Culture as a set of basic assumptions defines for us what to pay attention to, what things mean, how to react emotionally to what is going on, and what actions to take in various kinds of situations. The dynamic processes of culture creation and management are the essence of leadership and make one realize that leadership and culture are two sides of the same coin. Consequently, the backdrop to fortifying your organization’s workplace culture is the role of organizational leaders.
Some of the mechanisms that leaders use to communicate their beliefs, values and assumptions are conscious, deliberate actions; others are unconscious and may even be unintended. Here are six of the most powerful mechanisms successful leaders utilize in creating a stronger workplace culture:
1) What Leaders Pay Attention to, Measure, and Control
One of the most powerful mechanisms that leaders, managers, or even colleagues have available for communicating what they believe in or care about is what they systematically pay attention to. This can mean anything from what they notice and comment on to what they measure, control, reward, and in other ways systematically deal with.
2) Leaders Reactions to Critical Incidents and Organizational Crises
When an organization faces a crisis the manner in which leaders and others deal with it creates new norms, values, and working procedures and reveals important underlying assumptions. Crises are especially significant in culture creation and transmission because the heightened emotional involvement during such periods increase the intensity of learning.
3) Observed Criteria for Resource Allocation
How budgets are created is another process that reveals leader assumptions and beliefs. Beliefs not only function as criteria by which decisions are made but are constraints on decision making in that they limit the perception of alternatives.
4) Deliberate Role Modeling, Teaching, and Coaching
There is a difference between the messages delivered from staged settings, such as when a leader gives welcoming remarks at New Employee Orientation and the messages received when that leader is observed informally. The informal messages are the more powerful teaching and coaching mechanism.
5) Observed Criteria for Allocation of Rewards and Status
Both the nature of the behavior rewarded and punished and the nature of the rewards and punishments themselves carry the messages. Leaders can quickly get across their own priorities, values, and assumptions by consistently linking rewards and punishments to the behavior they are concerned with.
6) Observed Criteria for Recruitment, Selection, Promotion, Retirement, and Excommunication
One of the most subtle yet most potent ways through which cultural assumptions get embedded and perpetuated is the process of selecting new members. This mechanism is subtle because it operates unconsciously in most organizations. Leaders tend to find attractive those candidates who resemble present members in style, assumptions, values and beliefs. They are perceived to be the best people to hire and are assigned characteristics that will justify their being hired.
The bottom line for leaders is that if they do not become conscious of the cultures in which they are embedded, the culture will manage them. Cultural understanding is desirable for all employees, but it is essential to leaders if they are to lead. The key to a successful change program to fortify the workplace culture is for the leaders to use the entire set of mechanisms and be consistent with their application.
Contact Patrick today at firstname.lastname@example.org to explore how the Mejorando Group can partner with your leaders to assess your workplace culture and provide targeted recommendations to strengthen it immediately.
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