Did you ever “catch” organizational culture while it happened? Maybe not consciously, but you did: the culture is represented and sustained in the daily (inter)actions. What do the routine, mundane interactions within your organization tell you about the current culture?
Take a look at the meetings, especially. Meetings are to an organization what the agora used to be in ancient Rome. They’re public spaces where speeches are heard, people are influenced, priorities negotiated, and status and ranking reinforced. Observing what happens at a meeting indicates:
• Why people get together
• Who’s in charge and how safe the others feel
• What matters; what is being valued
• What interactions are normal
• How people relate to each other and how they address the decisions and topics at hand
• When and where they take action
Looking at your organization, what would your answers be?
What do “positive” meetings look like?
In a positive culture, stakeholders convene because they care about the topic and it’s necessary to have a dialogue. No one dominates (they all feel responsible) and everyone feels safe to speak up and contribute.
What matters is the purpose they want to achieve, and what they value is collaboration, learning, personal ownership, transparency, and getting it done. They address each other and the topics from a positive mindset that builds on what is working well and how to amplify and improve. Everyone leaves this meeting feeling energized.
Is this the opposite of your current meetings?
If so, you might think that a positive culture is a utopia. Is this even possible? Well, the latest research and practice show that a positive culture “broadens and builds” organizations. People who feel positive and purposeful, who are learning and supported, will be more productive, collaborative, innovative and ready to change. Broaden-and-build, researched by Barbara Frederickson, means starting a positive spiral: when people feel positive they tend to become more open and resourceful, achieving better results which reinforces the positivity. A positive culture is not a luxury as it contributes to the bottom line of organizations.
Full engagement: leaning in!
In a positive culture, people take full responsibility for achieving a shared purpose and work with a positive mindset to achieve the best possible outcome. Yes, you read that correctly. It is full engagement. It shows during meetings when you see people leaning in instead of leaning back. It’s not vague, but palpable and concrete. It is not fluffy, but solid and specific when you check your metrics after some time.
Great, but how do you get your colleagues anywhere near this engagement? An easy place to start is with Interaction Interventions.
There’s a whole toolkit but a simple start is to ask more questions. Research by Heaphy and Losada shows that high-performing organizations ask more questions than on average.
Do you ask enough questions?
Questions engage other people around a topic and create a connection because you’re interested in what the other has to say. If you make it a “positive question” you can focus on achieving a positive outcome. For instance: “What would be the best thing that could happen in this project? How can we make that happen?”
My book “Developing a Positive Culture where People and Performance Thrive” focuses on what you can personally do to develop a positive culture. Based on both research and practice, you’ll see how to engage your co-workers with Interaction Interventions or Change Circles. If you influence one person, one interaction at a time, you contribute to a more positive organization.
Join this Academy if you want to learn more. The curriculum can be done self-paced.