Is your workplace culture optimised for success?

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Walter Bellin, who runs Corporate Crossroads consulting and training firm, says self-awareness is the first step in creating workplace culture, and ultimately, long term business success:

Since the early 1990s, researchers have gathered a huge amount of statistical evidence that an organisation’s culture is the single most important factor in generating long term success. For this reason, culture building is a critically important leadership responsibility. Through communicating and utilising an organisation’s vision and values, there are a number of specific culture-building leadership activities managers or executives can undertake. However, to undertake these activities successfully they must begin by working on themselves.

For example, it is important that the organisation’s leaders devote time – through training, being coached, using psychological instruments and self-reflection – to learn to be highly self-aware. This should include awareness of their strengths as well as their current limitations or “Achilles’ Heel” – that is, habits or patterns of communication or behaviour that work against the quality of workplace relationships and culture they wish to create.

It is this kind of self-awareness that enables leaders to manage themselves well – the first essential step in being able to lead others effectively. This ability empowers leaders to communicate and interact with people in ways that foster mutual trust and respect and good workplace relationships throughout the organisation. It enables them to contribute to creating a workplace without fear – and one which encourages employee engagement, commitment and innovation; it assists them in creating effective communication and teamwork within teams and between different teams; and such leaders will be more effective at coaching, mentoring and developing the people they lead!

Along with self-awareness and good self-management, there are two other essential ingredients that enable leaders to undertake these types of culture-building activities successfully.  The first is a great deal of face-to-face communication when attempting to influence people. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, psychologist Albert Merabian conducted a meticulously designed study of the factors that impact and influence people when someone communicates general messages about things such as vision and values. He found that only 7% of the impact was due to the actual words chosen – hence the ineffectiveness of written documents for this purpose. His study showed that 38% of the impact of the communication came from voice qualities (volume, pitch, resonance, rhythm, tempo) and 55% from body language (especially facial expressions). Thus, 93% of a leader’s ability to influence people requires much face-to-face communication.

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