Culture can maximise reward


In times of change there will be ongoing times of uncomfortableness, with tough decisions needing to be made quickly. These times may be seen as a threat to individuals, teams and organisations yet there will also be opportunities. In these times of uncertainty, more than ever, it is a leader’s responsibility to show, that no matter what is happening, the culture people know and rely on will get them through. Even better, it may be the right culture will embrace opportunity and take your organisation to a new and stronger place. 

Defining Culture:

For the purpose of this article the word culture encompasses the shared ‘why, how and what we do in your organisation’ to meet the needs of your people, the organisation and key stakeholders. The term encompasses an organisation’s collective culture, shared values and resulting employee engagement. 

Employee engagement is the extent to which employees have positive, proactive views of their work, how much employees feel engaged on a day-to-day basis and the willingness to go “above-and-beyond” typical performance.

Culture Matters:

Culture can make or break an organisation in times of crisis noting the human brain perceives degrees of threat versus reward in any given situation. Because the majority of the brain’s resources are focused on protection, it is easier for the brain to go into a threat state. However research suggest that when people are experiencing positive emotions, they value opportunity, their collaboration and problem solving abilities are heightened, they are more innovative and creative, and generally perform better overall. 

Remember your organisation is made up of unique individual human beings. Each person has the need to feel that it is safe to contribute and risk-take in a team/the organisation anytime, but especially during times of change. A shared positive culture can facilitate positivity and reward while ensuring the psychological safety of your people. 

If you are an organisation without a shared understanding your workplace’s culture, start quickly and collaboratively recreating a future focused agile workplace culture for these new times.  Simon Sinek has a simple model that could assist you to do this. .

The following table is designed to assist you as a leader to maximise the opportunities presented in times of change through your behaviour. The way you act as a role model and how you facilitate a strong evolving culture will ensure people are your organisation’s greatest asset.

The six core leadership behaviours are supported with quick tips and supporting questions to prompt you. Note there are links to other supporting resources also.

Leadership Behaviours Quick tips Questions
Communicate often & openly
  • Deliberate visible leadership
  • Acknowledge it is challenging times
  • Acknowledge your own fallibility
  • Establish & expect regular straight up 2- way dialogue
  • Be clear on what the business needs as situations evolve
  • How can I ensure we prioritise the safety of employees & all stakeholders?
  • How do I message that ‘yes this is hard’ but their energy and efforts are valued?
  • Who do people want to hear from, why, when, what & how?
  • How much vulnerability should I share?
  • What does our organisation need now/next?
Provide clarity of purpose, vision, values and strategy
  • Prior to this event what was our shared purpose, visions, values and strategy?
  • Should we reset these?
  • Why, what & how might we need to do things differently to ensure we survive and also thrive? 
Involve people
  • Show confidence in the team
  • Model curiosity & ask lots of questions 
  • Promote skill & competency development to enable individuals and the organisation to make change
  • Encourage innovation
  • What do I want employees to look back and remember from this time?
  • What insights can our people provide?
  • What skills do we need now/next?
  • Who are key innovators?
The Ripple Effect
  • What mood am I projecting?
  • Is my mood aligned to our future focus?
  • What mindset/ attitudes do people have, does this need shifting?
  • How can we/you express appreciation and gratitude 
  • What can we do to keep our values and behaviours top of mind
Demonstrate empathy & trust
  • What words and behaviours can I use to demonstrate ongoing  empathy & trust?
  • How are your people tracking?
  • How are their families coping?
  • What support are you providing for staff and their families?
  • Do people know where to access support when needed?
Shared leadership
  • How can we address this situation as a learning challenge/opportunity? 
  • What leadership behaviours, language & expectations set up for success in this changing context? 
  • How do we support people to change and adapt?
  • How can we empower people, giving them a stronger sense of leadership to innovate and  collaborate?
  • How can we best capture ideas from our people?

Created Tracey Snape@Fulton Hogan.  027 481 4345