the-top emotion and see how fast the fire spreads ill-will among the team. Disaster!
However, only you can prevent forest fires! Take the time to gather regularly (even if in a virtual format) and stay in positive communication to decrease the chance of an unnecessary negative spark. Strive to provide frequent updates, truthful status reports, and lead by example with your own optimistic attitude.
W – Warm Welcomes
The odds are good that when your team gathers the next time, there will be new faces on board. Don’t underestimate the power of a warm welcome. No one likes the feeling of being the “new kid in school” and your compassion and kindness (regardless of your position at the company) can go a long way to get new staff off to a great start with the team. Remember to share those unwritten rules everyone else knows about (like, “Use any coffee mug except the purple one with the smiley face. That’s Sandy’s and you all know not to touch it.”) Consider assigning a first-week buddy to each new team member to help shave the learning curve and make them feel at more at home.
Making the time to G.R.O.W. (group gaming, rules review, optimistic outlooks, and warm welcomes) will reboot the energy tank of your organization and make sure everyone is busting out of Service Fatigue with full power and a positive outlook.
About the Author, Laurie Guest
A Hall of Fame keynote speaker and author, Laurie Guest, CSP, CPAE, is an authority on customer service excellence. Laurie blends real-life examples and proven action steps for improvement. She is the author of two books and is writing a third on the topic of service fatigue. To learn more or connect with Laurie, visit www.LaurieGuest.com
Four Strategies to Start Using Now
“I learned so much during orientation. It’s too bad I won’t use most of it for six months. I took some notes, but I’m sure I won’t remember half of what they told me to do.”
“I’m overwhelmed. I learned a new piece of equipment today. The person showing me what to do knew everything. The problem I had was the deep dives. He spent so much time on troubleshooting techniques. It was just too much for my first day.”
“I can follow the steps, but I have no idea why I’m doing what I’m doing. I sort of feel like a trained monkey. I hope nothing goes wrong because I will have no clue how to fix it if something does.
Despite our best efforts, it’s not as easy as it looks to get the training equation right. We train too early, we train too much, or we make a host of other errors. While some of us learn from our mistakes, many of us practice a cycle of rinse and repeat as we make the same blunders year after year. The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. With some careful planning and follow through, you can avoid problems many people will encounter again and again.
Strategy One: Keep Training Relevant and Immediately Applicable
Countless onboarding programs attempt to teach everything a person would ever want to know or need to know about a job in the first few hours, days, or weeks. The information is important, but it has no immediate value. Subsequently, learners become overwhelmed in class, and then they don’t have opportunities to apply or reinforce what they’ve learned for months or even years.
Good training designers know the value of careful pacing, and they practice just-in-time training when they can. Ask yourself, what does my learner need to be successful in the first day, the first week, and the first month? Teach to those needs as much as possible, and save the more in-depth information for a more appropriate time. What do you need to prioritize?
Strategy Two: Connect to Why Again and Again
When people don’t know why they are doing something, they don’t understand the big picture. While they get the process at a surface level, their limited understanding potentially keeps them from following procedures later.
For example, if someone is learning how to use a print/copier/scanner/fax machine and part of the process is putting the guard up on the paper tray with jobs over 100 sheets, without explaining as to why that’s important to do, that learner might take it upon himself to skip that step back on the job. Only when papers are scattered all over the floor and have to be re-collated does the learning know the importance of raising the guard.
Great trainers make connections. They repeatedly explain why they’re doing what they’re doing, why procedures are written as they are, and so forth. Are you connecting the dots as well as you should, or could you do a better job?
Strategy Three: Use Multiple Channels to Cement Learning
I showed her how to do it, she did it, and now she’s trained. Maybe that’s true for the simple stuff, but for the complex processes and procedures, multi-channel encoding reigns supreme.
For example, show learners in real-time how to complete a process. Then do it again, at the same time providing a narration track while the learner takes notes. Next, have the learner read aloud the notes she’s taken. Finally, have the learner demonstrate the procedure.
The multi-channel approach allows learners to see, to hear, to write, to speak, and to do whatever process they are learning. Depending on the learner, some senses may be more powerful than others. And in rare cases where there is no preference, repetition wins the day. What can you do differently to engage more senses?
Strategy Four: Teach with Reference Tools
- It’s one thing to conquer a task during class or one-on-one job coaching, but it’s entirely another to reproduce those results on the job.
- People who have mastered the training function know to develop and teach reference tools in addition to processes themselves.
- Ask yourself what kinds of support you need to develop. Decide where you need to incorporate them in your training plans. Those who learn how to solve problems themselves are worth their weight in gold. In addition to strong productivity, these people are also usually happier and more motivated than those who don’t have the tools to stand on their own feet.
Four strategies and none hard: make training relevant, connecting to why, repeating information using different channels, and incorporating the tools learners should use to solve problems back on the job. If done deliberately and with routine, you will almost certainly get a good result.
About the Author
Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team provide onsite, virtual, and online soft-skills training courses and workshops to clients in the United States and internationally. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.
This event is being hosted and promoted by the Women’s Bureau/Department of Labor.
In honor of Black History Month, the Women’s Bureau invites you to a screening of “Invisible Warriors,” a documentary by historian and retired professor Gregory Cooke about the 600,000 African-American “Rosie the Riveters” who worked at factories and shipyards during World War II, but whose contributions were largely unrecognized. The film is a powerful conversation with the women who helped shaped American history and who are now sharing previously untold stories about life during World War II. A fireside chat with the filmmaker will follow the screening.
• Date: Monday, February 14
• Time: 2–3:30 p.m. ET
There is no magic pill, button or wand that you wave that will quickly fix or treat the ails of your culture. We live in an instant gratification world where people/employees/leaders want things to change for the better immediately. They want the negativity, dysfunction and toxic elements of the organization to be eradicated overnight. But when it comes to your company culture there is no vaccine!
However, developing people and culture isn’t a drive-thru pharmacy. It takes time. It’s a process. It requires intentional rehab and development of how we show up as leaders and the culture we create with those around us. It takes commitment, discipline and focus.
Culture is dynamic which means it is being shaped moment by moment every single day by the way we Think, Act and Interact. Every member of your cultural ecosystem impacts the culture each moment and adds or detracts from the culture with their thoughts, actions and interactions. The best leaders and organizations realize that in a world that is changing quickly and where it is often easier to disengage, disconnect and become disillusioned or even disgruntled, they must have a proactive strategy to align the minds and hearts of their people.
The best team cultures don’t just magically happen, they are intentionally designed and led along the culture-shaping process. It’s not reactionary, it’s proactive. The best team cultures proactively teach, practice, rehab and work on developing the mindsets and behaviors throughout their ecosystem.
4 “musts” for leading your culture through times of change:
- Name It — You must be able to name what is working and what isn’t working within your culture. Honestly. It’s not a time for blowing smoke or making excuses, the best teams have the ability to be honest with one another and name the very best of their culture and spot the areas that are troubling. Only after we are able to name the current state of our culture are we able to move the culture forward.
- Define It — If you can’t describe the culture you are trying to create in the future than you can’t be surprised when it doesn’t exist. Language Drives Behavior. This is why the most successful and compelling teams and cultures have Values language that is clearly defined and linked to action and behavior. They have a vision for the future culture they want to create and clearly define the values they believe will guide them in that direction. Values become a compass for their journey not a poster on the wall.
- Plan It — The word culture gets thrown around very loosely by many leaders and within some organizations and then only becomes talk. It becomes vague and the words do not line up with action. The best leaders and organizations realize they need a cultural strategy and plan of attack. Culture is not an “add on” to the work you do, it is everything. So what’s the plan?
- Anchor It — Teams an organizations that lead significant culture change know they must anchor the values of their culture in everything they do. The vision they have for the future and the values that will guide them there become a living and breathing element for the ways in which they hire, onboard, develop emerging leaders, do performance evaluations, lead meetings and raise the bar on leadership throughout every level.
So, is your culture waiting for a magic vaccine or are you proactively rehabbing the culture you want?
The best cultures don’t just magically happen. They are grown, developed, cultivated and led with intentionality. The process for developing high-performing and engaged cultures never stops and the best leaders, teams and organizations are committed to the continuous journey of development, vision, communication, engagement, authenticity, and action. The best leaders invest in their cultures and realize the health of the organization is an ongoing process that never stops.
At your next visit to your Doctor you’re welcome to get the vaccine, but for your company culture, remember, there is no vaccine for that!
About the Author:
Jason V. Barger is the globally-celebrated author of Thermostat Cultures, ReMember and Step Back from the Baggage Claim as well as the host of The Thermostat podcast. As Founder of Step Back Leadership Consulting, he is a coveted keynote speaker, leadership coach and organizational consultant who is committed to engaging the minds and hearts of people and growing compelling cultures. Learn more at JasonVBarger.com