I’m working with clients who are interested in building certain cultures in their organization. “We need more accountability” or “we need more innovation”. Almost immediately, this becomes performance talk: i.e. if we hire people with these attitudes (and get rid of those who don’t have them) we will naturally build them in the workplace. Not so fast! It’s tempting to simplify the complexity of human dynamics this way. But anyone who’s joined an existing team finds out pretty quickly what works – and what doesn’t. Cultural norms run deep and it’s more common for new members to pick up existing behaviours than to risk rejection as an outlier.
As a coach, I focus on helping individuals and teams make the changes they want to see. I’m biased toward action and performance. Still, important work concepts like accountability and innovation (and trust and loyalty) are outcomes of behaviours. They are based on the work experience – not just what happens today but what happened in the past and what I predict for the future. So, my current leader may think I don’t take enough accountability, but my previous leader (same company) re-did everything I submitted till I gave up. My team may need to be more innovative, but my last great idea was laughed at in a meeting. And on it goes.
Unpack Daily Experiences
How do you grow a healthier, more productive, culture then? It requires a reflective capacity and continuous learning. A fancy way of saying you need to be able to observe, unpack and learn from your experience so you can make a new choice. Here’s how:
- Create a process or forum to honestly discuss the past, the present and the future of your experiences.
- Envision what behaviours (do’s and don’ts both) would be most likely to create the intended outcome.
- Co-create new practices (behaviours) that everyone can agree to.
Support the change by being optimistic and confident about our human capacity to grow and develop. In Full Span coaching we call these steps: current way of functioning, new way of functioning, setting development goals and implementing new habits. The most important thing? Loop back to step one and keep talking. Workplaces are human systems that are never static. We develop when we learn from our experience.