6 Key Elements of a Healthy Culture

culture question

Like Where You Work

The authors of The Culture Question: How to Create a Workplace Where People Like to Work believe that everyone should be able to like where they work. This is a compelling vision, and after reading the book I reached out to two of the four authors, ACHIEVE CEO, Randy Grieser, and ACHIEVE Managing Director, Eric Stutzman, to learn more about their thoughts.

 

Culture is the relational environment in which we work, and it’s how we work together.

 

Culture: How People Behave and Interact

What is your definition of culture?

Workplace culture is really about how people behave and interact. This includes how decisions are made, how disagreements are voiced, how conflict is resolved, and how people connect when they pass in the hall. Culture is the relational environment in which we work, and it’s how we work together. The simplest way we’ve come to describe culture is, “It’s the way things work around here.”

While culture is not physical, you can feel and see it in the language we use, our rituals, and the stories we tell. Even simple things like whether people feel comfortable displaying personal items on their desk or walls can tell you a lot about an organization’s culture.

We describe culture as being on a spectrum between healthy and unhealthy. Healthy cultures are full of energy and productivity, whereas unhealthy cultures produce unmotivated employees. Most organizations are not completely healthy or entirely unhealthy, but rather lie somewhere in the middle. Or there are parts of the culture that are good, and parts that are bad.

 

One of the hallmarks of a healthy culture is that leaders communicate change well.

 

Why is workplace culture important?

The goal of most workplaces is to get things done. When we have a healthy workplace culture, it sets the stage for doing good work. In our opinion, culture is the most significant factor that influences work relationships, employee happiness, and productivity. We agree with the phrase attributed to Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” You can have the most incredible strategy imaginable, but if you don’t have a healthy culture in which to execute your strategy, it’s just words on a page.

In our opinion, nothing impacts employee engagement more than workplace culture – and almost every leader and human resource manager we know would like to see engagement increase. The secret to improving employee engagement is culture.

 

A healthy culture is much like a car that requires regular, ongoing maintenance so it can continue to serve its purpose.

 

What does it look like when leaders truly prioritize culture?

As leaders, we are all stretched in multiple directions. As such, it is tempting to focus on all our other operational demands at the expense of culture – culture becomes something we will eventually get to once other priorities are dealt with.

Healthy cultures require intention and effort. When leaders prioritize culture, it becomes part of the daily and weekly conversations they have with others – culture may even become the agenda item for a meeting. The good news is that when operational challenges emerge in organizations with healthy cultures, everyone is more willing and able to rise to the occasion.

 

Don’t miss:  Turn Your Mistakes Into Gold. Skip’s appearance on Inspire Nation in video or audio.

 

Common Leadership Mistakes 

Tap Into The Creative Power of Constructive Conflict

creativity

Disrupt to Innovate

Teamwork. Harmony. Getting along.

If these words come to your mind when you think about brainstorming and innovation, you’ll want to pay close attention.

Because it’s about not getting along, about disruption, about disagreement, and about contrasting perspectives. That’s what makes innovation happen.

In The Innovation Code: The Creative Power of Constructive Conflict, Jeff DeGraff and Staney DeGraff introduce a framework to explain how different kinds of leaders can create constructive conflict in an organization. Staney DeGraff is the CEO of Innovatrium Institute for Innovation. And Jeff DeGraff is known as the Dean of Innovation, a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and a friend of mine for many years. I recently spoke to Jeff about his latest book.

 

“Disharmony is crucial to innovation.” –Jeff DeGraff

 

Many people think that conflict and in-fighting must be solved before you can innovate, but you teach that it’s a healthy part of the process. Why is discord a good thing?innovation code book cover

Innovation is simply a form of useful novelty. It’s the opposite of standardization. Positive tension is required to generate the energy required to create unique ideas. Apathy is the death of innovation, not conflict. So, to make innovation happen, you need to have divergent worldviews – points of departure. This creates new connections and forces ideas to morph into ever more potent forms. Take a good look at the most creative civilizations throughout history, and you will find they sit at the crossroads where a variety of people, and their ideas, meet both geographically and culturally: Athens, Hangzhou, Vienna, or New York. The same is true for teams and partners: Anthony and Stanton, Lennon and McCartney, or Shaq and Kobe. Every strength brings a weakness, and we need the “other” to push us forward and to overcome our own shortcomings. The key is to keep these conflicts constructive and focused on ideas, not personalities.

 

“Innovation is about constructive conflict-positive tension.” –Jeff DeGraff

 

4 Approaches to Innovation

How to Engage in Conflict Without Casualties

Lead With Compassionate Accountability

 

Do you avoid conflict at all costs?

Did you know the biggest change agents in history from Mother Theresa to Martin Luther King, Jr. were masters at practicing compassion while still engaging in conflict?

 

Many people avoid conflict. I’m not one of them. I’ve never been uncomfortable talking about issues directly. In fact, I am most uncomfortable when an issue is hidden and unresolved. That makes my already difficult sleep nearly impossible. I’d rather say what needs to be said, and try to move forward.

But I have long noted how most organizations, and most people, avoid conflict at almost all costs. And how to deal with conflict is something that I’m very interested in mastering.

That’s why I couldn’t wait to read clinical psychologist Dr. Nate Regier’s new book Conflict without Casualties: A Field Guide for Leading with Compassionate Accountability. He explains why we avoid conflict, the common pitfalls we fall into, and how to engage in constructive dialogue. I found myself immediately applying his lessons the very next day after reading the book. I’m sure you will find our conversation interesting, and the book immensely helpful.

 

“The purpose of conflict is to create.” -Michael Meade

 

Know the Model: Persecutor, Victim, Rescuer

To those not familiar with the internal drama triangle, would you briefly share the model?

The Drama Triangle was developed by Dr. Stephen Karpman, a psychiatrist who spent a lot of time working with dysfunctional relationships. He was also an avid basketball fan. In fact, he was the first person to identify the triangle offense.

In drama, people play one or more of three predictable roles: Persecutor, Victim, or Rescuer. The Persecutor adopts the attitude that, “I’m OK, you are not OK,” therefore it’s OK to attack, blame, or intimidate to get what I want. The Victim adopts the attitude, “I’m not OK, you are OK” so therefore it’s OK for others to mistreat me. Victims give in and become passive in order to avoid conflict. Rescuers adopt the attitude, “I’m OK, you would be OK if you accepted and appreciated my help.” Rescuers make a living solving everyone else’s problems except their own. They practice what we call non-consensual helping, creating dependence to boost their own ego.

 

“We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” -Anais Nin

 

Do most people recognize where they usually operate? 

Surprisingly, no. Many people play these roles habitually, influenced by past experience, upbringing, certain relationships and personality structure. We define drama as what happens when people misuse the energy of conflict, with or without awareness, to feel justified about their negative behavior. Since justification is the modus operandi in drama, avoiding self-awareness is key. Plus, there are some powerful myths about conflict that derail people from using that energy productively. The good news is that people can learn to recognize their drama roles and chose different behaviors, more healthy ways to deal with conflict.

 

“Everybody has a plan until they get hit.” -Mike Tyson

 

You point out that there are strengths behind each of these and that they aren’t all negative. Would you share one and explain?

Yes. For example, behind the rescuer is the healthy counterpart – Resourceful. While Rescuing gives people fish, Resourcefulness teaches people how to fish. Both are problem-solvers, but Resourcefulness goes about it with the intent of struggling with others toward mutual benefit, helping raise the overall confidence and competence of the other person in a spirit of dignity.

 

“If you don’t know where you are going, you are bound to end up where you are headed.” -Chinese Proverb

 

Develop Compassionate Accountability

What To Do When Your Team Gets Stuck

Why Teams Get Stuck

Jeff DeGraff is known as the Dean of Innovation. He’s a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and he has worked with some of the biggest global corporations ranging from Apple to GE to Coca-Cola.

I have personally called Jeff to help brainstorm issues and help jumpstart creativity. One of the many things I learned from Jeff was that innovation does not happen in the solitude of a eureka moment. It happens more often in teams.

So, what happens when a team gets stuck? I asked the Dean of Innovation to share his thoughts on why teams get stuck and what to do about it.

 

“Innovation is created as a result of constructive conflict.” -Jeff DeGraff

 

3 Common Reasons Teams Get Stuck

Organizations and teams alike get stuck for a wide variety of reasons, but there are three that are most common: 1). They have chosen the wrong people to lead the way 2). They spend too long in the planning cycle, and 3). They miss the key handoffs and get out of sequence.

Let’s take a look at how to resolve these issues:

 

1.They have chosen the wrong people to lead the way. 

Innovation project teams are like baseball teams. You need lots of different players to play different positions at different times. Start by tinkering with your lineup. Move folks around. Trade for better players and don’t be afraid to cut some players. Innovation teams are often led by command and control project leaders who have spent their careers eliminating variation; not creating it. Make the tough decision to move them along. Watch the movie Moneyball a few times, and you will get the point.