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Why leaders are responsible for the culture

Gantry is fed up with his team. They complain and make constant demands. He wants people to get their work done and to support each other when needed – so they all work together for the same overall purpose. He wants the business to thrive and for everyone to feel proud to be a part of the overall business success.

But he is disappointed by their lack of teamplay and confused by their demands.

The team members, on the other hand, feel they are working hard and at times they feel taken advantage of. The rules of engagement aren’t exactly clear. They wonder:

  • What does it take to be successful here; how do I progress?
  • What can we have or not have (in terms of time and resources)?
  • What are the expectations and how do I know if I’m doing a good job?  It seems that we never do enough.
  • What are we working towards here?

What they really want is some recognition for their resilience through the pandemic and to be heard and seen. Breakdowns are starting to happen between people and they are becoming more and more stressed.

The social brain in action

Our brain -the driver of our emotions and behaviour- is socially oriented. We are always tracking other people and responding to their behaviour. We have pre-programmed needs, some of which might seem paradoxical at times: we need belonging but also want independence, we want certainty of purpose and direction but also room for autonomy.

We don’t consciously choose these needs; they are a part of how we are designed. We also have a built-in expectation that our needs should be met by the systems in which we live and work. In other words, by default, we expect our workplace to be an environment where our innate needs will be met, and we naturally hold the leaders responsible: we want to be led.

Leaders provide the structure we work in

If there is too much certainty and direction, it feels like micro-management, and we push back. But without any structure and too much independence, we may feel unstable, and we might generate results outside of the goals of the business. If there is no sense of belonging, we may feel isolated and alone might not apply ourselves as much as we could. And so on.

It is all too easy to end up with a culture where people are frustrated and demanding.

When a culture isn’t working, leaders need to adapt

Culture is perpetuated by what we accept or tolerate; if unwanted behaviour is not addressed, it will continue. But many of those behaviours are reactions to people’s unmet needs. We could learn a lot by getting curious about what is missing rather than trying to stifle behaviours.

Understand the brain’s innate needs

If leaders understand how our brains drive us and what our basic needs are (belonging, certainty, autonomy, fairness, etc), they can provide an environment where people will feel safe and will be able to work effectively.

When leaders go a step further and invest more time in understanding individuals’ preferences and then co-create an environment with them, it is more likely that people will thrive and the business will thrive.

Here are some tips to help you create and maintain a thriving culture:

  • Create and live the values of the organisation; identify behaviours that bring these values to life.
  • Give timely feedback about behaviours that are in line and behaviours that are not in line with company values.
  • Be clear about policies and procedures.
  • Be clear about where people have autonomy.
  • Appreciate people and their contributions.
  • Listen to people and really hear them.
  • Set boundaries and express them clearly, giving explanations for them if possible.
  • Examine your own behaviours – consider what you role model for others.

Rewired to Lead provides leaders with a breadth of understanding of human nature, how to work with it, how to create a culture where people feel safe and included and how to drive results while maintaining positivity and well-being.

Let us know if you would like to hear more about this comprehensive leadership development programme.

Rewired to Lead

The programme takes leaders on a journey of personal development, where they will learn to fully utilise their best human capabilities as they step into fully committed leadership.

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