Positive Culture: The Key To Achieving Your Strategic Goals
Great leaders build and drive great cultures
When helping our clients prepare for organizational growth and sustainability, one of the first things we do is introduce the concept of marriage therapy. This typically elicits some bewildered reactions, but we assure them (and you) that this is a worthwhile exercise. While we aren’t suggesting that our clients and their significant others need actual therapy, we bring up this discussion to point out the striking commonalities between marriages and businesses in the 21st century: Both exist in an environment of increasing uncertainty and face a stark reality for success.
Dr. John Gottman, one of the most influential and world-renowned relationship experts (known for being able to predict marital success with 90% accuracy), has an incredibly insightful take on addressing marital challenges today: “Every new relationship is a new culture that has never existed before…When we build a relationship together we must decide on our own new meanings. Culture means the way people create meaning out of almost everything.”
So what does Dr. Gottman’s decades of research have to do with strengthening organizations?
Just as two people make a commitment to each other based on proven compatibility and a shared vision of their future (let’s call this “strategy”), CEOs assemble their teams and build strategic plans of their own that, on paper, make complete sense. But over time, nearly half of marriages and 90% of startups will fail — most often having little to do with strategy.
The culprit? Culture.
Logic dictates that strategy is the most important component for any business to succeed. But the reality is that organizations aren’t dysfunctional; people are. If leaders are not in touch with what’s happening with their people, and their people aren’t aligned with the organization’s expectations, then the culture is weak and it’s only a matter of time until the business will suffer. Dr. Gottman suggests that newlyweds who engage in relationship therapy programs (focused on creating meaning out of their new culture) are three times more likely to succeed than those who wait for an intervention. Why should CEOs view their organizational culture any differently? If you wait to address your culture until you’re confronted with an economic downturn, a threat from a competitor or an unexpected reputational issue, the instability within the organization will make it an even greater challenge to find ways to protect your organization.
As organizations face unprecedented uncertainty in the current business and political landscapes, the speed of change increases the pressure to perform. This forces leaders to make decisions based on short-term goals and gains that oftentimes sacrifice long-term growth. As a result, employee engagement decreases when they see a disconnect between the corporate vision and operational realities. This breeds negativity and a workforce that is out of alignment, opening the door to dysfunction and a toxic environment of disengaged employees, subcultures, alliances, people with their own motives, potential lawsuits, low productivity, and high turnover. When you are then unable to attract and retain talent and struggle to overcome a poor reputation, it can be virtually impossible for the organization to reach its full potential.
Boards are demanding quarterly profits, which puts pressure on leaders to make decisions that could potentially jeopardize the long-term value of the organizations. And when incentives for leaders are different than incentives for the employees, the culture can be weakened to the point of putting products and services at risk. When the culture of a workplace is not defined, the risk is that the culture becomes what is there. But defining culture is just the first step.
Are You Positive?
Shawn Achor, best-selling author and founder of the most successful positive psychology corporate training program in the world, has proven that positive environments enhance organizational performance — characterized by higher productivity, less turnover and more resilient cultures (more adaptable with a capacity to see more opportunities that lead to better results).
We couldn’t agree more. Which is why we begin our relationships with clients by focusing on uncovering the DNA of their organizations — not by looking for what’s wrong, but by discovering what is working. We help reveal what’s inherently good and unique about that organization — based on the principles of positivity.
Most organizations today are not actively concerned with their culture. Our primary objective is helping leaders understand their culture for what it is and what they want it to be. This includes an exhaustive effort to determine the level of engagement within the organization, which helps reveal what is central, enduring and distinct about their identity. This positive approach leads to a positive culture, which puts an organization in a position to achieve its strategic goals.
Marriages and organizations are formed with the best intentions — with thoughtful consideration of passion, long-term viability, and compatibility. But the research on both is clear: A sound strategy is simply not enough to guarantee future success. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, the more leaders focus their attention on ensuring a positive culture, the better positioned their organizations will be to weather economic downturns, thrive during uncertain times, and grow with confidence and clarity. Not only will this embrace of “organizational therapy” impact your people, but it will also help you become a more effective leader, as well.
Brad Deutser is founder and CEO of Deutser, an award-winning management consulting firm, and the Deutser Clarity Institute, a think tank, idea accelerator, and innovative learning center. Deutser has transformed many prominent educational, healthcare, energy, industrial services, professional services, private equity, retail, and cause-based organizations through his unique perspective on organizational clarity. He is the author of LEADING CLARITY.
|Magazine Name||:||Leadership Excellence, July 2018|
|Author name||:||Brad Deutser|
|Link to original article||:||Click Here|