What is team culture?

Here are five reasons that your team’s culture is important:

  1. Culture guides employees’ discretionary behaviour – whenever people have a choice about what to do or say, they adhere to expectations.
  2. Culture tells people how to handle problems and difficulties, whether to hide them or fix them.
  3. Culture keeps employees engaged and loyal.
  4. Culture helps you recruit the employees you need.
  5. Culture greases the wheels of performance.

Stand back and watch how team members choose to spend their time. Listen to how they speak to each, about the organisation and about customers. When was the last time a team member alerted you to a problem or a potential problem? When was the last time a team member suggested a better way of getting a result? These are all products of a team’s culture and directly affect productivity and performance.

Discussion questions

What steps can you take to build a high-performance culture in your work team?

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Happiness leads to success

In this entertaining 12-minute Ted Talk , Shawn Achor explains why we need to reverse the formula for happiness and success. Most of us have been taught the formula: ‘Work hard and then you’ll be more successful and when you’re more successful, you’ll be happier.’ Achor explains why this is back-to-front and, better still, how to reverse the formula for yourself and for your work team in order to improve performance and productivity. When you’re happy, you’re more successful.

Only 25% of job success is predicted by IQ, Achor says, while 75% of job success is predicted by a person’s optimism level, social support and ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat. When you’re optimistic and happy, you’re 31% more productive than when you’re negative, neutral or stressed; happy salespeople are 37% better at sales; happy doctors are 19% faster and more accurate and reaching a correct diagnosis.

Happy brains are flooded with dopamine, which makes us happier still. Dopamine also turns on the brain’s learning centres so that we can better adapt to the changing world around us.

You can re-wire your brain, and the brains of your team members’, to work more optimistically and successfully by spending two minutes writing down three new things you’re grateful for every day for 21 consecutive days . This adapts your brain to focus on the positive before the negative.

Achor goes on to list other ways to re-wire your brain for optimism and success in just two minutes a day:

  • Writing down one positive experience you’ve had every day to allow the brain to relive it;
  • Exercising, to reinforce the fact that behaviour matters;
  • Meditating to quiet the brain and help you focus on the task at hand;
  • Writing one positive email praising or thanking someone when you first open your inbox.

Discussion questions

Do you and your team focus on the positive before the negative? Do you help your team deal with stress positively? How can you put Achor’s suggestions for re-wiring your brain for optimism and success to use personally and help your team put them to use?

Office ergonomics

Sitting correctly affects your productivity as well as your appearance and fatigue levels, not to mention pain levels. It also wards off back and other problems down the track.

Here are three sites that offer good information:

  1. This also has good information on lighting, breaks and so on and is good for helping people set up a home office.
  2. This shows you exactly how you should sit at your computer.
  3. This shows you four easy exercises you can do while seated at your desk, with an interesting twist that they’re based on yoga (and Pilates and any other exercise form, I suspect!) But they work, and that’s the main thing.

Discussion questions

How do your office ergonomics stack up? Have your team members set up their work stations correctly? What about their home offices, if they ever work from home?

The terror of change

Blogging on the Harvard Business Review blog site, Professor James R Bailey of George Washington University and Assistant Professor Jonathan Raelin of Bath University in the UK linked organisational change with the fear of death.

Most of us work hard to repress awareness of our own mortality by creating three ‘buffers’ that block out the reality of our eventual demise:

  1. Consistency, which lets us see the world as orderly, predictable and safe
  2. Justice, our code of what’s good and fair
  3. Culture, contributing to and are participating in a larger and enduring system of beliefs.

Anything, such as organisational change, that threatens to penetrate these buffers and expose us to the looming reality of our own death, threatens our very self. The more threatened we feel, the more we dig in and resist or try to escape.

So:

  • The next time you change an employee’s job routine, do what you can to help them see their working world as orderly, predictable and safe despite the changes (for example, by explaining precisely how the change is going to work and discussing what is not going to change).
  • The next time you change the criteria by which you appraise someone’s job performance or what they need to do to earn a bonus, explain carefully how these changes are good and fair.
  • The next time your organisation changes its mission, explain the new mission in terms employees can relate to and feel excited about, explain why the change is needed and explain how they can continue to contribute in the future.

It’s also a good idea to explain change by framing it as an ‘adaptation’ or ‘adjustment’–not to ‘spin’ the change but as a way of helping people see it as less threatening to their very selves.

Discussion questions

Are you consistent in the way you lead and manage people? Do you inform your team well in advance about the whys and wherefores of change to allow them to get comfortable with it? Do you explain how any changes will affect them, how they are fair and just and how they can be part of the changes?