Tag Archives: culture

Playing on the Road

  • Ufnfamiliar Turf
  • Jeering Crowd

Why do sports teams statistically have better records for home games than road games? In their championship series, why do sports teams jockey for playoff positions that award home-field advantage ? What impact does home-field advantage have on Motivation?

The locker room for the home team has individual accomodations, with names on each locker. Each player sleeps in their own bed the night before, life routines are simply routine. If a problem arises, any team member (including coaches and administrative staff) can tap into readily available tools, or hit the supply cabinet (readily stocked).

The visiting team is in unfamiliar surroundings, life routines are interrupted. Accomodations are adequate but anonymous. If a problem arises, the team member might have to improvise or “do without.” No hugs from family here, just the cold hard reality of a rival field of play.

Though there may be occasional fans supporting the road team, the majority of the cheering crowd is firmly in support of the home team. What is the impact of an engaged stadium full of “positive noise?”

What are the lessons in home-field advantage for the working manager?

  • Identity
  • Comfortable familiar environment
  • Problem solving systems
  • Available resources
  • The right tools
  • Ample supplies
  • Hugs (Support from the extended team)

The challenge for the manager, in the supervision of a team is to create an environment of home-field advantage in the workplace.

Harsh Monochrome

Simon moved quickly down the hallway. Morale was down. “I just don’t understand,” he said, “Our hotel managed a five star rating last year. I would think the staff would be proud of what they accomplished.”

“Show me around,” I insisted. “Let me look. I will tell you what I see.”

As we walked, I noticed the posh lobby and beautiful appointments of the hotel. It was truly wonderful. But then, I asked to see the work areas behind the forbidden doors that say Employees Only. That is where it hit me. The contrast was amazing; like we had been transported to a different place on earth. It was clean, but stark. Away from the warm glow in the guest areas, team members were bustling around bare cinder block walls lit by harsh fluorescents. The air was still and clammy. Team members, each, had their name scrawled on a piece of tape slapped on a gray metal locker.

It struck me that we treat our customers with a warm glow, while we treat our team members in harsh monochrome.

Do the surroundings in your workplace have an impact on productivity? Does beauty in the workplace have a positive impact? Look around, what do you see?

Why is Culture Important?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
What is culture? Everyone talks about it, says how important it is. I know it is there, but it’s one of those warm and fuzzy concepts that’s like nailing jello to the wall.

Response:
Culture is that unwritten set of rules that governs our required behavior in the work that we do together. The culture cycle can be understood as a reinforcing system, recursive through four descriptive stages.

  • Beliefs and assumptions, the way we see the world.
  • Those beliefs and assumptions, typically unwritten, drive specific behaviors (for better or worse).
  • Driven behaviors, or cultural behaviors are tested by the consequences of reality.
  • Those behaviors that survive the test of consequences become our customs and rituals. Those customs and rituals reinforce our beliefs and assumptions, the way we see the world. The cycle begins again.

Every company (or social group) has a culture. That culture may be intentional or it just happens, but every company has one, and has the one they deserve. Culture is critical because it impacts the social structure, the way it operates and its impact on each individual. Culture determines the way you enter a group (company), how an individual is selected for the group. Induction includes the customs and rituals of orientation. Culture determines how roles are defined, assigned, formed, re-formed.

Culture determines any system of merit, performance management and review, individual development, career path, coaching and mentoring. Movement in the organization is impacted by systems of promotion based on accountability and authority. Compensation is designed, crafted and executed according to the way we see the world, the company and its business model in the competitive platform on which the company plays.

All of these elements are critical to a person’s understanding and self-perception. And most people in modern nation states exist inside a cultural system that impacts self-definition, not only the way a person sees the world (beliefs and assumptions), but the way they see themselves. Psychological healthy people are a product of psychologically healthy organizations.

Bone-headedness

Mark nodded, head-bob up and down. “It would seem very different for us to talk about performance issues in the executive management team. I am not even sure how I would start.”

“Why don’t you start with yourself?” I asked. “I am absolutely certain there are some shortcomings in the company that you can own, where you could have made a different decision, or handled something in a different way. Why don’t you start with yourself?”

“I suppose if I can’t think of something, you will say that I am in denial,” Mark replied.

My turn to nod. “We are often in denial. The sooner we confess to a problem, especially our contribution to a problem, the faster we can get on with solving it, learning from it, avoiding it in the future.” I stopped. “So, think about a decision you made that was hasty, not thought through well enough, that now, with 20-20 hindsight, you can clearly identify as bone-headed. What would it sound like to ask for feedback from your executive team?

“I want you to think about something,” I continued. “When your team makes a bone-headed decision, it costs pennies. When you make a bone-headed decision, it can cost millions.”

Talking About Performance Issues

Mark thought long and hard before he responded. “But, bringing up her underperformance in front of everyone else is not my style.”

“You’re not talking about her underperformance in public OR private,” I said.

“You’re right, I should talk to her in private,” Mark shrugged.

“I didn’t say either way, but why are you so uncomfortable bringing up performance issues in the executive management team?”

“Well, you know, it would be uncomfortable,” Mark admitted.

“Of course, it would be uncomfortable. Do you convene your executive team to talk about comfortable issues? If there is no contention, no conflict, no active discussion, what would be the point?”

“We are just not used to that. I would like to think we treat each other with respect.”

“You can be respectful and still hold someone to account for their performance,” I insisted. “The reason you are not used to talking about performance, with respect, is that you don’t practice it.”

Accountability and Responsibility

I often hear the words “accountability” and “responsibility” used interchangeably. I have to interject, the words are different.

Accountability refers to the output, the deliverable, the objective, the goal. That output, will be judged by someone as complete, satisfied, achieved.

Responsibility, however, is an internal feeling. It is the relationship between the person and their own social conscience. In most cases, this is a positive feeling that supports the behavior engaged in pursuit of a specific accountability. So, it’s a good thing.

Moreover, in looking towards a leader, I would endeavor to find a sense of responsibility in support of the expected accountability. When I look at organizational context (culture), I look for those elements that instill a sense of responsibility toward the accountability we seek to achieve. I look for this, not only in designated leaders, but in the minds (and hearts) of team members. Not too much to ask for, from customers and vendors.

Source of Laziness

“I know you can tell that I’m upset,” Justin admitted. “It’s just that I am flabbergasted with my team.”

“You are right,” I replied. “Easy to tell you’re a bit off-center. Details?”

“They think they can get together and vote on policy all by themselves. They decided on a quality standard different than what we promised the customer. They decided our quality standards are too strict.”

“And?”

“So, now, our customer is our quality control department, not a good thing,” Justin shook his head. “I think they’re just a bunch of lazy guys trying to get away with sub-standard work. It’s a lousy personality trait that has infected the whole team.”

“So, you really think it’s personality, that they all have the same personality traits?” I asked.

Justin stopped. “I knew you were going to side with the team. You’re right, it is an overgeneralization that they all have the same personality.”

“And, you think personality has the ultimate impact on the way a person behaves?”

“If I were a psychologist, I would say yes.”

“But you’re not a psychologist, you are a manager. Think. If it is not personality, what could influence an entire team of people to act the same way?”

“I guess, because they all believe the same thing is true about the work,” Justin was searching for that factor common to the team.

“What is the same about the team, is that they all work in the same environment, an environment that you created, as the manager. If you want to change behavior, change the context.”

A Goal Sits Inside

We think success is in reaching our goals, that our goals will change us and the world around us. Deconstructing the every-year process of setting goals, we may find something more important.

What is the context in which your goals reside?

It’s not the goal that changes you, it’s the context. Context is the crucible which holds the shape of you and your success. A crucible with a defect may lead your goal astray, or allow you to accept a goal that will lead you astray. Think long about the context in which you live. Change the context, behavior follows.

For an individual, context is mindset. For an organization, context is culture.

Change the Context

“And, to promote the social good for the team employed by my company,” Pablo said, “I have to believe in the good inside each person. I have to create managerial systems that support that belief.”

“What you say is counter to many managerial practices,” I said. “In my travels, I see compensation systems, bonus and incentive programs that rely on greed and competition over compensation. I see team members with a narrow focus only on the next promotion, hidden agendas, backdoor politics, even backstabbing. I see a general mistrust of authority inside the company.”

“Yes, often that is what you see,” Pablo replied. “And, it is through no fault of employees. They engage in behavior to survive inside the system in which they live. If we create a system that relies on greed, we will get greedy behavior. If the only way we acknowledge contribution is by status, if the only thing that feeds a person’s self concept is a promotion, then you will get politics based on power. If you want to change the behavior, change the context in which they live.”

COVID-19 is Shattering Your Culture

Culture is that unwritten set of rules that governs our required behavior, in the work that we do together. If it was written rules, that would be your standard operating procedures. Culture is largely unwritten.

It’s all about behavior. Of course there are ideals, beliefs and assumptions we hold that drive those behaviors, but culture is all about behavior.

Culture (ideals, beliefs and assumptions) are reinforced through customs and rituals. COVID-19 is shattering your culture, throwing you out of your rhythm. Look at your customs and rituals. Perhaps, now is the time to double-down on your customs, examine your rituals. What are you doing to hold your team together?