To communicate effectively, we must be thoughtful and look closely at the unique attributes, attitudes and behaviors of people before making predictions about them. In other words, we must listen and understand from where the other person is coming.
Many of our communications are habitual as we hardly pay attention to our communication behavior. However, when we face a new situation, such as a cross cultural encounter, we seek clues to guide our behavior. As we become comfortable in the new situation, we revert back to more habitual communications, and are no longer mindful of the other. We often categorize people with whom we communicate based upon physical and cultural characteristics, or their attitudes and beliefs. The problem with categorizing is that it creates blinders in us that prevent us from truly hearing and knowing the people with whom we are communicating.
To improve the effectiveness of our communications with all people, in particular, people of other cultures, we need to be aware of how we communicate – we must be mindful. Awareness of our communications and the related competence can be described as a four-step process: 1. unconscious incompetence – we misinterpret others’ communication behavior but are not aware of it; 2. conscious incompetence – we are aware that we misinterpret others’ communication behavior but choose not to do anything to change; 3. conscious competence – we are aware of what we think about communication behavior and modify our behavior to make the communications more effective - we become mindful of our communication behaviors; and 3. unconscious competence – we have practiced the skills of effective communication and it becomes second nature to us.
Cultural Considerations in Communications
Low and High Context Cultures
Some cultures are low context and some are high. This refers to the communication process. A high-context communication process is where most of the information being communicated is in the physical context or in the person and not in the message. A low-context communication process is where the information being conveyed is in the communications – clear and direct. The United States is a low-context culture, where communications are direct and complete. We have sayings such as “get to the point” or “say what you mean” that clearly demonstrate the low-context. On the other hand, Japan, China and Korea are high-context cultures where people make a greater distinction between insiders and outsiders and where the individual communicating expects the hearer to know what is bothering him without being specific. There are advantages to high context cultures in that people raised in high-context systems expect more of others than do the participants in low-context systems. For us low-context communicators, we want things clear and out on the table, and we get annoyed by communications done in an indirect fashion.
The point here (and I will get to the point for us low context people) is that it is important to understand the form of communications that predominates in a culture in order to correctly interpret and understand the behavior of those with whom we are communicating.
Monochronic and Polychronic Cultures
A monochromic culture is one where people have involvement in one event at a time. A polychronic culture is one where people are involved in two or more events at the same time. In extremely monochronic cultures, people focus on a single task or project and see anything outside of the task or project as an interruption. Conversely, in more polychronic cultures, people have involvement in several activities, moving back and forth between them easily. In a polychronic culture, an unexpected customer dropping in would be considered part of the normal flow of tasks and not considered an interruption. In Arab nations, it is common for a leader to have several people in his office discussing and working on separate and unrelated tasks.
For us monochronic Americans, we have our agendas and work through each item, one at a time. It would be a large distraction to be in an office where we have business to discuss with someone and there are five other people transacting different business, and all happening at the same time. Again, the point here is that it is important to understand the predominate mode of operation in the culture in order to correctly interpret and understand the behavior of those with whom we are communicating, so we can adjust ourselves.
Most Needed – Organizational Glue and An Environment of Trust
Edward Hall says that culture is communications and communications is culture. Whether a husband-wife relationship, a friendship or in an organization, success is dependent in large part by the effectiveness of communications. As can be seen above, adding a cross cultural dimension makes effective communications more challenging.
What can leaders do to encourage effective communications? First, they can make sure that their organization has in place a core ideology which brings its people together – the glue that holds its people together. Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book, “Built to Last,”, define the core ideology as “that which provides the bonding glue that holds an organization together as it grows, decentralizes, diversifies, expands globally and attains diversity.” The core ideology is made up of two things: core purpose and core values. The core purpose is the fundamental reason for being – the importance people attach to the organization’s work. It is the organization’s identity. Core values are those essential and enduring tenants that have intrinsic value for and are important to the people inside the organization. The core ideology holds the organization’s people together, like glue, no matter from what culture they are, by unifying people toward the achievement of the organization’s purpose.
A second thing leaders can do is to create an environment of trust. Trust is the first and foremost leadership attribute, as determined in the GLOBE Study of 17,000 people in 62 countries. Trust comes from being in relationship, where people see us in action and see that we are not in this leadership thing for ourselves, but that we are pursuing a higher purpose. It is determined by the leader’s communicative and supportive behaviors, as the amount of information received about the job and the organization helps build trust in top management and direct supervisors. Trust takes a long time to build, and it can be lost in a moment by one significant and selfish act. People watch leaders. People are looking for leaders who do what they say they will do – this is integrity. They look for leaders who do the right thing at the right time for the right reason, as stated by . Bruce Winston in his book, “Be a Leader, for God’s Sake.”
Trust theory has established that leader behavior has a great deal to do with creating a culture of trust. It has also established the importance of trust in organizational effectiveness. An important role of the organization’s leaders is the establishment of relationships characterized by confidence, trust and reliance. As determined by Jeffrey Cufaude in his 1999 article entitled “Creating organizational trust”, the following factors are associated with a culture of trust in an organization: the depth and quality of personal relationships; clarity of roles and responsibilities; frequency, timeliness and forthrightness of communications; competence to get the job done; clarity of shared purpose (core ideology); direction and vision; and honoring promises and commitments.
Edward Hall concluded that his many years of study convinced him that the real job is not understanding the culture of another, but that of your own. Culture has a huge impact on how we live our lives. If we are to relate effectively with people from other cultures, then we must know how our culture impacts us. One of the most effective ways to learn about ourselves is to take seriously the cultures of others. By doing this, it forces us to pay attention to the details of our lives and what differentiates us from others. It gives us a sense of vitality and awareness. It keeps us continually learning and growing as people. Effective communications results when we walk in the shoes of another. This means making ourselves vulnerable with other people, something people are more willing to do when they work in a culture of trust.
(In writing this article, I relied heavily upon the works of William Gudykunst and Young Kim entitled “Communicating with Strangers,” Edward Hall entitled “The Silent Language” and W. Howell entitled “The empathic communicator.”)
About the author:
Paul Dumais is Director of Asset Management and Investment Planning at Iberdrola USA, a family of electric and gas utilities serving customers in New England and in the State of New York. He is second year student in the Doctorate of Strategic Leadership Program in the School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship at Regent University. Mr. Dumais holds an MBA from the University of Southern Maine. He lives with his wife Kathleen in Webster, New York and may be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org
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To communicate effectively, we must be thoughtful and look closely at the unique attributes, attitudes and behaviors of people before making predictions about them. In other words, we must listen and understand from where the other person is coming. Many of our communications are habitual as we hardly pay attention to our communication behavior. However, when wPaul Dumais Articles
In my many interactions with business owners and senior managers over the years I would maintain that the single greatest challenge facing most of us tasked with the oversight of a business or organization is leadership and specifically, our understanding how to motivate our people. Getting them to do the things we want done, how we want them done and when we want them done is always a challenge. Most of us hate this part of our role as leaders and are very creative in finding ways to avoid it. Of course this might be why morale and retention are such major issues in the American workplace and why turnover and job dissatisfaction are at all time highs. I am strongly of the opinion that people can amaze and astound you with what they can accomplish, but this never happens by accident and never happens in an environment where we are discouraging innovation and where we withhold our trust. Expecting our people to soar when we dissuade them from spreading their wings seems like an expectation just waiting to go unfulfilled. People, our staff in other words, can take us anywhere we choose to go but only if we encourage them to push the limits, only if we promote initiative and only in an environment of trust.
One of the most common complaints I hear from business owners and from senior managers is that our people have no initiative and have to be constantly pushed and prodded to do the things we ask. Initiative is one of those incredible behaviors that we just never get enough of but it is also one of those things that has to be nurtured so when I hear a business owner or senior manager within an organization complain about a lack of initiative from his or her staff members, I immediately want to understand why this is the case and what are we doing as leaders to cause it. As leaders we are entirely responsible for the work environment and if our staff members are unwilling to go that extra mile and unwilling to challenge convention and reach a rung or two higher, then we as leaders have done or said something (much more than once) to discourage this most desirable of human behaviors. Only people who are confident and who have been encouraged will expose themselves by pushing beyond our expectations or by suggesting a better path. If the majority of our staff is unwilling to take that leap, then we as leaders have failed.
As leaders, tasked with delivering the broad expectations of the organization, it is certainly reasonable for us to approach our job, our every effort, with a sense of urgency. Very literally, we are responsible for each task, every procedure and all efforts that make up our areas of responsibility. The pressure that comes with this accountability is significant. Trusting others to complete these tasks is a frightening prospect for many of us but the impracticality of our doing everything ourselves requires and in fact demands that we bite that operational bullet and delegate effectively. This is the very essence of leadership; our moving the masses toward the accomplishment of our goals and hopefully beyond. To whatever degree we are able to do this will determine our effectiveness and success as a leader.
Human beings are a challenge. They are unpredictable, they suffer mood swings and it is difficult knowing what you will get from individual to individual, from day to day. They are tough to understand and with so much on the line in our own efforts, it is difficult to trust them to do the things you ask them to do. As difficult as it might seem, trusting in your people is exactly what I am going to ask you to do.
That initiative we had talked about earlier is an indication of confidence and I can promise you that if you have not created an environment of trust and empowerment, your people are not going to think about showing much initiative. It is never about you actually coming out and saying you don’t trust your people but your micromanaging them and monitoring their every action, step and inclination will communicate that lack of trust just as surely as you bellowing it at your people at a weekly staff meeting. People who feel under a microscope never feel trusted, never feel confident, and as a very direct result, rarely show initiative. A lack of initiative is a sure sign of a leadership structure that is stifling, repressive, hostile, and untrusting or any combination of these. A work environment that is lacking in trust is one that will always underachieve, always suffer turnover, and one that is dysfunctional at the top. The saddest aspect in this is that many of us will defend our position and our lack of trust by blaming our staff members. “They just don’t get it” or “This is so important that I just can’t trust them to deliver the results I am looking for”. No matter how you wrap that, it is wrong and like a coach blaming his team for the loss, you are blaming your people for your failure as a leader. Your micromanagement is destructive to your team and denies your team members the growth that comes with ownership and success. If your people are lacking the skills to succeed, then I would suggest that you train them but denying them the opportunity to grow and improve and get in the game is a sure-fire way to develop a culture of underachievement, low morale and lack of initiative. Unfortunately, some will fail, but when appropriately trained and armed with our reasonable expectations, most will succeed and strive to exceed our expectations. Showing faith in our people (even if we don’t really feel it) is a great way of showing confidence in them and encouraging their very best effort in every undertaking.
I recall a situation in a large organization I was working with, where the senior manager was blessed with a highly experienced and capable staff. This particular manager came from an unrelated field and I am guessing as a result, felt insecure in his ability to properly manage the areas with which he was tasked. His approach was to question, double check and re-verify the minutia of the things his staff did on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. It is certainly commendable for any manager to approach their areas of responsibility with a sense of urgency but in this case the manager’s insecurity and intense attention to the details was perceived as a lack of trust. Senior staff, with from ten to fifteen years on the job, are not used to being audited and double checked on a daily basis and the actions of this manager took a highly motivated and capable team and turned them into a defensive rabble, more concerned with their own ‘i’s’ being dotted and their own “t’s” being crossed than with the broad organizational priorities and goals as well as being more concerned about making mistakes than with innovation or initiative. Trust is a very powerful thing that gives our people the confidence to move forward and to grow. A lack of trust makes most of us unconcerned with what is going on in the next cubicle and wondering about what we have done wrong.
Leading is tough, there is no doubt about that, but in any business, in any organization there is nothing more powerful, nothing more cost effective or reliable than motivated, appropriately trained staff, who are well led and encouraged toward success.
Leaders lead with a stubborn insistence toward accomplishment and an undying faith in their people. You can trust me on that.
About the author:
Brian Canning is a regular contributor to weLEAD and a business analyst working in the federal sector. For the past thirty years he has worked in the automotive repair industry, most recently as a leadership and management coach with the Automotive Training Institute in Savage, Maryland. After serving as a tank commander with the 1st Armored Division in Europe, he started his career as a Goodyear service manager in suburban Washington D.C., moving on to oversee several stores and later a sales region. He also has been a retail sales manager for a large auto parts distributor, run a large fleet operation and headed a large multi-state sales territory for an independent manufacturer of auto parts. His passions are history, leadership and writing.
This material is copyright protected. No part of this document may be reproduced, in any form or by any means without permission from weLEAD Incorporated. Copyright waiver may be acquired from the weLEAD website.
In my many interactions with business owners and senior managers over the years I would maintain that the single greatest challenge facing most of us tasked with the oversight of a business or organization is leadership and specifically, our understanding how to motivate our people. Getting them to do the things we want done, how we want them done and when we want them done is always a challengBrian Canning Articles
We've all been there. You walk into a bank, restaurant, or store and suddenly feel it, that vague sensation that all is not well. It drips from the ceilings and sits in puddles on the floor. The employees are lost in thought, unable to decide whether they'd rather be somewhere else or stay and kill each other. And you're the lucky one bathing in all the poison they can ladle up. Yeesh.
I hope you've experienced the other side, too. You walk in the door and are gob smacked by a sense of well-being. This isn't just a place where people work, it's a place that WORKS. The employees want to be there and they want YOU to be there. You feel your brow relax, and the corners of your mouth head ever-so-slightly north. You don't wanna leave.
So which of these do YOU work in?
Now, which of these environments do you think YOUR employees rather work in?
So you're wondering if that six-headed, chain-smoking, flatulent monster that's been "hiding" in the supply closet is the Beast we're talking about here.
Here Are 9 Symptoms of a Dysfunctional Workplace:
1. People say one thing and mean another
2. People give lip service to new ideas, only to undercut them in private
4. Saying you'll do something and then not doing it
6. Deflection of feedback and blame
7. People pretending they "missed the memo on that one"
8 Refusal to deal with conflict
9. Gossip and backstabbing
When you think of a dysfunctional organization, you might picture a lot of screaming and yelling. But take a close look at this list. There's very little that has to do with raised voices, and the only mention of "conflict" is the failure to deal with it directly.
You will have conflicts in the workplace. The key is to address it in a healthy and productive way. Yelling at someone isn't the best way to communicate displeasure, but it's a heck of a lot better than whispering behind that person's back, which gets us into the excruciating, crazy-making world of the passive-aggressive.
If I had to nominate just one of thing from the list above as the most destructive symptom of the dysfunctional workplace, there's no contest. It's GOSSIP. A workplace full of whispered gossip is as painful and maddening as a buzzing mosquito at bedtime. It is destructive to the soul of your workplace and the souls of your people who never feel safe and always wonder who is talking behind their backs.
When people gossip about others, you may as well have them bring baseball bats and beat each other. At least that will heal. If a happy and functional workplace is your goal, there are few more productive places to put your energy than the absolute elimination of gossip.
How to End Gossip & Create a Happy Workplace Environment Where People Actually Want to Work
Step one is to recognize that gossip is an attempt at communication—seriously screwed up communication, sure, but communication nonetheless. You can't eliminate the behavior without providing something to replace it—namely a good and healthy way of communicating.
All Jack had to do was to go to Tom and say, “Dude, when you are late with that analysis, I end up on my knees to my boss because then my report is late. Please promise me you'll get that to me on time from now on.” Reasonable. Direct. Easy.
If Jack came to you with gossip, simply say, “Gee, it sounds like you need to talk to Tom directly so you can work this out.” Lather, rinse and repeat until the person wakes up!
Once you establish a zero-tolerance policy for talking behind another person's back, give your employees permission to address conflict head-on, out loud, courageously and honestly. Create a trusting and open environment and watch the dysfunctions in your workplace ebb away.
The Next Step to Ending Workplace Dysfunctions: Build a Shared Vision
Now you've recognized the symptoms and diagnosed the disease. Time for the cure.
Most workplace dysfunctions amount to employees shooting their energy at each other because there's nothing else to aim for. What's needed is a single, shared vision.
Everyone wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Everyone wants to feel productive and be happy. Give yourself and your team members a clear and positive picture of where you want to go as a group. Most of them will jump at the chance to be a part of it. When people align around a vision of great service, pettiness and dysfunctional workplace behaviors fall away and people become who they need to be to make it happen.
Will there still be those who stubbornly hold on to their dysfunctions? I guarantee it. And for the sake of the rest of you, gently but firmly encourage those folks to find and follow their bliss elsewhere.
Are you ready to do what it takes to end the dysfunctions and create a can-do culture in your workplace?
About the author:
Roxanne Emmerich is renowned for her ability to transform the "ho-hum" attitudes of leaders, executives, business owners and entrepreneurs just like you into massive results-oriented "bring-it-on" attitudes. To discover how you can get motivated and love your job again, check out her new book – Thank God it's Monday.
This material is copyright protected. No part of this document may be reproduced, in any form or by any means without permission from weLEAD Incorporated. Copyright waiver may be acquired from the weLEAD website.
*image courtesy of stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net
We've all been there. You walk into a bank, restaurant, or store and suddenly feel it, that vague sensation that all is not well. It drips from the ceilings and sits in puddles on the floor. The employees are lost in thought, unable to decide whether they'd rather be somewhere else or stay and kill each other. And you're the lucky one bathing in all the poison they can ladle up.Roxanne Emmerich Articles
When we drain power from a car battery it runs down. If we do this long enough, the battery will eventually become totally dead. In physics we call this “entropy”, which means that anything left to itself will eventually disintegrate until it reaches its most elemental form. Entropy happens when there is neglect. Neglect your body, and you will deteriorate. Neglect your car battery, and it will eventually die. Anything that is not attended to and renewed will deteriorate over time. That is why we have an alternator in our car. The alternator recharges the battery. It combats entropy. All things need caring for—and your employees are no exception. Nothing neglected will remain productive over time.
Employees are like car batteries. If you are always taking from them, but never “charging them up” emotionally, eventually they will run down. Stephen Covey and others use the metaphor of the Emotional Bank Account (EBA). Negative actions and neglect can become withdrawals against a person’s EBA. On the other hand, courtesies, celebrations, and affirmations are deposits to the EBA. If there are a lot of withdrawals, and few or no deposits, a person’s EBA will become so overdrawn that the relationship will become bankrupt.
Effective leaders understand this concept and recognize the importance of giving encouragement and positive feedback on a regular basis. Such feedback should not be manipulative in nature, but should flow from a genuine appreciation and belief in their people. Effective leaders are obsessed with finding something good about an employee. They are very alert to opportunities to celebrate the achievement of others. These acts of encouragement are a real key to releasing the potential in people and promoting the use of their gifts and talents.
Few employees receive more affirmation from superiors than Southwest Airline employees. Southwest Airlines is recognized year after year by Fortune magazine as one of the best companies to work for in America. They are also famous for recognizing employees and celebrating their achievements. One token of this is a giant T-shirt hanging in the headquarters building of Southwest Airlines at Love Field. Imprinted on the shirt is this message:
“How many Southwest employees does it take to change a light bulb?” At the bottom of the shirt is the answer: “Four. One to actually change the light bulb and three to design the T-shirt to celebrate it!”
Southwest Airlines says that it uses thousands of small gestures to send big messages. The halls of their corporate headquarters are literally covered from floor to ceiling with photos, plaques, certificates, awards, honors, and various memorabilia that capture the spirit of their culture. Some have even accused Southwest executives of constructing more office space just so they could gain additional wall space in the halls to hang photos of employees and their families.
In the fall of 1999, I was selected as the Honor’s Seminar faculty member at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. I had proposed teaching a course entitled Personal and Organizational Leadership, with an emphasis on studying the top companies on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list. That year Southwest Airlines was the number four company on the list.
Toward the end of the semester the class took a field trip to visit the number one and number four companies on the Fortune 100 Best list (Synovus Financial and Southwest Airlines). Southwest had donated four round-trip tickets for our trip. We also used two round trip tickets from my Southwest Airlines frequent flyer program. We still had to buy tickets for one leg of the trip. I called the Southwest Airlines reservation number and got a very nice and helpful young lady on the line. I explained that making the reservations would be complicated since we had frequent flyer miles, free tickets from Southwest, and we also needed to buy tickets for one leg of the trip. However, I didn’t know which flight to buy, since we wanted to purchase tickets for the least expensive flight—applying the free tickets to the more expensive flights.
She searched diligently to find the least expensive flight of the trip. There was just one problem. That flight did not have enough seats left at the rock bottom fare. We needed two additional seats at that fare. She suggested that since I was working with the executive office at Southwest to arrange our tour that I should call and ask if they could authorize her to sell all the tickets at the lowest fare!
I was so impressed with this reservationist and her attitude of service. She had worked almost a half-hour to book all the flights and now she would hold the two seats until I asked the executive office to release the seats at the lower fare! She was truly working to save us money and I really appreciated that. I got her name and phone number. I discovered that she was working at a phone center in Oklahoma. I thanked her and hung up.
I then called the executive assistant to the executive office at Southwest and told her the situation. She said there would be no problem lowering the fare for the two seats and that she would take care of it immediately. I gave her the reservations’ name and phone number. Then I mentioned that the reservationist had done an outstanding job helping me. I suggested that someone should mention this to her supervisor.
About ten minutes later my phone rang. It was the reservationist in Oklahoma. She sounded very excited and said, “You can’t believe what just happened to me! I just received a call from Colleen Barrett. She personally thanked me for giving you such extraordinary service!”
For those who don’t recognize her name, Colleen is the Executive Vice President of Southwest Airlines, and the Chair of the corporate Culture Committee. Within five minutes of my suggesting someone should recognize the fine work of this reservationist, the Executive Vice President of Southwest Airlines—a company of over 29,000 employees—had made a personal call to express her appreciation to the reservationist! I can tell you for certain that this reservationist received an incredible deposit to her Emotional Bank Account that day! This affirmation was like a powerful charge to her battery.
Such small gestures certainly do send big messages at Southwest. They can also send big messages within your organization. Do you look for opportunities to celebrate employee accomplishments, both great and small, or do you focus on finding fault and criticizing? Are most of the transactions you conduct with your employees considered “deposits” or “withdrawals” to their Emotional Bank Accounts?
Too many organizational cultures are still driven by criticism, fear, and punishment. (The floggings will continue until morale improves!) Celebrations and affirmations inspire, motivate, and reenergize people. Isn’t that what effective leadership is all about? Are you a “battery drainer” or a “battery charger”?
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About the author:
Dr. J. Howard Baker is Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Last year Dr. Baker taught an Honors Seminar at ULM, which included a field trip to the top servant leadership companies in America. Dr. Baker has been a Franklin Covey 7 Habits of Highly Effective People certified facilitator for seven years, and has served the University of Texas at Tyler as their facilitator for four years. During the summer he offers a graduate and undergraduate course at U. T. Tyler in personal and organizational leadership. He holds a B.S. in Management from Samford University, a Master of Accounting (MAcc) from the University of Southern California, and a Ph.D. in Information Systems from the University of Texas at Arlington.
When we drain power from a car battery it runs down. If we do this long enough, the battery will eventually become totally dead. In physics we call this “entropy”, which means that anything left to itself will eventually disintegrate until it reaches its most elemental form. Entropy happens when there is neglect. Neglect your body, and you will deteriorate. Neglect yourDr. J. Howard Baker Articles
My grandmother is a gardening guru. Ever since I can remember, she has always been able to grow and cultivate any type of plant. It’s really quite amazing. I will never forget the day she was able to get a rose bush to grow in hot Florida. If you know anything about the dirt in Florida, it is not a conducive environment for rose bushes. However, here she is with a blooming rose bush in the front of her yard. This achievement was not without a string of challenges. After all, she was trying to get a rose bush to grow and thrive in South Florida. The plant went through all kinds of changes, but my grandmother knew if she kept trying and gave it enough thought she would figure out what was needed in order to make it work. Eventually she was successful. She merely had to create the right environment for the plant to grow and prosper. Twenty years later, the roses are still there.
Isn’t this what some of our organizations are like today? Many times organizations are trapped in an environment that does not allow for a free flow of its gifts and talents. Thus, there is no growth and prosperity. Some of them are on the brink of an innovative plan that will catapult their business to the next level. This is not a bad thing. We want our organizations to thrive and prosper. The challenge that presents itself is much like the challenge of trying to get a rose bush to grow and prosper in South Florida. The soil isn’t cultivated properly and the environment is out of order. As a leader in your organization, it is your responsibility to examine the environment of your organization to ensure the soil is properly cultivated for a harvest to produce. Lowell Bryan and Claudia Joyce write for the McKinsey Quarterly. They state, “Today’s organizations must redesign themselves to remove unproductive complexity while simultaneously stimulating the effective, efficient creation and exchange of valuable intangibles. They must be able to mobilize mind power as well as labor and capital.” This is true.
Is Your Soil Right for the Harvest?
As in the previous example about the rose bush, the soil for an organization is its design. Without the proper design, the organization cannot apply the proper strategy to reap the necessary harvest. Right Management argues, “There are some fundamental relationships between organizational elements that work together to deliver a well-executed strategy through an engaged workforce, resulting in a great customer experience, high performance, and profitability.” Gill Corkindale further supports this argument by sharing the following thought regarding poor organizational design, “Poor organizational design and structure results in confusion within roles, a lack of coordination among functions, failure to share ideas, and slow decision-making.” When I think about this, I can see two plants growing together. One is wheat and the other is tare.
Tares are uncultivated seeds. The tare represents poor organizational design. When an organization’s design is lacking, it produces seeds of further destruction (just like the tare). Tares literally choke the life out of wheat. It takes years of labor to completely eradicate tares. Wheat, on the other hand, represents prosperity and a thriving organization with proper design. An organization with a wheat mentality bends with the wind at full girth because its seeds are heavy, properly rooted in the soil. In order for the wheat to thrive, the tare must be destroyed at the root or it will continue to grow and suffocate the wheat. Unfortunately, before this can occur the organization must wait until the proper time to do so. Just like the farmer must wait until the wheat is at full harvest in order to remove the tares (unless he risks the loss of his harvest), organizational leaders must assess the proper time to remove the tare from their midst. This means the organization must be prepared to experience a pruning process.
The purpose of pruning is to produce strong, healthy, attractive plants. As an organization, you want to have a strong, healthy, attractive organism that can produce a sustainable harvest. To do so, you must be willing to do some cutting and preventive maintenance across your organization.
1. Perform a SWOT analysis of each department. Knowing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in each area of your organization can be the crucial element in recognizing the wheat from the tare.
2. Meet with your Strategic Human Resource Manager and review the roles of the managers and leaders in your organization. Are there duplicate roles within the same department? How can you be more strategic in your hiring practices? Where can you trim the fat? Where can you gather the fragments to sow elsewhere in the organization?
3. Meet with your senior leadership and discuss the health of the organization with respect to its vision.
There are so many dynamics that impact an organization. As such, organizations must ensure their design addresses those dynamics. For instance, in the current economic climate, an organization must ensure there are proper measures and strategies in place to not only remain on the cutting edge but also to ensure the quality of the product / service is sound. Before an organization can achieve this, it must ensure the soil (the design) is properly cultivated. What do I mean by cultivated? To cultivate something means to prepare and work on or till. It also means to promote or improve the growth of by labor and attention. It means to foster. Therefore, an organization must promote or improve the growth of their design structure before it can expect to reap the benefits of the talent housed within.
Cultivate Your Soil for the Right Environment
Today’s organizations are impacted by technology, globalization, demographics (social and political), and other external forces. Traditional hierarchical models of yesterday’s organizations have demonstrated their limitations in the face of the explosive change that is characterized by contemporary society. Some leaders still believe in the hierarchical, top down leadership paradigm where power is conferred upon a few decision makers. I agree with Jenner’s argument that the problem with this method is it tends to restrict the free flow of ideas and information and limit organizational flexibility, all to gain greater “control”.
Cultivating the right environment for your organization to thrive and prosper may take a lot of hard work, but it is worth it. Before you can cultivate your organization, you must be able to identify what kind of soil you currently have. If your soil is bare, it is suitable for cultivating (digging). This means you pretty much have a blank slate. You are ready to start fresh and establish an organizational design. Then there is the clay soil. Clay is difficult to work with and few plants survive in it. This means the design that is currently in place does not align with your vision and your workforce, most likely, is at odds with one another. Inter-departmental teams are not cohesive and little to no productivity occurs. Lastly there is the light, sandy soil. It is easy to till because the grains are fine. The problem with sandy soil is it dries out quickly. An organization that fits into this category has a good foundation. You may have the right design, but you are not properly watering the soil. You, also, are not mixing in the right organic matter to make it more conducive for what you are trying to produce. With a sandy soil, you definitely need to nurture your talent and knowledge seeds with training and development. You will also need to encourage innovation and feedback. With sandy soil, it will take a great deal of investment into what you have.
So what are some other ways your organization can cultivate its soil for the right environment? Bryan and Joyce offer the following recommendations:
1. Streamline and simplify vertical and line-management structures.
2. Deploy off-line teams to discover new wealth-creation opportunities while using a dynamic management process to resolve short- and long-term trade-offs.
3. Develop knowledge marketplaces, talent marketplaces, and formal networks to stimulate the creation and exchange of intangibles.
4. Rely on measurements of performance rather than supervision to get the most from self-directed professionals.
Organizational design should be about developing and implementing corporate strategy. When leaders keep this in mind, they will be better able to cultivate the soil of their organization so it is conducive for the seeds of innovation to mature and produce a harvest. Mike Bohlmann, Kelly Bridgewater, Mona Heath, and Sally Jackson wrote an article entitled “Connected and Permeable: An Organizational Design for the 21st Century Research University.” In the article they state, “The process of restructuring will provide many opportunities for shaping new attitudes and values, but these new attitudes and values will need constant bolstering within the context of day-to-day work as well as within professional development activities.”
As you work to separate the wheat from the tares in order to cultivate the right environment for your organization, you must remember why your organization exists. What was the fundamental basis for starting the organization in the beginning? When you keep your vision in mind, you are better able to pull on the talent and knowledge base housed within your organization. Then you can use the innovation that springs forth. Before you can reap the harvest, however, you have to have an environment conducive for the seeds that are being sown. Much like the rose bush, the soil has to be right. When you look at your organization, do you see an environment prime for a healthy harvest or a harvest that has been sabotaged and suffocated by the wrong seeds?
Bohlmann, M., Bridgewater, K., Heath, M. & Jackson, S. (2009). Connected and permeable: An organizational design for the 21st century research university. [PDF document]. Retrieved from: https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/CIO/www/ITatIllinois/Connected%20and%20Permeable.pdf
Bryan, L.L. & Joyce, C. (2007). “Better strategy through organizational design: Redesigning an organization to take advantage of today’s sources of wealth creation isn’t easy, but there can be no better use of a CEO’s time.” McKinsey Quarterly, 2.
Bryan, L.L. & Joyce, C. (2005). “The 21st century organization.” McKinsey Quarterly, 3. Corkindale, G. (2011). The importance of organizational design and structure. HBR Blog Network. Retrieved from: http://blogs.hbr.org/corkindale/2011/02/the_importance_of_organization.html
Dictionary.com. (2012). Cultivate. Retrieved from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cultivate Harrell Andrews, L.C. (2011). Wheat, tare, and weeds. Know the difference. Retrieved from: http://ladylashonda.hubpages.com/hub/Wheat--Tare--and-Weeds
Jenner, R.A. (1994). “Changing patterns of power, chaotic dynamics and the emergence of a post-modern organizational paradigm.” Journal of Organizational Change Management, 7(3), pp. 8-21. DOI:10.1108/0953481940063692. Nielson, D. (2009). Connections: Wheat and tares. Retrieved from: http://donna-connections.blogspot.com/2009/04/wheat-and-tares.html
Right Management. (2010). Organizational effectiveness: Discovering how to make it happen. [PDF document}. Retrieved from Leadership Insights: http://www.right.com/thought-leadership/research/organizational-effectiveness-discovering-how-to-make-it-happen.pdf
Royal Horticulture Society. (2012). Soil: Cultivation. Retrieved from: http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/profile.aspx?pid=202
Susan’s Garden Patch. (n.d.). Soil types. Retrieved from: http://www.susansgardenpatch.com/soil.htm United States Department of Agriculture. (1995). How to prune trees. [PDF document]. Retrieved from: http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/howtos/ht_prune/prun001.htm
Vanderlinden, C. (n.d.). Understanding and improving clay soil. Retrieved from: http://organicgardening.about.com/od/soil/a/improveclaysoil.htm About the author:
Latanya Hughes is a full-time faculty member at American Public University System. She received her Bachelor's degree (Hospitality Management) from Tuskegee University and Master's degree (MBA) from Strayer University. She is currently pursuing a DSL in Global Consulting from Regent University in the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
My grandmother is a gardening guru. Ever since I can remember, she has always been able to grow and cultivate any type of plant. It’s really quite amazing. I will never forget the day she was able to get a rose bush to grow in hot Florida. If you know anything about the dirt in Florida, it is not a conducive environment for rose bushes. However, here she is with a blooming rose bush in the frLatanya Hughes
Success factors in business can be divided into two major categories: those that deal with things and those that deal with people. Although many organizations spend millions of dollars on capital equipment, human capital has the highest potential of value for the organization. Teamwork and the role it plays in dealing with people within an organization is a top priority for many leaders. This thesis will explore the positive and negative effects of teams, the value of teams in various venues, and both positive and negative issues that can influence adaptation of teamwork culture.
Understanding what a team is and how it works is the first step to implementing teamwork culture into your organization. According to Modern Management website (2003),
A team is two or more employees who are organizationally empowered to establish their objectives, to make decisions about how to achieve those objectives, to undertake the tasks required to meet them, and to be individually and mutually accountable for their results. (n.p.)
Teams are organized so that appropriate talents and skills are pooled together to accomplish a specific goal. This pooling of human resources requires team members to have an array of skills that individual or routine jobs do not demand. The benefits of pooling these resources include increased productivity, improved customer service, more flexible systems, and employee empowerment. The goal is that the sum total of the team is greater than the individuals themselves.
Building a team begins at an even more basic level than just choosing team members. The team environment is best served when the persons selected for the team have some similar and some diverse characteristics. Some similar characteristics to look for when forming a team are an ability to communicate with various people, share knowledge, collaborate, generate ideas, respect other persons, productivity, flexibility, commitment, and be enthusiastic. People must be able to think on their own before they can think as a team. Also, a level of self-confidence must exist for the team members to feel safe in the team environment to express ideas that may be discarded by the team. A type of safe zone must exist within the team to avoid stifling creativity and ideas. Treatment of team members as internal customers should be the norm. The diversity is best displayed in skills, critical thinking, and a “thinking outside the box” innovative focus. Members having a variety of job titles and seniority, and white-collar and blue-collar employees can also be a diversity factor. Diversity can also involve the technical and human needs of the team.
The best business strategy requires the best people strategy. For an organization to be successful, the skills needed by the employees are the behaviors, attitudes, and knowledge needed to be successful both on the job and as an individual. These personal management skills are the building blocks for good morale, a focused worklife, and greater organizational productivity. The employees drive an organization’s success. Employee’s skills must be aligned with the organization’s goals in an increasingly competitive market. As each organization is unique, customization of the specific requirements (hard skills) is needed, but the generalities remain the same. Soft skills are important to the success of the team and organization itself. This skill set involves proper communication, team building, conflict management, good supervision, internal and external alliances, relationship building with stakeholders, working with others to generate creative ideas and solutions, participatory management, and performance evaluation.
The individual employee may need some additional education and training to perform well in the workplace. Continual technological advances cause training to be an ongoing function in business. The ability to apply more efficiently new knowledge and skills will aid the organization in meeting and exceeding its strategic goals and competitive challenges. Seminars and corporate training sessions are convenient, relatively inexpensive ways to update needed skills. The education and training are important factors for increasing organizational performance.
Opportunities for lifelong learning should be provided to all levels of employees that will promote and increase organizational performance directly. Learning should become a habitual activity rather than an occasional event. Training must be tied to the organization’s strategic business requirements and maintain the organization’s core competencies in every field at every level. Workers should be held accountable for learning new skills. Many organizations are building the accountability into performance evaluations as a method of emphasizing its importance.
Some employees will shy away from or staunchly refuse training and learning. Reasons can be varied. According to Sparks (2004), learning requires vulnerability. It involves self-disclosure and risk taking. High-quality connections produce all three of these qualities. High-quality connections also enable individuals and the collective to grow in unanticipated directions. (n.p.) Learning is more than acquiring information. It is a social activity that leads to more complex ways of thinking. Professional development leaders can increase learning by actively cultivating richer, more positive connections among people. This would have a higher yield of professional learning than the importation of experts who dispense lots of information.
Enhancing the competency of the project managers and team members gives the organization more opportunity for success. Organizations need to leverage and build on the knowledge, skills, and competencies available within the organization. Competent people must be assigned to the team. The term competent means that the team leader or member is operating at acceptable levels of performance in his or her areas of training and experience. It does not mean that each member has perfect knowledge of all areas. Competence also involves acknowledging what you do not know and having the courage to express these concerns. The key is to know when to obtain assistance and expertise.
Communication skills are imperative in today’s workforce environment. Many business leaders estimate that deficiencies of communication skills cost employers millions of dollars of lost productivity and errors. The communication skills include interpersonal, teamwork, and negotiation skills. An employee interacts with other people to perform his/her work emphasizing the need for skills such as the ability to handle stress, interact easily with others, listen to others, and cope with undesirable behavior in others. Anyone who has been in the workforce for any period of time can attest to the fact that there is almost always at least one employee that is difficult to deal with and work around. Effective teams find that when positive talk exceeds negative talk, there’s a quality of connection among team members. This leads to the accomplishment of collective work that none of the individual team members thought was possible.
According to Zolgio (2003), a cohesive work team can add value to the organization if it pays attention to the ongoing development of three important connections: to the larger work organization, to team members, and to other work teams. (n.p.) Building the right team is as important as the teamwork culture itself. The culture must support and encourage teamwork for it to be successful. According toMontebello (2004), the work itself must be conducive to teams, a culture of cooperation must be crafted, and organizational systems must be engineered to reinforce collaboration. (p. 541) The work must be such that completion by a team can result in a better end product.
Before a group of co-workers can develop into a team, it must first be a team. Teams are a reasonably stable unit with a shared responsibility for a defined piece of work. Members develop familiarity with one another and with the task, so they can get to work more quickly. They learn who is skilled or knowledgeable in different aspects of the project. According to Hackman (2002), the National Transportation Safety Board found that 73% of all mishaps occurred on the flight team’s first day of flying together, before they’ve had the chance to learn through experience how to best work together. (n.p.) Stability of the membership allows for growth of commitment to the team and to each other. Competent teams learn fairly rapidly how to work together.
Another key element to the team’s success is the team members. According to Mason (2003):
The team leader seeks to attract all the people who really know something about the issue and bring their ideas together as a way to structure discussion. At their best, these leaders make scenarios a way for people to work new ideas into the planning and decision making system with out-of-the-box ideas and inputs. (n.p.)
Teamwork culture can be defined as a network of skilled employees who support each other in the achievement of corporate goals, and the delivery of exceptional products or services. According to Teambuildinginc.com (2003):
Whether we realize it or not, a workplace is a community. A team is also a community. The town has a culture, a common language, a process of operation, rules for order, and a purpose for being, i.e., safety, security, and efficiency in living. In the same way, a workplace is a community. (n.p.)
As I have worked in Accounting for 20 years for several companies, I have experienced first-hand the workplace community. Accounting has its own common language such as P&L or 2290. Only a few outside the department know the vernacular used within each department. I have also personally noticed a culture among staff members. Culture can include similar hobbies or sports, such as golf, or similar taste in clothing or choice of restaurants. The rules for order and a purpose for being have also been identified. Accounting rules of order and purpose for being include producing monthly financials and tasks accomplished in a specific method. Personally, I would conclude that not only does the business itself become a community, but also the departments within the business are a segment of the community.
It is hard to find work places that exemplify teamwork. A teamwork environment tends to flatten the traditional pyramid-style hierarchy. This step can foster a more collaborative staff. It can also be a threat to managers that tend to place their personal value in their job title. The isolation of the hierarchy and its power is being replaced with partnering, team relationships, common goals and visions, and a large change in the organization’s dynamics. Teambuilding is a work culture that values collaboration. In a teamwork environment, people understand and believe that thinking, planning, decision-making, and actions are better done collectively. This is an exception to the way most business has been done in the past. According to Mason (2003), rank-and-file employees expect management to set the direction the organization is taking, but resent detailed task planning. If given some direction, they expect to be trusted to get it done. (n.p.) This is the very root of teambuilding. According to Chien (2004):
Performance is one of the key terms of modern organization. Performance means the transformation of inputs into outputs for achieving certain outcomes. Performance is the equivalent to the famous 3 E’s of economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. Some elements of successful organizations doing total development work include selection of cohesive teams based on sentiments of mutual liking and respect for each other’s expertise, controlled convergence to solutions that everyone understands and everyone accepts, organize vigilant information processing and encourage actively open-minded thinking, avoid the facile, premature consensus, maintain the best balance between individual and group work, and initiate generation of new concepts. (n.p.)
According to Plato (427-347 B.C.), “The excessive increase of anything often causes a reaction in the opposite direction.” Polarity between employers and employees can occur without proper presentation of the goals and rewards of supporting a teamwork culture. Opposition to the teamwork culture surfaces in a variety of ways through various stages of life.
One of the negative points to consider when teambuilding or promoting teamwork culture begins in childhood. According to Grazier (2003):
Most of us in the workforce today were taught that teamwork is associated with play, while achievement and work were associated with individual performance. Overcoming ideas gained in childhood can be a challenge. Old paradigms die hard. Another negative point is that changing the work group structure without changing the organization’s culture to support this, it will not work. (n.p.)
Individual achievement is almost an American ideal. We are taught that ideal from early childhood. Much of our educational processes are based on individual learning and achievement. In school settings, teamwork is considered cheating. After 12 years or more of this type of conditioning, buying into a teamwork setting will probably take change management and transitional thinking. In order for this change to succeed, we must first understand the dynamics of change. Three basic elements in creating successful change are both personal and organizational. The elements are: the desire to change (personal), the ability to change (personal), and the permission to change (organizational). Many organizations consider their people as expenses, rather than assets with intellectual property. This idea must be among the first to change. According to Grazier (2003), the reasons we resist change are very personal and unique, so changing the thinking of many people in an organization will probably require a variety of approaches. The three elements involve motivation (desire), ability (skills), and authorization (permission) by the organization. (n.p.) According to Bateman (1999), management must enlist the cooperation of its people to implement a change….with education, communication, participation, and involvement. (pp. 613-614) With successful change management, teambuilding can begin.
So just what is teambuilding? Teambuilding is a process of awareness building. It’s helping people become aware that they are greater collectively than individually. People become aware that our decisions and their results can be better with collaboration and an honest appreciation of each other’s interaction. The simplistic definition of teambuilding is helping people understand this. We must shift our thinking and perception of others to an honest value of other’s skills, knowledge, and abilities.
Some advantages of teamwork culture are promotion of talents, skills, and creativity of diverse people. It also utilizes skills, time, and resources for benefit of the employee and employer. According to McGraw (2004), “without creativity we are nothing.” (p. 30) A trait common to creative thinkers is their perseverance in solving a problem. Teamwork encourages collaboration, which, at its core is co-labor or working together toward a common, meaningful goal. It combines collective knowledge so that the sum total of the collaboration is greater than what could have been achieved individually. People who understand the power of collaboration seldom make a unilateral decision willingly. These people know that any decision they make will be improved in some way by the thoughts of another. According to McGraw (2004), the need to work in teams seems to be an essential part of the creative process. (p. 30) According to Chien (2004), teams, which are increasingly being used, are organized in the workplace so that appropriate talents and skills can be pooled to accomplish vital tasks and goals. (p. 289)
According to Dyer (2002), another advantage is with the increasing pressure to be “first-to-market” with a new product. First-to-market organizations with dedicated team structures were quantifiably faster while maintaining a measurably higher percentage of quality in their products. (p. 16) Competitive arenas require quick decisions by knowledgeable employees who work close to the source of problems. Teams enable knowledge-based and innovative decision making in a much shorter time period. This reduces product cycle times.
Some of the negative impact of teamwork culture remains that asking people to work together while simultaneously placing them in a competitive system often results in inaction rather than action. If it is a team in name only, it will not be successful. According to Grazier (1999), in that situation, inaction occurs rather than action. There will be little energy to move forward. (n.p.)
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About the author:
Debbie Garrison is the Controller for Lesco, Inc., a regional truck leasing firm in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She is a graduate of Bellevue University, Bellevue, Nebraska, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Management as well as an Associate’s Degree in Accounting and Business Administration from Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, making the Dean’s List at both schools. She currently resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with her husband and their two dogs.
Success factors in business can be divided into two major categories: those that deal with things and those that deal with people. Although many organizations spend millions of dollars on capital equipment, human capital has the highest potential of value for the organization. Teamwork and the role it plays in dealing with people within an organization is a top priority for many leaderDebbie Garrison Articles
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