Workplace culture is the amalgam of both visible and invisible forces. Collectively these forces create the shared lived experience of people in an interpersonal ecosystem such as the workplace.
To borrow perfect phrasing from the movie The Castle, “it's the vibe of the thing.”
Workplace culture determines the felt experience of people in a team or organisation and to a large degree, the quality and innovation of what is produced.
The number one reason that people leave their workplace (and in some cases, illustrious careers) is people. The number one reason people stay in their workplace? Also people.
Culture strongly influences our life satisfaction, happiness, wellbeing and personal and collective performance.
Culture is highly contagious. We know when it is toxic or positive almost instantly and this changes people’s behaviour, mood and problem-solving ability within seconds.
“Group culture is one of the most powerful forces on the planet”, Daniel Coyle (2018).
Predominantly teams and organisations leave their cultures to chance. After putting in due effort in the recruitment phase to get the right people, the hope is that the culture will be positive and take care of itself. However even a group of great individuals can create a collective dynamic that is less than ideal.
Amazing teams do not just happen!
Creating intentional cultures or providing the opportunity to uplift an existing culture requires a carefully planned Professional Development Strategy.
Teams that are psychologically connected (have a positive culture) withstand change, uncertainty or periods of intensity far better than those that don't.
The rapid workplace changes that resulted from the onset of the Covid pandemic are an excellent illustration of this. The team experience during this time of unexpected transition and instant change was often an amplification of the pre-existing culture.
Teams either grew closer together as they supported each other and effectively navigated the often-complex transition to working from home, or they became increasingly fragmented and strained under the pressure of uncertainty and increased isolation.
This is a powerful demonstration that it is not physical proximity, but psychological proximity, that enables teams to function well.
A multifaceted Professional Development Strategy to create an intentional culture or uplift an existing culture can be tailored to suit your individual needs.
As examples, outcomes of a Cultural Uplift Professional Development Strategy may include:
Creating a shared understanding of the elements of workplace culture and the models, frameworks and language to discuss and talk about it.
This is an essential starting point for any cultural uplift programme because without language people cannot adequately point to or name the invisible experience of culture
Creating a model for what a ‘high performing team’ (or any desired cultural state) looks like in your environment.
Despite many models being available, none consider the dynamic environmental and interpersonal factors of individual teams.
For the best model and the one most applicable for you, exploring this is an excellent consciousness-raising activity for your team and is a powerful pre-cursor to recruitment, induction and as a ‘morale lift’ for long-standing teams
Building psychological safety and psychological connectedness
Consciously creating intentional and resourceful behavioural ‘norms and the mindset (values, beliefs, thought patterns) required for your desired cultural state (for example, a high performing team)
Identifying and consciously enhancing ‘Belonging Cues’ which are required frequently and consistently
Identifying and addressing micro-aggressions which undermine a positive culture and keep unhelpful norms in place
Consciously co-authoring the desired cultural end-state- what kind of culture do you want to create and experience as a team or organisation?
Providing support for various levels of leadership teams to lead and proactively support the building and maintenance of a positive culture
Reviewing the current cultural dynamics. This may include assessments, listening posts, 360 reviews, individual or group coaching.
Socio emotional, interpersonal and emotional intelligence skill development
Well-intentioned team-mates can come together with very different ideas about ‘how to be’ in a workplace.
The experience of a quality culture is created when the members of that ecosystem are conscious and deliberate about how they do what they do. This comes from having the opportunity to collectively decide on their cultural norms and make them shared and explicit.
This potentially includes unpacking how they relate to each other, how they support each other, what they think of each other, how they talk about each other, how they represent and relate to decisions they may not personally agree with, what respect looks like and how they engage in productive robust conflict to benefit an outcome. These interpersonal skills can be learned and developed like any other skill.
Being a human (and also having a high IQ- Intellectual Quotient) does not automatically mean we have the well-developed interpersonal skills (EQ or Emotional Quotient) required to build a quality and positive culture.
As the nature of work continues to evolve and requires increasing collaboration to navigate global complexity, developing these skills is a crucial investment for any organisation or team who wants to stay contemporary and harmonious.