Facilitating Growth In Company Culture

Is your company’s culture causing problems? Do you find that employee morale is at an all-time low? Most importantly, are you concerned with your management’s inability to change? Unfortunately, many companies have an internal culture problem. Most companies are able to resolve their internal squabbles and put an end to the constant bickering. Unfortunately, some aren’t. For those unwilling, or unable to change, the consequences of inaction can be severe. Sometimes it means losing business and market share.

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Is fear a good management style?

Management techniques have been the subject of much empirical research for many years now and one of it’s students was American psychologist, Rensis Likert. He studied management styles for 30 years and came to the conclusion that there were four types of management systems. One of which was named “Exploitative Authoritative” and Likert defined this as consisting of:

  • Threats, fear and punishment are used to motivate employees
  • Managers at the top make all the decisions
  • Concerns of those lower down are ignored
  • The manager has little or no confidence or trust in employees
  • There is little teamwork or communication between managers and subordinates

The thing about managing through fear is that although it may have the desired effect in the short term but it is not a sustainable way to manage people if you are looking to achieve long-term results by creating and maintaining the most productive workplace you can.

Fear as a motivator is little more than a scare tactic and for that reason the results of it are usually short lived. The consequences can often be more damaging, such as lower morale, which is notorious for spreading like wildfire and in turn becomes lower productivity anyway.

It’s a great way for a manager to alienate themselves from their people. They appear unapproachable, unreasonable and people don’t want to work for them. This can create relationships whereby people would rather just agree with their manager when being asked for their opinion, instead of saying what they really think. Once people are afraid to go against a figurehead’s point of view, their importance diminishes considerably as does their feeling of self-worth.

It’s also a risk that managing through fear could scare off even the best members of the team even if those tactics aren’t employed with them directly. They will soon seek employment elsewhere if they don’t like what they see – which is a style of management that cultivates dishonesty, ‘brown-nosing’ and colleague sabotage.

So can a leadership and management style ever be used to the benefit of the company and its employees? Have you ever been on the receiving end of such practises? Perhaps you think there are times when it’s appropriate to rule with an iron fist?


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What stops us making decisions?

You make a decision when you ‘make up your mind’. The downside of this is that when you make a decision, you have to let go of other ideas, options and possibilities. Some people find this difficult to do. There are many reasons for this, including:

  • Not having good decision-making techniques
  • Lack of confidence, not trusting yourself
  • Lack of information or even too much information to keep in your head at one time
  • Disagreement between group members
  • Level of responsibility – if your decision affects others and carries consequences, you may be reluctant to finalise things
  • Being emotionally attached to a certain outcome that is not the logical choice
  • The opportunity cost of making a decision and thus letting go of other options
  • Uncertainty over the consequences, especially if they seem to lead to a lose-lose situation

Sometimes we mull over the smallest decisions without knowing why. It may be because we have no deadline for the decision and are spending too much time on the details. Some people naturally take more time in making a decision than others; this is not necessarily a bad thing, but if time is critical this can have unfortunate consequences.


In order to make a decision, we need some personal benefit for making it. Bear in mind that one major benefit of   making a decision is that you no longer need to expend mental energy on it – it is a ‘weight off your mind’.

So, to motivate yourself to make a decision, you need to focus on how you will feel after making the decision. What will be the benefits of making the decision? In the end, it all comes down to the fear of consequences, which produce anxiety and in turn fuels the fear. To drive out the fear of consequences, look at any decision from these four perspectives:

  1. What would happen if I did?
  2. What would happen if I did not?
  3. What would not happen if I did?
  4. What would not happen if I did not?

Each of these is a subtly different question and you will get great clarity around the consequences of a decision by really thinking about each in turn.

Helping people on your team make decisions

You can lead by example, using decision-making techniques regularly and openly. This demonstrates to your team how important you think structured decision-making is and introduces them to the techniques. When your team has become comfortable with a specific technique and are using it regularly by themselves, start introducing new techniques.

You can provide training in decision-making techniques, either by getting external training for your team or running short, regular training sessions yourself. This introduces them to the techniques and raises the importance of practising decision making in their minds. Alternatively, if one of your team is a natural resource investigator and communicator, why not give this role to them and make it their ‘pet project’?

You can coach your staff individually to be better decision makers. Allocate time to talk with them about their difficulties in decision-making and help them to generate the solutions for their improvement themselves

Over time, the group will develop its own decision-making ‘style’ and even start inventing its own approaches.

Dealing with pressure

Feeling under pressure can disrupt the decision-making process, whatever technique you are using. Applying the techniques in a non-pressured environment will help. Get yourself away from the office and distracting interruptions if possible and concentrate on applying the techniques in a cool, calm and collected manner.

Post courtesy of People Alchemy – to get your free trial of the Alchemy for Managers online resource visit


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Language in the workplace: should leaders and managers swear?

Some people couldn’t care less about swearing while others are highly offended by it. Bad language can be a divisive topic in it’s own right, but swearing at work seems to cause an even greater split.

There is evidence to suggest swearing in the workplace can have a positive impact on morale and relieve stress therefore boosting productivity, creating a better team spirit and improving bonds between colleagues.

The reason for this is that it enables people to be themselves and express themselves in a way that they naturally would outside of the office. When colleagues see this happening, it helps to break down barriers because you are seeing more of the personality behind the job title.

Others might argue that swearing is just rude, immature, unjustified, and a lazy way of expressing feeling. Of course, context is everything. It can be very easy to interpret swearing as nothing more than straightforward anger and aggression.

While cursing the computer system for crashing on you for the tenth time today may be seen as humorous, using foul language to abuse your boss for increasing your workload will probably paint you in a bad light. 

But what about when bosses and managers swear? Does this make you feel comfortable? These are the people you are supposed to look to for leadership so you want to see someone who is strong and in control and if that means using ‘strong’ language then that’s great, right?

On the other hand, if the person managing your team is always ‘effing and blinding’, doesn’t this display a lack of control? Shouldn’t they be more sensitive to their team members since the negative consequences of not swearing surely outweigh the positives of swearing?

Think back to Barack Obama’s reaction to the BP oil spill when he was said not to care enough about the incident – until he told a reporter he wanted to find out “whose ass to kick”. And it was only recently that Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron was widely criticised for referring to a member of the opposition party as a “muttering idiot.”

In some workplaces, they play it safe by having a zero tolerance policy on swearing in any context, be it humorous, light-hearted or otherwise. Others may want to encourage an open environment, freedom of expression and so forth. Whatever is decided, it’s important to be consistent and practice what is preached.

What are your feelings on swearing in the workplace? How much depends on where you work? Would you speak out if you manager’s language made you uncomfortable?


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How to correct poor performance in the workplace

If a member of your team is genuinely performing poorly in the workplace, then you need to act now. Delay will only make matters worse.

First, look back at the objectives that you set for the person:

  • Were they realistic?
  • Were they achievable?
  • Was the time frame reasonable, given the rest of their workload?
  • Have other priorities taken precedence?
  • Was the objective clear enough?

Second, consider the person:

  • Do they understand the objectives and know what they should be doing?
  • Do they believe and want to do the job?
  • Do they think they have a better way of doing the job?
  • What do they think they will get if they do the job?
  • Does the job overstretch them and send them into panic?
  • Do they think that something else is more important?
  • Are they getting enough feedback?
  • Do they realise that they are underperforming?
  • Are they under stress from factors outside work?

Third, consider the environment:

  • Do they have the tools to do the job?
  • Do the systems and processes allow them to do the job?
  • Do they have the assistance they need?
  • Are other tasks getting priority?
  • What other external things influence their performance?

Remember though, this is only your point of view and the person who is not meeting their targets may not agree with your assessment. Really try to empathise with them and you will better understand why they are underperforming.

It’s also important to be emotionally detached and not get angry about their performance, as this won’t solve anything.

The next stage is to discuss with the underachiever everything we have looked at so far and get their perspective on things. Ensure that they are able to be open and honest with you, even if you get feedback that you don’t like about your own part in the situation. 

Assist the person see the effects of their behaviour from other people’s perspectives, including your own and anyone else who is immediately affected. The reasons for the poor performance will become apparent, and then it is a matter of addressing them.

If you identify that the poor performance is due to lack of knowledge, training can rectify this. There may be a company programme that would be suitable, or it might just be a simple case of the person working with another, more experienced member of staff, shadowing what they do for a while.

If the objectives were not clear to the person, you need to re-set them.

If the person is genuinely unaware that their performance is poor, and yet others think it is, you might consider a 360-degree process, which will ensure they get the broad-based feedback they need.

Note that if whatever it is that is affecting performance is external to the work environment, you may recommend counselling or perhaps the HR department may be able to help.

Whatever you decide to do, you need to create and agree a clear action plan with the person. This should include specific steps and checkpoints along the way to an agreed target and it’s a very good idea to document the plan and even get the person to sign a copy so it has an air of importance to them.

The action plan would also include features to mitigate the risk of a repeat of the poor performance, despite your best efforts. To this end, you need to consider what sort of monitoring needs to be in place, and also what contingency plans.

Post courtesy of People Alchemy – for access to the Alchemy for Managers online resource visit


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Five reasons why you should take a break from work

Over here in the UK we recently had what we call a ‘long weekend’ – well really it was a bit more than that. Thanks to the Queen’s diamond jubilee there were two days of public holiday on top of the weekend that, for many people, meant a four-day weekend.

It got me thinking about the benefits of an extended break from work and how that rest and recuperation time can be harnessed positively upon returning to work. There are benefits for you, your colleagues, your boss and of course the work you produce and you may not even realise your work and even your working relationships are suffering until you return.

Here are five reasons why you should consider taking a break from work:

1. Let’s start with the obvious one – productivity. Taking a few days away from your workplace can be rejuvenating and give you the energy you need to step up your game. If you are in a better place mentally then it will show not just in the quantity of work you are able to produce but the quality as well. Isn’t 50 weeks of top level production better than 52 weeks of sub standard efficiency?

2. It shows you care about your job. Understand that taking a break is not giving up or running away or any other form of escapism. Mental fatigue can take its toll on you with the effects being felt on everyone around you. Although it’s counterintuitive to think stepping away from a heavy workload is a good idea, in the long run, it can be the best thing for you.

3. Passion. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’, although you possibly haven’t applied it to a work setting yet. Having time away from your desk can eradicate feelings of jadedness and reignite your passion for your career. You will return hungrier and possibly even with some wonderful new ideas.

4. In this digital era of Smartphones, netbooks, tablets and laptops it has never been more difficult to disconnect from work. Consequently, poor physical wellbeing and burnout are a bigger threat than ever. All the minutes spent, for example, checking and responding to emails on your daily commute can soon add up – and this is even before your working day has actually supposed to start. In isolation you may think nothing of it, but long-term it certainly takes its toll.

5. You get the opportunity to behave differently. You are your behaviour and if the person you behave like is a brain-fried, stressed out workaholic for 40 or 50 hours a week then having a break will let you be somebody else for a week or so. Something as simple as not having a strict schedule to adhere to day in and day out can be hugely refreshing.

I want to leave you with the results of a psychological study that showed how just the simple act of even planning a vacation alleviated stress and increased happiness for up to eight weeks. Certainly food for thought.

For more insights on what Catalyst offers in terms of people skills and learning & development, visit out website for free downloadable material at


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Why must managers share their vision with staff?

The biggest danger to a vision is that only a small group of people are aware of it, let alone support it, and in these instances that vision never comes to fruition and nothing actually changes.

To communicate the vision, it must be driven deep into the organisation and across to all its outermost reaches. Every office in every region must be equally in support of the same vision.

This is one of the primary reasons why people in small organisations find it easier to grasp the ‘vision thing’ than those in larger organisations. There is less chance of it being tarnished by ‘Not Invented Here’ or corrupted by the chain of communication.

Repetition breeds awareness, acceptance and understanding of your vision. Lee Iacocca’s historic vision for Chrysler was not only trumpeted internally to managers and staff, but also constantly repeated to people outside the organisation.

The vision became a central theme in much of the company’s advertising. Iacocca used every opportunity to share it with consumers, suppliers and shareholders. He even spoke about it on the floor of the US Congress. By doing so, he ensured that it influenced a great number of people, which in turn helped Chrysler achieve its business goals. 

This repetition and consistency in the communication of the vision was a critical component of Chrysler’s turnaround and success. Vision, therefore, should be worked into as many situations in the workplace as possible. It should also be integrated into as many communication channels as possible:

  • Business presentations
  • Training events
  • New employee inductions
  • Written communications – reports, letterheads, emails
  • Annual appraisals
  • Business plans at all levels
  • Newsletters
  • Websites
  • Advertising and marketing campaigns

Senior executives should use every opportunity available to share the vision and to act in a manner consistent with it. People, both inside and outside the organisation, will notice when the vision is truly being lived by watching the actions of the business leaders. They can talk the talk but if they don’t walk the walk those words will be meaningless and they will lose respect in a heartbeat.

Effective alignment of behaviours to a vision can be seen when a visitor to your organisation could drop in and infer your vision without having to read it on paper, solely by observing the actions and behaviours of you and your staff.

Everyone, directors, managers and staff alike, must model behaviours that are consistent with the organisation’s vision. It is through such actions that all members of the business will believe in and live a meaningful manifestation of the vision.

Once all stakeholders share and live the vision, an environment of true alignment with the vision will exist and this will drive the business toward its goals.

The sense of shared vision will guide people’s behaviour and their expectations and will also be self-reinforcing and self-motivating. Once the leader establishes a sense of shared vision within his or her business, not only will the business benefit, but all the members of the team will benefit also.

Post courtesy of People Alchemy – to get your free trial of the Alchemy for Managers online resource visit


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