Positive Culture = Performance Improvement

Performance Improvement from better communication.

Although tough economic times present a host of real challenges, slow markets can also provide the catalyst needed for much needed changes. People and organizations both are all too often governed by inertia, that is to say, things are done a certain way because ‘that’s how we do it’. People are creatures of habit and many of us would choose the familiar over the new. Sometimes even when we know that the new way may be best. We need to give ourselves ‘mental permission’ to reject our habits and traditions if there is evidence to suggest that we should.

A recession can provide the proverbial ‘unbalanced force’  featured in Newton’s First Law of Motion .  (An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force). Tough times may just require a new perspective.

Consider this. Based upon casual daytime only observations, we have all the evidence that we need to ‘know’ that the Sun orbits the Earth. Galileo Galiei also considered the perspective of the stars to more accurately understand the nature of our galaxy.

If we look at our challenges from a new point of view, our observations may dramatically change. Often the information that we need is imminent, we must remember to ask ourselves solution based questions and not focus solely upon defining problems.

How do we find these new perspectives? One rich source of ideas is likely available and won’t cost your organization any additional money. The people who make up the organization all have various perspectives and ideas. How many times have we heard (or thought) “If they only asked me. I could show them the answer, I could really make this place thrive!”

A group of intelligent individuals alone is not enough to get the best ideas. The culture of a workplace needs to foster positive communication. Top down dictatorial management styles where the “boss” gives instructions and communication is one way is no longer effective. This promotes a value system of isolation and fear. Employees are ‘trained’ not to seek improvement if their ideas are never heard anyway. They will focus upon their area of responsibility only. Inertia takes over, innovation is lost.

The Expert Model recognizes that employees are a part of a team and are experts at their function within the organization. Ken Blanchard, author of ‘The One Minute Manager’ has a great quote to define this sentiment. “None of us is smarter than all of us!”. Each individual has a unique perspective of both problems and solutions. If they have a voice to make suggestions and improvements the whole organization benefits. They are recognized as experts when they can effectively perform their role to the standard of the organization. At this point they are considered to be 100% trained. This is more than technical training and includes how to deal with co-workers effectively and positively.

Managers at all levels need to be effective leaders. People respond much better when they feel that they are inspired by a leader rather than simply managed by a superior. How do managers become effective leaders? One of the best ways is to actively listen to the team and learn how to provide  positive and effective feedback. Coach for success rather than police for failure. Each interaction with any team member should be approached asking the question of what obstacles are in place, and how can they be addressed and are there any resources this person needs to help reach their goals? Problems become based  upon fact and are not personal or judgmental. The workplace becomes less stressful.

Senior Management is able to focus on becoming ‘futurists’ or ‘visionary leaders’. Since they are not weighed down with dealing with day to day issues (team member experts and team leader experts are in place for daily operations). The futurist is able to focus on strategic planning. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats can be evaluated . Constant communication is promoted. Workers provide additional effort when they feel that they are a part of a team.  Management benefits from workers bringing their ‘A Game’ to work. Insightful and innovative ideas continue to flow from all members of the organization more often and team members automatically come up with better more efficient processes. Why not access all the intelligence that the organization has to offer? It doesn’t cost more to thrive!

A positive culture replaces a fearful one when this model is adopted. A value system of trust, honesty and mutual respect is introduced. Trust means that if a team member says they will do something, they will. Honesty means more than admitting mistakes. It also means providing feedback – especially unwelcome feedback – in a productive manner in order to help improve the team. Mutual respect is a condition of employment. It recognizes that all employees have potential to suggest good ideas. Often new or ‘untested’ people approach situations with the freshest ideas and are not subject to the confines of old thinking. Mistakes still occur, however if there is mutual respect, team members recognize that   everyone did what they did for the right reason and focus on solutions rather than wasting energy  punishing the person who make the mistake.

With the right culture, teams become extremely responsive and agile. The opportunities for improvement are vast. With each team member performing a specific function, clarity and accountability is achieved. The sum total of each team member’s efforts is greater than the individual components. Team synergy is accomplished. Inertia is overcome. Challenges are more likely to be met successfully.

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