Our culture is great… BUT our leadership is totally stuck in the dark ages!

A common thing we hear a lot from businesses is ‘ the culture at work is great – BUT’, or ‘I love everyone at my job – BUT’ … So we’ve created a series to examine these sticking points, starting with how leaders’ mindset can lead to a culture that inhibits progress and innovation.

In these times of constant change – with the effects of the pandemic, massive technological advances and the growing need for equality and inclusion – leading an organisation with efficiency and purpose is tricky to navigate.

In businesses, especially those that have been around for a long time, it can be easy to stick to what has worked effectively in the past. This can be a good thing in some cases but if the strategy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies across all decision making from the top, then it can be harmful for long-term success. It’s known as legacy thinking.

The damage done by staying still

Even if leaders perceive their workplace culture to be good, it can be a biased view. Leadership mindset can make or break the fortunes of your whole business.

As we mentioned in our recent thought-piece on manufacturing, we’ve witnessed first-hand how this legacy thinking can manifest itself in many industry sectors: resistance to change, lack of motivation, reduced productivity, or a negative influence on the team. All of these behaviours can cause problems if the leadership is unable to recognise these as cultural issues.

Are you really listening?

A leader’s perception of a thriving business and the wider workforce’s viewpoint on its operations may be wildly different from each other. This disparity can cause a breakdown in communication, an ‘us versus them’ dynamic and frustration coming from both parties that progress is slow or non-existent on key issues.

The people ‘on the ground’ have the best intel when it comes to what works and what doesn’t with your business offering. As a leader, are you actively listening to feedback or concerns from staff? They may have some innovative ideas that will change certain operational or commercial aspects drastically but have some long-term positive results. As the economic effects of Covid-19 starkly revealed, the ability to pivot and innovate is vital for survival.

Leaders must take responsibility to facilitate open conversations with the wider team and hear what they have to say.

Collaborate to Innovate

Inviting innovative ideas can be daunting, of course, however the rewards can be much greater than keeping legacy thinking as a dominant force in your business. The best way to create meaningful culture change in a business is to work together; we are social creatures, and in the workplace, we are more engaged, focused and proactive when we work together as a team.

Changes to business culture require a lot of work to adjust the mindset of the workforce at every level. Workforce feedback will reveal any fundamental issues and may create some awkward moments, but working through these will set you on the way to solving the issues raised. Take the issues on board, work with the wider team to resolve them and make sure procedures are in place to avoid the same issues resurfacing. What’s more, this process to create an innovative culture can generate more ideas around even more effective ways of working.

Lead by example

As the culture change is set in motion, it is important to continue these discussions and to keep collaboration and innovation on the table. The key thing to remember is to lead any culture changes with empathy and ensure everyone is supported.

Creating a safe environment to share ideas, give room for a degree of trial and error and manage overwhelm and stress will make for a happier team. Employees who feel supported and listened to will be more engaged, which is crucial when you want to future-proof your business and retain your workforce.

As parts of the world see a way out of the pandemic, now is a perfect time to take stock of how you lead your organisation and if legacy thinking is getting in the way of its true potential.

At Culture Consultancy, we work with organisations to create a culture that is right for them, allowing their real potential to shine through. Get in touch to find out more.