Podcast: Leadership Amplitude Episode 14

We continue our conversation on the meaning of organizational culture.

The Complexity of Perception

In an organizational culture made up of many different experiences, how can a leader unite their employees into a single cohesive culture? We rejoin Ramonda Kyser and Dr. Edwin Mouriño to find out more.


Anna Slaydon: Perceptions are created and influenced by each of our own personal experiences. In an organizational culture made up of many, many individuals with many different experiences, how can a leader unite their employees into a single cohesive culture? We rejoin Ramonda Kyser and Dr. Edwin Mouriño to find out more.

Ramonda Kyser: Organizations don't change. The people actually do the changing. Edwin has perceptions about our culture. I have perceptions. You have perceptions about our culture. And depending on how we're filtering it based on our own experiences, it could look very different. And our job as a leader is to kind of check around those beliefs around that perception and see if we're all in the same alignment.

Dr. Mouriño: And Ramonda brings up a good point. Because while she pointed out to the three of us, it also changes depending on a level.

Ramonda Kyser: Yes. Yeah.

Dr. Mouriño: So, obviously, the leader has a certain expectation of what the culture is like. But is that in line with what the employee's perspective is, and feeling a perception about that culture? And then thirdly, that manifests itself, too, as to how we come across to the customer, particularly the external customer. Not that they see culture. They definitely see our behaviors, and are we treating them sure professionally in a frustrated manner? And so that can all be interpreted as to they're having a bad day, or their boss just chewed them out, or something's going on in the environment that doesn't feel good for this person, as they're treating me, by a paying customer.

Anna Slaydon: I think that's so interesting because it being, in the last few years, we've really had to develop awareness of social media and how customers will react to things that happened to them in the stores, or in the work, in those environments; and then will go and just push it out into social media, especially where they feel like they need to maybe defend an employee of that organization that they feel is being treated unjustly, which I think speaks directly to culture. Would you agree?

Ramonda Kyser: Absolutely. Leaders create culture whether they mean to or not. And they create culture based on what they say, do, how they observe things. They have an influence on how culture lives in an organization. Culture happens whether you're intentional or not. And so effective leaders—great leaders—are intentional in how they're going to create and manage culture in their organization through these different perspectives.

There are six roles, Anna and Edwin that intentional and purposeful leaders use when they're really trying to create a culture that is engaging for an organization. The first one, which is probably the most important, is to define it. You have to look at your current state. What is the current state of your organization? Where do you want to go as an organization with your culture?

Link that to your vision and your mission and your value statements. Connect it strategically, making sure that your beliefs are aligned with it, making sure that your behaviors are in a line with it. So then you can get those results. And then you need to get input at all levels. I really think a lot of times organizations inadvertently only discuss things at a management team level. And they make decisions that sound really good around the boardroom table, but they don't get the input and the value of the people who are actually going to be doing the job, or implementing that behavior. And so they miss the mark.

So once you define it, then you need to assess it. And you need to understand how the culture really is truly living in your organization. So you take this definition that's on paper and assess how it's really being executed in real life. Involve others. Distinguish behaviors from the actual behaviors that you see.

So if we say on paper we want people to, I don't know, be engaged and give each other direct feedback, but if when we're assessing it's not happening, then we need to figure out what's the holdup, what's the obstacle? You gotta check out those subcultures. We talked about that in the first podcast. What are those subcultures that are getting in the way of really living a viable organizational culture? Because remember, it's the personality of the organization.

The third step would be to live it. You gotta live it. You gotta walk it. You gotta breathe it. So be aware of your role as a leader and how you impact the culture. Are you doing those behaviors that are going to support that culture? And are you getting feedback from others that you're doing those behaviors? And when you get that feedback, are you making input and changes to self-correct?

The next step, a fourth step, is teaching it. So now I need to make sure that I'm aligning the organization to where I want the future to go, involving others, understanding how our culture, our organization's culture, is really living. Distinguishing underlying beliefs and assumptions that might be getting in the way of us actually taking this to the masses. Because we want to make sure that we're making sure that our daily choices and actions are in support of the larger culture.

Lastly, monitor it. You need to check on it. You need to check on it. You need to evaluate it. You need to involve others and get their input. You need to explore any influences that might be positive that drive and support it so that you can do more of it. But also, the opportunities, the things that might be negative, that are getting in the way of actually driving it.

And then share those results with everyone. I think a lot of times organizations might do some of this, but they keep it at the management level, or that next level down, and then people don't hear about it. Then they stop doing it. Then the culture doesn't cultivate.

Dr. Mouriño: And that's a real important point that Ramonda brings up, because most leaders get up in the morning, I really believe in my heart, just trying to get up and do the best job they can.

Ramonda Kyser: Absolutely.

Dr. Mouriño: But yet, still out there today, seven out of ten leaders believe they're doing a great job at engaging their people. Yet eight, almost nine out of ten employees say, "No. You're not." So there's a disconnect out there.

Ramonda Kyser: And it's not always the employees' fault why they're not engaged.

Dr. Mouriño: Exactly. Exactly.

Ramonda Kyser: I think a lot of times when employees share or vent their concerns in the culture, when they don't feel heard, they just shut down.

Anna Slaydon: Hmm.

Ramonda Kyser: And then they're labeled as the troublemaker, or labeled as not fully invested, not a good team player, when that's really not the case. They see things that the organization might, that could, the organization could be doing very differently to improve, and for whatever reason it's not being heard.

Anna Slaydon:  So it sounds like one type of unhealthy culture would be one that discourages healthy dialog, and constructive feedback, and thus would stifle innovation.

Ramonda Kyser: I would even say worse than that is you encourage it. I give you the feedback, and then you don't do anything with it.

Anna Slaydon: That's heartbreaking.

Ramonda Kyser: Yes. [Laughter]

Anna Slaydon: That would break my heart.

Dr. Mouriño: Which is probably why 35 percent of employees today would forego a pay raise to see their boss fired.

Anna Slaydon: Wow.

Ramonda Kyser: Whoa.

Dr. Mouriño: One out of three. So as much money as we've invested in employee engagement across organizations, still you have 35 percent across this country that would do that. That, to me, says volumes.

Anna Slaydon: I'm just—that blows my mind. Just thinking back when we met with Steve Swavely and talked a lot about engagement. And he was talking about the impact of disengaged associates. That really blew my mind to think about the number—I think he said like 50 percent of employees are just doing the minimum that's required of them. And then to hear this statistic of one in three associates would like to see their boss fired and would rather give up a raise than have to work for that person still.

Ramonda Kyser: Yeah. It was from the Gallup study.

Anna Slaydon: Holy smokes.

Ramonda Kyser: Yes. And so it's, I think, 55 percent are what we call the engaged. They're doing their job. They are your worker bees. But they're not doing anything more or anything less.

Anna Slaydon: Well, let me ask this question because I've seen a lot on this area where they say employees don't leave—what is it? Employees don't leave bad jobs. They leave bad managers.

Ramonda Kyser: Bad managers.

Dr. Mouriño: Right.

Anna Slaydon: And so that's pretty much saying the same thing.

Ramonda Kyser: Yes.

Dr. Mouriño: Yes.

Anna Slaydon: Because if their manager does not get terminated, then they just opt for plan B, which is to leave themselves.

Dr. Mouriño: And the irony of it is, is that for companies being so focused on the bottom line, it's costing companies $7 trillion today with disengaged workforce.

Anna Slaydon: Wow.

Dr. Mouriño: So, we're spending all this money to supposedly engage our employees, but the money's coming out the back end because something is really not in sync. So there's a great opportunity there to really turn that around.

Anna Slaydon: And if you have a bad—I don't want to say "bad," because that's such a vague—

Ramonda Kyser: Ineffective manager.

Dr. Mouriño: Yeah.

Anna Slaydon: If you have an ineffective manager, and you have an unhealthy culture, than that's going to impact engagement. That employee is not going to be doing the discretional effort that we've talked about in previous episodes. But I'm also hearing from you that leaders, or managers, are dramatically impacting culture, as well, and can also create subcultures that are unhealthy within a healthy culture.

Ramonda Kyser: And employees can do the same.

Anna Slaydon: Okay.

Ramonda Kyser: So it's just everybody affects the culture. Leaders, though, can have a positive influence when they're intentional, or they can have a negative influence when, like Edwin said earlier, when they're just going about their day with their negative emotions and they don't realize the impact.

Anna Slaydon: Hmm. Little pocket cultures.

Ramonda Kyser: Little pocket cultures. Number six is you gotta shape it. My role as a leader is to help shape the culture with purpose and intention and involve others, and make sure that we have a change process that is allowing us to measure where we're going. We can validate it. We can make tweaks when necessary.

But through all of these—and sometimes you're going to have to find yourself doing, maybe the first three and you're humming along well, but then you might need to go back to a couple of them and start over. You just don't move through these six roles and check them off the box.

Anna Slaydon: Tell me about the beliefs behaviors results model.

Ramonda Kyser: Yes. One of our core models is called the beliefs behaviors results. And basically what this says is a good leader pays attention to the results. What is the bottom line telling me? Is it my revenue? Is it the dividends that we pay to shareholders? Those are our results because that's how we're measured. A great leader really pays attention to the beliefs and the behaviors that are supporting those results. Because if I want sustainable change, I really need to pay attention to those beliefs that are driving the behaviors.

Anna Slaydon: Tell me about how that interacts with perceptions and organizational culture. Where does that all interplay?

Ramonda Kyser: It's all kind of mixed in there together. Our premise is that your beliefs, how you think about something, is going to drive what you do. And those are your behaviors, and those behaviors are going to get you a certain set of results. If my beliefs are in support of the culture, I may casually do these behaviors that you want me to do, but it's not going to be long-lasting. It would behoove a leader to really dig into what the beliefs are of their employees of their organizations to make sure that those behaviors are in alignment so that they get the organizational culture that they're really striving for.

Anna Slaydon: If you're a long-time listener of this podcast, I'm confident that you have heard us talking a lot about how beliefs drive behaviors, which drive results. Now, truly understanding this is a huge step in your leadership development journey. Understanding that concept takes you beyond just what to do as a leader, and helps you to understand how to be as a leader. 

If you're ready to take that big step, then may I recommend our Mastering Leadership Dynamics program. During this program, you will have the opportunity to raise your self-awareness, develop conscious leadership practices, and improve skills that are critical to your performance and the performance of your organization. You can register online at BBTLeadershipInstitute.com.

For more information, or for today's show notes, visit us on the web at BBTLeadershipInstitute.com. Leadership Amplitude is a podcast production of The BB&T Leadership Institute, all rights reserved.

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