TAG Consulting

Culture Works, Part 3 – Making A Contribution

June 5, 2017

Every person in your organization has the innate desire to contribute, to believe that what they do at work matters and has value. Each of them wants to experience the joy that comes with doing something really valuable at a really high level.

Does your organization believe that everyone is great at something? Do you believe that everyone is great at something?

At the core of contributing is the belief that everyone is great at something. When people believe they can contribute, this greatness emerges. Unfortunately, a culture of compliance and complacency often prevails instead.

In most organizations people lead lives of quiet mediocracy and malaise. How many of us would say that the best part of our work day is when it ends? How many of us truly look forward to going to a place where contributing is not embraced or encouraged? At the root of complaining about work is the lack of ownership. If I am not asked to contribute to problem solving, I am relegated to only identifying problems and then vocalizing my disdain.

We believe that people in your organization want to belong and out of that sense of belonging they want to contribute. They want to know that what they are great at is valued; that they are part of solutions.

The work of leadership is crafting thriving organizational culture where people both belong and contribute.

To craft this kind of culture three things must happen:

1.    Shift away from weakness-based culture. Most of our present systems for managing people are based upon weakness. While we may call it “Performance Based Management”, it is centered upon identifying weakness and then developing plans to become better at those weaknesses. A few times a year we get our evaluations that outline what we are not good at doing and what we need to do to get better. Then we are tossed a few encouraging words in hopes it will make up for the rest.

Or we are subjected to the “360 Assessment”. This  tool is the equivalent of painting a target on your chest, placing a blind-fold over your eyes and then inviting your boss, peers and employees to shoot arrows at you, all the while being grateful for the “feedback”.

2.    Embrace a strength-based culture. This culture seeks to find what people are good at; what their strengths are and then empowering them to use those strengths to contribute. Everyone has strengths. It is a matter of uncovering them, embracing them and then setting them free.

3.    Encourage a new way of thinking and working that honors what people are great at doing.  What if you had a laser-clear focus on where people excel? What if you knew what people brought to every meeting, project and challenge? What if the driving force in planning was no longer someone’s job description, but their strength-profile? How would your hiring process change if you searched for needed strengths rather than prescribed skills?

The desire to contribute is a powerful one and it exists at every level of your organization. After a recent training session with the Office of Information Technology (OIT) at the University of Colorado, I had a conversation with a mid-twenty something manager. He had recently been promoted to his position and was now managing people quite a few years older than himself.

His anxiety was high. He expressed his desire to do a good job, but felt ill-equipped to manage people, much less lead them. I asked him why he thought he’d been promoted. At first he gave a very technical, skilled-based answer. But in a matter of minutes I knew that his new position had little to do with any of that. He had a strong desire to contribute to his department and to the University and he was demonstrating strengths in thinking strategically and achievement. Fortunately, he is working in a place that has embraced strengths and is crafting a culture based upon that.
Is your organizational culture like that?

Trevor J. Bron is a Culture Architect and Executive Advisor at TAG. You can learn more about Trevor here.

Culture Works, Part 2 – Do I Belong At Work?

May 22, 2017

What if I told you that there was a way to transform the organizational culture you have for the culture you want in three easy steps?

I wouldn’t believe that either. My inner skeptic would charge in with a heavy dose of reason and remind me that there is no such thing as “three easy steps” to almost anything; especially not culture.

Culture is complex. It doesn’t just happen and there are very powerful forces at work against thriving culture.

Now, every organization has “culture”. Either it is a purposeful culture or a default culture.

We call default culture the “Shadow Culture”.

Shadow Culture is what exists without intention – it just “is”.

This kind of culture usually shows itself in systems or processes that no longer make sense, but we live them anyway. A shadow culture can be one that prohibits speaking up, pushing back, offering suggestions.

The shadow culture always operates behind the scenes and is very powerful. While the Enron Corporation had a strong stated set of Core Values, its shadow culture of greed was much more powerful and ultimately resulted in the downfall of the company and the loss of thousands of people’s jobs and retirement accounts. It was devastating.

When all the dust had settled and the stories were told, it became quite clear that the shadow culture ruled. More recently we’ve read about and experienced the shadow cultures of United Airlines, Uber and Fox News. Their recent “incidents” are not isolated but are indicators of deep underlying culture issues.

So, while there are not three easy steps, there are three very important ingredients that go into creating a healthy, thriving culture. We believe that people have three innate desires:

1.    The desire to belong
2.    The desire to contribute
3.    The desire to make a difference

The desire to belong is a very powerful one. I can remember back to the early days of elementary school and how badly I wanted to fit in, to belong. In between my 5th and 6th grade year of school we moved. I changed schools and I was devastated. I thought I would never fit in or be accepted in my new school. It felt like a life consigned to the shadows.

We’ve all faced rejection at some point. So, when it comes to creating a thriving organizational culture the first thing to focus on is belonging. Do your people feel like they fit in?

I have been a part of many organizations that had a “feeling like family”. While on the surface this feels right and good, it can also be quite dangerous. With family, either you are a part or you are not. This can be counterproductive to creating a thriving culture.

Instead it helps to think of work as that place “where everyone knows your name”. Our places of work should serve as a place of validation, acceptance, growth, stretching and belonging.
Your coworkers don’t need to be your best friends, but they also should not be your worst enemies.

No one in your workplace or on your team should have to live in the shadows.

Work should not be a dreaded place; we spend most of our lives there. Work should a place that is life giving. And it all starts with a sense of belonging.

Is your organizational culture one of belonging?

Trevor J. Bron is a Culture Architect and Executive Advisor with TAG Consulting. To find out more about Trevor, click here.