Why attitude is the significant factor in shifting cultures and ultimately driving performance. Organisational culture is inextricably linked to overall performance. The sustained positive results and benefits of short-term wins; new initiatives; business gains; mergers and acquisitions are in the hands of the current and ensuing culture that grasps the change. Contributor Simon Tyler, author The Attitude Book: 50 Ways to Positively affect Life and Work – The Business Book Award winner
So when does culture needs to shift – where should we start? In my twenty years working as a business mentor and executive coach I have met many leaders who say that changing the organisational culture can feel like moving rocks uphill. In other words – an almost impossible task! Having a clear vision and understanding of values, well communicated and embraced by the team, will start the rock moving but urgency won’t hurry it and necessity won’t rush it.
The rock needs to be smoothed. Hard-edged culture echoes the prevailing management style and develops over time, not overnight, so no wonder it can be difficult to shift. Your current culture is rooted in habits, attitudes, behaviours, assumptions, rules (boundaries), scope (permissions) – all interlocking, interweaved and co-reliant.
Now find the edges.
If your results, performance or growth trajectory needs enhancement then the first step is to understand your current culture before you can hope to change it. As a leader, you need to connect with the prevailing culture in order to notice what needs to be done and how. Look for clues or patterns, they are always there, although sometimes hiding (in plain sight), eventually you will find connection to the group attitude tone.
The leadership team or executive group are responsible for setting the attitude tone – whatever has been ‘normalised’ by them has led to the narrow range of attitudes found across the organisation – attitudes and behaviours outside of this ‘normal range’ when surfaced, meet resistance from the ‘accepted norm’ and don’t stay for long.
What are the standards of performance and behaviour, respect, tolerance? What is the nature of the professional tension? What typifies the language used (positive, negative, accepting, blame, inclusion, crosswords, gossip, back-biting)? How are decisions made, or deferred and deflected? How is conflict handled or avoided? What is the nature of trust across and between the organisation’s parts?
Teams that I have worked with on this journey and have gone on to enjoy personal and commercial success, share the same five clearly understood, shared and articulated attributes:
1. Business Intent
2. Personal Commitment to the journey
3. Collaborative connections
4. Clean Communication
5. Standards & Ethics
When working with teams, be they high performers or challenged and stalling teams, I tend to explore the following before working on the five success attributes:
Good Teams & Bad Teams
What characterises them? What have you experienced? How do team members make the distinction? What is it like to be part of them? What attitudes prevail in each?
Good Us & Bad Us
How often do we feel like we are at our best, What do we do well or badly? What do we avoid? What attitudes are we used to holding and working with?
What is our purpose, as a company, as a team, as an individual? How does this connect/disconnect? What motivates me? What motivates the organisation? e.g. what triggers heightened commercial activity?
What Gets Said
What do people (staff, partners, clients, stakeholders) say about us/ what would we like them to say about us? What is the gap?
Challenge the patterns and engrained procedures. What needs to stop/start/continue? What attitudes are the next level up for us?
What might the tangible and less tangible differences be, if we make these changes stick? Having explored these, the organisation or team is ready to shift attitudes and design and assert their version of the 5 Success Attributes, and get the rock moving.
Ultimately, it’s not about choosing an extreme euphoric stance irrespective of your current situation but rather choosing the optimal attitude for the situation. It is about no longer letting circumstances influence and set an attitude but, as the late and great Wayne Dyer said “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”
As the leader of your team, group or company it is the attitude you adopt each and every day and your familiar, but perhaps narrow range of attitudes that determines how you experience, and crucially influence everything that’s going on.
Subsequently enabling your team, group or whole organisation to understand how they can choose their own attitude will enable everyone to make the most of the prevailing conditions and, ultimately, to influence future conditions. As we are all responsible for the culture of our organisation, imagine if we could all make the best of each situation how that would impact upon the culture?
Start with understanding the attitudes of your colleagues and explore how they can be shifted and nurtured to a better place. As you gradually shift attitudes, the positive, supportive high-performing culture develops.