When it comes to creating a thriving organizational culture a key bellwether is the tone that company leaders set. Leaders, take heed: your actions are contagious, whether that tone is positive or negative. “For better or worse”, leaders’ behaviors shape organizational culture, says psychologist and best-selling author Dr. Kathy Cramer. And, depending on how they view the term “leadership”, many people don’t even realize that they are leaders. We tend to view leaders as those with a managerial title. Yet, you are also a leader if you are:
- A project team leader
- Informally leading an initiative in your organization
- Spearheading a community event
- Floating around in the “matrix” organization, influencing without a title
No matter what your role in your company, you can lead. And when you do step up, you amplify your impact on the company’s culture. According to Kathy Cramer, it’s a shame more people don’t see this as an opportunity to shape their organizational culture. When I sat down to interview Kathy for a Huffington Post article, she told me that so much emphasis is put on business mechanics, the important role of quality leadership gets lost.
I want leaders to know how important they are. Often they leave themselves out of the equation; they think it is something other than themselves that [leads to business success.] They think it is the strategy or a process improvement technique. But in truth, leaders are the most powerful part of the shaping organizational culture. They are the multipliers; they have a very strong influence on the “people equation” element of their business.
Kathy goes on the say: this shaping must be intentional, especially if it’s to stay on the positive side of the ledger. According to the concept of “Asset-Based Thinking” put forth in her book Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do, people have an ingrained tendency to look for what’s wrong with a situation (harkening back to the days when humans needed to be on constant alert for danger.) So when it comes to creating an organizational culture that rewards looking for what is right and possible in a situation, leaders must be the first ones to give “feedback about what’s working and what an employee’s positive effort has been.” Otherwise, employees will revert back to what nature teaches and play it safe and small.
So, how will you work to shape your organizational culture? Leadership title or not, you can help your company move towards a more positive, asset-based way of thinking. Start by examining a situation that seems to be a challenge. Ask yourself, “what about this situation is working?” Even if there is little recommend about your challenge, this slight shift in thinking may help you see an as-yet identified opportunity. As Kathy told me, “even if it’s just a glimmer” of something positive, if you think you can work with it, to build upon it, then latch on to that positive element, as it will move you in the right direction.
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