How would your culture stand up in a crisis?

Your business culture can really be tested when you, your team and business are placed under pressure and having to deal with a crisis (data breach, anyone?). In fact, the way you and your team react is driven by your organisational culture, and recent events got us thinking about how a constructive culture would change individuals’ reactions to a crisis, change behaviour and positively influence the process and outcome.

A frustration we hear from leaders in our workshops and coaching sessions is they’re continually having to get involved in micro tasks because their teams either lack capability or initiative.

Perhaps you need to ask yourself whether you, as a leader, are creating dependency. 

While this may be hard to hear, often the reason for a team’s reticence is that the leader themself isn’t trusting; is too controlling or perfectionistic; or maybe too authoritative or autocratic.

What this means in times of crisis, is that employees become scared to take initiative and ‘do the right thing’ for fear of repercussions or not meeting the leader’s expectations.

The example in Optus’ situation was when news reported an impacted customer felt “forced to set up” an identity theft monitoring account which costs $15 per month. When he requested that Optus cover the cost by way of a monthly bill reduction, an employee told him he wasn’t entitled to any compensation.

In a constructive and empowered culture, the employee handling that customer’s request would have felt confident to use their common sense and arrange the bill reduction. 

Remember, culture is how people have learned to behave within the organisation in order to get along and get ahead. It’s allowing people to use their initiative, in alignment with the values and strategy of the organisation.

In an article by James Burden, a tech leader at Optus, he writes:

“A modern leader must understand that simply being ‘the boss’ or ‘the decision-maker’ is not the way to drive success. It is the role of a leader to support team members, empower them to make decisions, ask challenging questions and seek buy-in. By giving your team autonomy, they will take accountability for their decisions and ‘own’ their work outcomes.”
We agree, James.

At Tactician, we use organisational culture diagnostics called the LifeStyles Inventory and we consistently see that leaders are motivating their team to passively or aggressively defend their security by avoiding and becoming dependent.

We call it the dependency syndrome, and it looks something like this:

The more power exerted by the leader, the more dependent the followers. The more dependent the followers, the greater the frustration felt by the leader. The greater the leader's frustration, the more aggressive the leadership style.

And round and round it goes.

Here at Tactician, we have identified 9 steps to shaping a constructive culture, and we think professional intimacy plays a key role too.

To break the cycle of dependency, it’s not a case of leaders simply softening up, (in fact, we’re encouraging leaders to be more challenging – but that’s a topic for another day).

The key is to invest more time and energy into the relationships you have with your team, create professional intimacy, build more respect and create an environment of trust and security. 

Of course, there may be capability gaps as well and these should absolutely be addressed. However, these gaps will be uncovered more easily if there is a level of openness and respect in the relationship.

To reduce one of your frustrations as a leader:

  1. Look at what you are doing that is promoting dependency and not initiative.
  2. Clarify what behaviours are and are not acceptable, and link these back to your values.
  3. Communicate them clearly to ensure everyone in your business understands that ‘how’ they deliver is as important as ‘what’ they deliver.
  4. Make sure that you role model the behaviours yourself.

One of the group activities in our leadership development workshops involves the team working together through a series of scenarios that could occur in any workplace. They consider the scenario and decide, as a team, how they would handle it. Hearty conversation ensues, as they strive towards adopting the constructive culture. This activity helps leaders and their teams to get on the same page as to what process to follow in any situation, and which behaviours to adopt to achieve the desired outcome.

In other words, their organisational culture informs the decision and gives the employee confidence to act in the moment. 

Our use of the LifeStyles Inventory (through Human Synergistics) helps to get your team thinking and behaving to their full potential and contributing to your success as a business with a constructive culture. It’s particularly valuable for helping individuals to:

  • discover new ways of thinking and behaving
  • improve their effectiveness in their roles
  • cope better with stress, pressure and change
  • increase their personal effectiveness.

Our Tactician’s are accredited practitioners in the LSI and can help you to drive the organisational culture change you seek.

Ensure your team will manage your next organisational crisis in a constructive manner. Let us help you now to build the behaviours that matter.

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