Many of the organisations that we have worked with, engage us for a number of reasons. These can be categorised into three main themes.

They either;

  1. Need help fixing a cultural issue before it turns toxic, OR;
  2. Need HR/People and Culture support in recruitment and workforce planning, OR;
  3. Need Coaching and Mentoring for Personal Development.

The 2nd and 3rd are usually straightforward, but the 1st has highlighted a number of issues that almost always point back to strategy – or lack thereof.

When dealing with organisational cultural issues, the first step in our approach, are one-to-one confidential interviews. During this discovery/diagnostic phase, the themes that are highlighted are often the same. These being;

  1. Purpose and Direction – is unclear
  2. Communication – from leaders is poor
  3. Alignment – people are disengaged
  4. Accountability – is non existent
  5. People Development – is lacking or non-existent

People use the following language when they tell their story;

  • I don’t feel valued.
  • I don’t understand our purpose or we have lost sight of what we were supposed to be doing.
  • As we have gotten bigger, I’m doing so many things and I don’t know where my role starts and ends.
  • We have too much work and there are not enough people to do the work.
  • I/We get minimal or no recognition of achievements (formal or informal)
  • Our processes and systems have not been updated or do not exist
  • We lack direction and I do not know what our main priorities are.
  • The priorities set by our leadership team show that they do not understand what is happening on the front line.

Whilst telling their stories, they often identify individuals (peers and/or leaders) and use the word bully to describe people’s behaviour.

They talk about the lack of support in doing the work, being excluded or being made to feel inferior by their peers, and/or they talk about being micromanaged and excluded for opportunities by their managers.

They also relay their frustration at management’s lack of taking action to hold everyone else accountable.

However, when we ask whether there was a time when things were better, the answer is always a resounding yes. When we ask them to pinpoint when things changed, they often highlight a new initiative as the trigger.

These include a new product or service being launched for growth, the implementation of a new business system, or the implementation of a new organisational structure etcetera.

The net effect is, that the workload, is perceived to have increased and this has put pressure on people to do more with less.

As the pressure mounts, they look for direction in the form of an overall strategy and/or implementation plan.

When there is no clear direction, people take it upon themselves to direct work and their peers without the formal authority to do so. This is where personalities start to clash and trust starts to erode.

People then start to look closely at how that change affects them personally – financially and emotionally. Inevitably, most people default to their basic human instinct, survival.

And there lies the beginning of what will turn into a toxic culture if not addressed.

Sounds familiar? So where should I start you ask?

Perhaps you could get rid of the person perceived to be the bully. Perhaps you could move them to another team/section or department via a restructure and give someone else a go at it.

But lets face it, the problem hasn’t gone away, and the poor person that comes in afterwards will find themselves in the same situation. Pretty soon, they either move on or they avoid rocking the boat.

Now your organisation has a bipolar culture where some people avoid and some push harder to compensate and come across aggressive, and eventually the latter end up being labelled – a bully.

I think you get the picture. The problem is still there.

The aforementioned knee jerk actions merely treated the symptoms and not the cause.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a real believer in the ethos that “if you cannot change the person, then change the person” – but only if you have created a constructive environment with well defined goals and direction where people can thrive.

The root cause is a lack of strategy, thus a lack of direction.

If you do not have a strategy, you need to produce one. If you have an old strategy, you need to update it.

So how can we help you take action? We can help you develop a Human Centred Strategy that is “top down and bottom up” ensuring buy-in at all levels.

Give us a call on 0405 053 689 and lets talk about how our Human Centred Strategy formation approach (an integration of Commercial and People and Culture) will help you flesh out the following;

  1. Identify or rediscover your reason for being – your organisation’s why;
  2. Identify and clarify your strategic objectives/projects in order to grow profitably;
  3. Prioritise those projects and minimise the impact on your business as usual activities – thus providing clear direction;
  4. Involve your people and enhance their potential to ensure alignment between your business goals and their personal development;
  5. Develop communication strategies that are understood at all levels.

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