Creating an Engaged Culture is a ‘slow burn’ and the result of a lot of different things.
Cultural change is complex and does not follow a linear path. Ultimately the stakeholders vote with their feet. David Snowden provides evidence that ultimately stakeholders will decide, despite our actions as leaders.[https://medium.com/@brixen/dave-snowden-how-leaders-change-culture-though-small-actions-766cd2bf5128]
1) Culture is complex and adaptive
Have You ever felt that the ROI from your efforts was not delivering the desired impact?
During a coaching conversation, Emily, a senior leader, pondered: ‘We’ve got many things going in our Employee Engagement space. But our vibe still feels silo, and competitive’.
2) A way forward – Deeply listen to the voices
We as leaders appreciate the benefits of understanding the unvoiced sentiments of our employees. Do we do that? Candid group-based ‘brown bag’ lunches are useful for getting insights on what is really happening. That is, IF those lunches are well facilitated with honoured Ways of Working. Additionally, when employees feel psychologically safe to express themselves, they and the leader-facilitator co-create a powerful and incandescent vibe. And this vibe is sustained beyond lunches. Two common suggestions I hear from employees are ‘more social get-togethers with free food’ AND ‘to be truly listened to’.
3) As Leaders we are ambassadors for culture
Emily and I continued our coaching conversation.
‘It is a leader’s accountability to be an ambassador for a thriving workplace’.
Emily replied: ‘So, are you suggesting that I have to add being a cultural ambassador to my to-do list!’
4) It’s not always about You doing the doing. And as a leader, it’s more about HOW you show up.
Then Emily reflected on the meaning behind the two common suggestions (above): it’s not always You who needs to do the doing!; and it’s more about how you show up.
Leaders get ROI through ‘how we show up’: deeply listening to connect, using little air-time. A voice that asks simple powerful questions like: ‘how can we as leaders make it easy for you to be your best every day?’ and ‘what is your ‘take’, on that situation?’. These are questions that get to how people feel, and feelings really drive actions. Conversational rituals build thriving and co-creative work places. These are the tools of Conversational Intelligence® from Judith E. Glaser, and they do work [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vos2HyWn0XI&feature=youtu.be and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPrwizcRunA].
Emily then said, ‘Gotcha. If I ‘show up’ as a deep listener and ask powerful questions, then I’ll help to build a thriving and engaged culture’ ‘Yes’, I replied, ‘if from a genuine heart’.
5) Ensure we get ROI from our efforts
- Get to understand our stakeholders’ unvoiced sentiments through safe ’group-based’ brown bag lunches. Encourage and deeply listen to their stories.
- Establish conversational rituals such as powerful questions that you regularly ask others
- Close the loop between our intentions, actions and actual impact as leaders: go back to our original implementation plan, and make the adjustments after understanding employees’ sentiments. There will be some!
To understand our people is the real ROI that we will continually refer back to inform our strategy. There is no need to add this to our list of to-do’s: employees’ voices have become part of our DNA. We become ‘people’s choice’ because we understand and feel their voices and take synergistic action.