Culture vultures

Building a truly magnificent culture makes an organisation a great place to work, says Suresh Raina.

Building a truly magnificent culture makes an organisation a great place to work, says Suresh Raina.

Leaders strive to build great culture in their organisations. Once they get that right, most things happen. A high performance culture taps into the passion of employees, irrespective of their gender, seniority, skills and demographics. It is also independent of perks, as has been popularised by many of the new age companies that boast of gourmet cafeterias and spa treatments for the employees.

Stage one: Lone worriers

The predominant culture that you come across in organisations mostly centres around the individual”. Here you have people, who are successful, best and the brightest, and who are addicted to winning. They are also a frustrated lot. They feel they work harder than the most and feel let down because they feel others do not support them. They believe that they have to compensate for the mediocrity of others, who are pulling them down. As an individual you are fighting your cause and the interest of the organisation as a whole is not the priority.

This behaviour is reinforced right from the childhood, where the child is recognised for the small wins such as test scores and class rank. It is all about receiving the praise for being better than others. The culture that you get to see is “I am great and you are not”. You constantly want to win and to outthink the competitor, internal or external. You get to see classic manifestations in sportsmen, doctors, lawyers, academicians, sales people who are experts in their fields and over achievers in organisations. They keep pushing themselves to stay in the front. These are Lone warriors who are winners.

This lot is hungry for tips and techniques for an even better success. They are constantly running on their outlook calendar and intensely focus on time management, productivity, and results. They exhibit an addiction to self help books.

Stage two: “We are great”

The next stage that organisations need to move to is where the thinking changes from “I am great” to “We are great”. In this stage members are excited to be with one another. People make eye contact, everyone is inspired and glad to be a member of the tribe. Leader feels energised by the group and leadership becomes effortless. People take pride in the team and the organisation. Many a times a competing organisation becomes a foe that is targeted, and the comparison becomes “We are great and they are not”. Bigger the foe, more powerful is the organisational culture and stronger the tribe.

Stage three: Cult leaders

Organisations that have tribal cultures, flourish, with their leaders having a cult following. They not only attract the best talent but also is able to retain them. Tribes and leaders create each other. A leader recognises his/her company as a tribe, and for some intrinsic reason, knows exactly what to do to drive the team for optimal results. Majority of the organisations have the “stage three” culture as described by authors Dave Logan and Halee Fischer Wright in their book, “Tribal Leadership”. it is the responsibility of the leader to help the organisation to move to the next one.

Stage four: Companies

These companies see a steep rise in employee engagement. It is now a learning organisation where aspirations get unlocked and employees become alive and have fun. They make history by launching new products and services. Examples: Google and Apple with visionary leadership.


Breaking out of stage 3 into Stage 4 culture

Here are a few tips:

  • The new age businesses are more knowledge centric. Hence, encouraged people to work on projects that require partnership.
  • What has helped in the past may not help you in future. Success may not come from personal efforts alone. Be a team player, as getting more done needs people to join hands.
  • Ability to ask for help and to offer help is a key factor
  • Real power comes from network and not from knowledge alone. Domain expertise and hoarding of information is not power anymore. Increasing transparency is the way forward.
  • Shift personal relationships from “Dyads” to “Triads” to promote work culture. Dyads prevent innovation and breakout thinking, as they allow people to work in silos.

    Find a mentor to help you move beyond the Stage 3 culture.

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