Three Kinds of Imbalanced Work Cultures. Which One Is Yours?

Posted on October 2, 2018 by Nate Regier / 0 comments
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At the risk of oversimplifying, problems with organizational culture can be grouped into three categories:

Lack of safety = toxic emotional environment

Lack of curiosity = stagnation and irrelevance

Lack of consistency = no staying power

To understand the differences between these, their causes and how to begin making changes, let’s take a look at the three features of healthy cultures. Next Element’s Compassion Cycle shows three core competencies of healthy leadership and culture and how they work together.

Openness is about transparency, honesty, acceptance, and self-confidence. Openness supports cultures of safety where people can be themselves, speak from the heart, and feel part of a work family.

Resourcefulness is about creative problem-solving, innovation, learning from failure, and experimentation. Resourcefulness supports cultures of curiosity where people are eager to learn, try new things, and fail forward.

Persistence is about follow-through, holding to standards, and accountability. Persistence supports cultures of consistency where we meet our goals, we follow through on our promises, and we live our values.

All three are necessary, but not sufficient, for a thriving culture. Now, let’s look at how cultures get out of balance when one of these three is underdeveloped.

Cultures lacking safety are underdeveloped in Openness.

Typical in the manufacturing and finance industries, Resourcefulness and Persistence are high, Openness is low. There is no lack of discipline and problem-solving, but because people don’t feel safe, they withhold discretionary energy. Compliance rather than engagement is the norm.

Cultures lacking curiosity are underdeveloped in Resourcefulness.

Typical in non-profit and faith-based organizations, the culture values service (Openness) and values-based tradition (Persistence). They resist change (Resourcefulness) because it’s scary and threatens the status quo, and because it may challenge their long-held values. Tradition rather than innovation is the norm.

Cultures lacking consistency are underdeveloped in Persistence.

Typical in tech start-ups, Openness and Resourcefulness are high, Persistence is low. These companies are formed with big dreams of an anything-goes freedom culture, and tons of creativity. Wear what you want, come and go when you want, and let the creativity flow! Most startups fail not for lack of innovstion, but for lack of consistent follow-through. They lack Persistence to see things through over long haul when it’s not fun anymore. When the going gets tough, the play more ping pong. When they meet with obstacles, they head to the coffee shop or microbrewery. Initiative rather than “finitiative” is the norm.

The first step in making a cultural course-correction is to identify which areas of the Compassion Cycle need to be improved, then setting about building those competencies. Balance is the key to long-term success. We call this Compassionate Accountability.

Copyright 2016, Next Element Consulting, LLC

Get our latest book Conflict Without Casualties: A Field Guide for Leading With Compassionate Accountability. This book is the foundation for our Leading Out of Drama program, a comprehensive system for building cultures of compassionate accountability.

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