By Bridget McCrea
Creating a great corporate culture can not only boost morale, but it can improve your business as well. tED magazine is bringing you “Culture Fridays,” with exclusive feature articles about creating, engaging and maintaining the corporate culture that works for you, your people, and ultimately your bottom line. Click below to read our previous culture pieces.
Change is Inevitable: Creating a Fluid Corporate Culture
The Customer Satisfaction-Corporate Culture Connection
Six Ways to Turn Your Corporate Culture Around… Now!
The idea of creating, honing, and acting on a corporate culture can be downright intimidating for companies that have never gone through this exercise before. It can also put fear in the hearts of new and veteran employees, managers, and leaders who don’t fully understand or embrace the corporate values and missions that are driving the cultural shifts. “This fear can create some bumpy spots on the path to fully leveraging a solid corporate culture,” says DeEtta Jones, keynote speaker and consultant with DJA Consulting in Chicago.
To help distributors work through these and other culture-related challenges, Jones shares her insights in this Q&A with tED magazine.
Bridget McCrea: How does fear factor into the role of corporate culture?
DeEtta Jones: Envision a continuum where current reality is at the center, vision is all the way to the right, and fear is all the way to the left. The energy between current reality (where we are right now) and where you want to be is known as ‘eustress.’ It’s a creative energy that is naturally motivating for humans; it’s a stress that people actually enjoy and thrive on. Now, in the absence of a compelling vision, human energy naturally gravitates to fear. Fear is just the unknown, but adults don’t like to live in a space where they don’t know what’s going to happen next. They like to have a sense of where they’re going and why. When they don’t have this knowledge, the associated fear can quickly turn into distress. They hunker down and need a safe zone. This is exactly what happens at companies that are constantly in flux, and where employees don’t feel firmly connected with the organization’s vision.
McCrea: How does this negatively impact the individual and the company?
Jones: When people are hunkered down and in a distressful place, they may be able to perform but they won’t give 100 percent because they don’t have access to that ‘creative energy’ that they need to be able to give their all. They’re in fight or flight mode – in the ‘safe zone.’ As a result, the portion of the brain that allows individuals to be more open and creative and explore the possibilities just isn’t accessible.
McCrea: Where do companies go wrong when it comes to culture-related fear?
Jones: Middle management is the sweet spot. Very often it’s the new or younger employees who are filled with ideas, energy, enthusiasm, and new skills that they want to use to contribute and prove themselves. Senior leaders are often visionary; they’re out there exploring the landscape and thinking about the big picture. Middle managers are often pulled in multiple directions at once and mired in operational issues. They’re not paying attention to the big picture and they’re not focused on strategy. They’re so busy minimizing and avoiding risk that they themselves are oftentimes living on that left-hand side of the continuum (i.e., the ‘fear’ side). They are in management mode when really they should be in innovator/designer mode.
McCrea: How can distributors correct this issue and get their managers into “innovator/designer” mode?
Jones: The key is to more deeply build leadership capacity within the organization. Managers are so busy avoiding risk that they’re not thinking about creating opportunities and developing innovative and open workplaces where teams can actually ‘come to life’ and contribute. Right now, I see huge opportunity for firms to really cultivate those middle managers. This is where things get stuck in an organization. Now more than ever we need deep bench strength, leadership, creativity, innovation, and diversity at companies small and large.
McCrea: What does it take to diversify and grow bench strength and leadership/management?
Jones: We need people with different perspectives, different experiences, and different ways of approaching a problem to be fully present in our processes. Otherwise, we will only come up with the solutions that have been presented to us or that we have tried in the past. We will not have breakthrough experiences unless we really look for diversity, look for dissenting points of view, try things that are outside of our comfort zone, and reward people for taking risks, and even sometimes for failing. Remember that nine times out of 10, when you try you’re going to make a mistake. The 10th time will probably generate a wonderful result, but you have to try nine times before you’re going to get it right. That said, if you really want to be innovative and have a culture that is focused on creative breakthroughs, organizationally you have to be willing to give it those 10 tries.
McCrea: Who should be involved in this process?
Jones: Get your senior leadership together. If you have an issue overall in your organization, discuss the importance of revisiting your corporate culture, reviewing morale issues, or any other sticking points that you’re dealing with. The key is to get the senior leadership together and make some decisions about how you’re going to address the current behaviors. Then, communicate the heck out of that message to the rest of your team.
McCrea: What do distributors need to do right now to improve their corporate cultures?
Jones: I’d tell them to think about simple ways that you can put together some new opportunities and bring in fresh perspectives. You might, for example, bring in some of your firm’s most junior employees to have coffee with your senior team. This can be a great and easy way to infuse some new ideas into your culture. Just explore together and talk about ways that you can really shake things up around the organization. Talk about the short-term and long-term opportunities and then start building some momentum in the right direction. Make some deliberate, intentional plans about how you’re going to communicate the changes and what types of strategies you can implement in order to achieve some short-term wins.
McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at email@example.com or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.
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