Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Top 10 Leadership Tips for Creating Healthy Organizational Culture

STOP! You find yourself here because organizational culture can at times be frustrating and draining and you're looking for a solution. Many businesses are looking to improve workplace culture. Well I will outline some leadership tips for you that, I believe, will help and equip you in improving the culture of your organization (or at least assist you in understanding what parts of your organizational culture needs work). I write this, not as some hopeful blogger, that wishes to splat more useless information over the already overloaded internet. I write this as someone who serves God as an Officer in The Salvation Army (in the northern parts of Australia), and has managed employees, and empowered volunteers to reach for their best. I completed a Bachelor of Business, and have read a myraid of books related to empowering people and organizational culture, creating excellence and change management. This hopefully offers some context for the following blog and some credentials to allow you as the reader to read on, and embrace the elements in this list.  

Creating a healthy culture in an organization is vital, if an organization is going to be effective in the long term. We know stories of businesses that have crumbled because of a lack of integrity by the CEO, or a church that has closed because the senior pastor didn't know how to inspire a great culture within their church. How many morning tea times are full of gossip and frustrated employees who wish their business had a better culture? How many emails are sent daily complaining about the ins and outs of the workplace, all because leaders have not developed a great culture in their workplace? How many secret facebook messages do business people send to their friends, during work times, that relate to issues of culture?

Think about it: Bad culture, fosters bad results - especially over the long term.

Well, never fear, because I have the top 10 leadership tips for creating a healthy culture in an organization! Actually, its not a definitive list. Neither should you trust anyone that says they have the secret formula for organizational success! (Unless it's maybe Aung San Suu Kyi, Stephen Covey, Nelson Mandela or Jack Welch!) Leadership praxis is always up for debate. There may be tips on this list you think should be added, or you may reword or rework. That being said, I believe in this list. I see it in reality, that to create a vibrant, high performing culture within the workplace, the church, the school, the political realm, the entertainment industry and so on, the organisation/group/team needs to embrace these values.

Also have a look at the TOP 100 Leadership Tips here.

Ok, strap yourself in - here is the list:

Top 10 Leadership Tips for Creating a Healthy Culture in an Organization
  1. Culture of Planning - Ever heard, without a plan you plan to fail? Too many businesses go about everyday business without planning. Two questions need to be asked: Firstly, where is our intended destination and secondly, how are we going to get there? The first question is a vision question, the second is a planning question.

    You can't climb Mount Everest without a plan, nor should you cruise through your workday without planning how you will achieve what you are hoping to achieve. While the implications of bad planning (or no planning) for the Everest Climber is death, for an organization, bad or no planning might mean a loss of income, loss of personnel, or a missed deadline. A culture of planning, is a culture of strategic thinking. It is about looking at the mission, vision and values of the organization, and saying, 'How are we going to achieve this?' 'What is our strategy?' 'What is our plan?' High performing organizations execute plans well, and adapt them as circumstances change. They create a culture within their organization of strategic thinking and planning.

    "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed" - Proverbs 16:3
  2. Culture of Execution - This is the mantra that says, 'If you say you're going to do it, then do it'. This builds trust amongst the people of an organization. It's about following through with agenda items, and implementing the ideas into concrete realities. Within a business, a culture of execution might look like the announcement of a new product range - an idea that could transform the business! A healthy culture of execution gets the job done! The idea doesn't just sit on the desk, or in the heart of the leader, it is communicated, thought through, researched and if appropriate, is actioned. A culture of execution inspires people to move from ideas and abstract concepts to implemented tangible practices.

    Within a church, a culture of execution is needed, because so many visions and dreams sit on the leader's desk, or even in the minds of the people. There needs to be encouragement to follow through and make it happen, with God's help, so the dream is not just some pie-in-the-sky concept. I have sat in that camp. I have reflected upon dreams and wondered whether I should follow through. I am learning, that to motivate the troops, then having a culture of getting the job done is vital! Vision without action is merely wishful thinking.

  3. Culture of a Big Vision - Without vision the people wander aimlessly says an old proverb. Without vision it is very easy to cruise through life, and to step back a year later and say, 'Have I actually gone anywhere?' 'Have I actually achieved anything that is purposeful?' While vision in itself is not enough to arrive at a place of effectiveness; vision helps inspire you, your team, your family, your co-workers, to reach for new heights.

    If you aim at nothing you'll hit it every time. Vision is important to me, because if I aim at nothing, I'll reach it! Though, if I aim at cloud number seven, and only reach cloud number three, I've still gone farther than if I have aimed at nothing! So vision, personally, provides an injection of passion and direction, that when aligned with strategy and intentionality can produce great results.

    A big vision in an organization helps produce a healthy culture, primarily because employees, from the cleaners to HR professionals to managers stop talking about what brand of coffee they are drinking, and start talking about the possibilities of the organization in which they work. It lifts their eyes from the mediocrity of mundane day-to-day work, to consider adapting their work choices, in order that the vision can be accomplished.
  4. Culture of Referent Power and Expert Power - French and Raven in 1959 highlighted 5 different forms of power that leaders utilize. Those forms of power are coercive power, reward power, legitimate power, referent power and expert power. Click here for more on French and Raven. Firstly, coercive power is that autocratic, micro manager of a boss who is always bellowing out requests for you to fulfill. The predominant use of coercive power will hinder the creating of a healthy culture! In fact it will hinder it, and healthy organizational culture will suffer.

    Secondly, reward power, is the power that is perceived to come from the giving of rewards, for example a Christmas Bonus or an 'Employee of the Month' certificate. While this kind of power can create a healthy organization, relying on solely reward power, will have a detrimental effect on organizational morale over time, as people rely on gifts/rewards for their motivation.

    Thirdly, legitimate power, is the power that derives itself from a person's position. So, a CEO has legitimate power (positional power), and so he can expect something from board members because of his position. Legitimate power only goes so far. If the person loses their position, would they still have power/influence with others? Legitimate power, or rather leading from a place of position is limited. Creating a healthy culture in an organization, calls for the other two 'power sources' to come into play.

    Referent power is the influence/power that someone has over you that you allow based on your perceived positive qualities of that leader. When someone has a great past history because of what they have done for the organization, others will follow her. Organizations thrive on leaders who lead with referent power. They choose not to lean on their position (legitimate power), they choose not to coerce people into fulfilling tasks (coercive power) and they choose not to base their leadership solely on rewards (reward power).  They rather, choose to base their influence on the respect they have earned, and their capacity to do the job and inspire others in the process!

    Lastly, the use of expert power, is a leader who has influence based on being an expert within their field of expertise. Having a leader call the shots in an organization who knows 'her stuff', and who understands the ins and outs of the process is more likely to inspire others than having a lack of business knowledge.

    Appointing leaders who use referent power and expert power will help in boosting the morale of an organization. If you're wondering how you possibly create high morale in the workplace, maybe start with yourself, and consider whether you use coercive power, reward power, legitimate power, referent power or expert power. I suggest, the later two will help boost morale the most!
  5. Culture of Passion - Daniel Goleman writes in Emotional Intelligence that emotions are contagious. 'Most emotional contagion is....subtle, part of a tacit exchange that happens in every encounter. We transmit and catch moods from each other in what amounts to a subterranean economy of the psyche in which some encounters are toxic, some nourishing' (: 114). How does this relate to creating positive organizational culture? The fact is, negative emotions, negative talk and gossip will catch on and spread through any business like wildfire. It takes some proactive, positive people to go against this grain and create a positive environment. Let your positive attitude (what a friend of mine calls PMA - positive mental attitude) dominate your response to each situation.

    Be a passionate person, and watch others catch it! Too many of us mope around waiting for the manager to change their outlook, or for the employee to stop grizzling, while we can all the while be influencing the culture of the organization. Passion will breed passion. This isn't about being an extrovert as such, it's about being passionate and positive about your job. It's about allowing that inner drive and passion to spread throughout your realms of influence. So, leadership tip number five for healthy, vibrant organizational culture is to foster a culture of passion.
  6. Have a Clear Organizational Value System - Robert W. Johnson founded a business called Johnson & Johnson back in 1886, and this business remains enduringly strong today. Their vision is clear, 'To alleviate pain and disease.' In 1943 Johnson & Johnson, through the writing of R. W. Johnson, Jr. introduced the Johnson & Johnson Credo. Without highlighting the entire Credo, here were the five main points:

    (1) First responsibility is to those who use J&J products
    (2) Second responsibility is to the employees of J&J
    (3) Third responsibility is to the management of J&J
    (4) Fourth responsibility is to the communities in which we live
    (5) Fifth and last responsibility is to our shareholders

    Talk about a revolutionary business model! Most businesses ensure their shareholders are sailing on cruise ships before they consider the surrounding environment and community.

    The point I wish to make about Johnson & Johnson is its capacity to create loyalty, purpose and health based on its clear value system. The healthy culture that is espoused is based on a clear understanding of the fundamental values of the organization. The values are in the open, there is no murkiness; people know what the organization believes and they know whether they want to be a part of it.

    For Johnson & Johnson the credo at times lost prominence in the busyness of organizational life. How often have you witnessed businesses, churches, organizations lose hold of the fundamental values that their organization first began with? For Johnson & Johnson in 1979 this was a reality. The then CEO, Jim Burke said:

    'People like my predecessors believed in the Credo with a passion, but the operating managers were not universally committed to it... So I called a meeting of some 20 key executives and challenged them. I said, "Here's the Credo. If we're not going to live by it, let's tear it off the wall... We either ought to commit to it or get rid of it."... By the end of the session, the managers had gained a great deal of understanding about and enthusiasm for the beliefs in the Credo. Subsequently, [we] met with small groups of J&J managers all over the world to challenge the Credo' (as cited in Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, Built to Last, p. 72).

    I believe that adherence to a clear, inspiring value system, helps with creating healthy organizational culture. Now on to tip seven for creating great workplaces! If you are in management, I hope you are absorbing this!
  7. Culture of Honesty and Integrity - We all know character traits like honesty and integrity are integral to healthy organizations. Though, when you read of some of the egotistical and dishonest antics of some CEOs and managers, you understand the need to state the obvious. Great leaders have developed great character traits (or have had them all along), like selflessness, integrity, servanthood, truthfulness, compassion, etc. May I say that while quite often people may have elements of these qualities, we all are caused to consider how well we express these elements in organizational life. In a sense, the world can normalize egotism, telling the occasional lie and hard-heartedness, but I personally believe an organization with a healthy culture, minimises such attitudes. Creating a great workplace surely begins with honest leaders!

    How do you create honesty and integrity in your organization? Obviously you can start by leading by example. Nelson Mandela lead by example when it came to forgiveness. Jesus of Nazareth offered a radical relook at holy living and lead an ordinary bunch of disciples to create a movement that transformed the world. Mother Theresa lived out compassion and selflessness. We must lead by example.

    You can ensure you are employing new staff with good character. Some managers have said, it is much easier to teach someone skills, than it is to teach them character. Good character must surely be seen as important in all aspects of business life, no matter what the industry - mining, hospitality, tourism or the military!
  8. Culture that Focuses on God - From a Christian perspective, an organization intent on honouring God, will have the blessing of God. I have seen, read and heard of organizations, that have come against great odds, not simply because of the tenacity of the leader or manager, the focus of the team, or 'good luck', but rather the empowerment from God. While some organizations founded on Christian principles have become increasingly secularised others have remained true to their founding visions and ideals. Jesus never seemed too concerned with communicating something that offended people (not that the message needed to be offensive to those hearing it). He remained true to being the son of God, sent from God to 'take away the sins of the world'. I firmly believe that organizations that remain focused on God, amonst the whirlwind of organizational life, will have the blessing of God.
  9. Culture of Encouragement - The Bible says, '...encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you' (2 Cor 13:11). Also, 'Encourage one another and build each other up' (1 Thes 5:11). Whether you believe in the Christian faith, in a sense is irrelevant at this point, but rather we are focusing on the importance of encouragement. If you are wondering how to create a great workplace you can start with encouragement! Great workplaces have great levels of encouragement. Great workplaces have a culture of supporting one another, caring for one another, holding each other accountable and looking out for one another. While the encouragement mantra has been communicated to millions over thousands of years, we no less need it today; and it's a simple point, yet some many businesses do not up hold this important value.
    We know psychologically humans need encouragement. A baby needs love in order to even survive. The older we are, the need for encouragement is no less important. The problem with management focusing just on the bottom line, results, and organizational objectives, sometimes causes management to neglect simple aspects like showing appreciation to employees and meaningful encouragement. 
  10. Understand Different Personalities and Gifitings - Myers-Briggs profiling categorises people into 16 different personality types. A quick glance at Myers-Briggs shows that people's personalities can be defined in the following way:
    * Extraverted or Intraverted
    * Sensing or Intuitive
    * Feeling or Thinking
    * Judging or Perceiving
    I don't intend to delve into Myers-Briggs personality types here, but this is a popular management tool to help understand differnt personalities. Some people are very pragmatic and practical and struggle to comprehend 3 year visions and organisational strategy. Some personalities love to think about the future! Some personalities love to connect over a coffee, in a warm environment and talk about personal struggles; others have objectives to fulfill and their conversations are less personal and more about the task at hand. The key to good management is to understand these different personalities.
    Another profiling technique is Belbin, which aims to 'identify people's behavioural strengths and weaknesses in the workplace'. There are nine different team roles within the Belbin model and they are:
    Shaper, Completer Finisher, Specialist, Implementer, Team Worker, Resource Investigator, Monitor Evaluator, Co-ordinator, Plant. Go to http://www.belbin.com/ for more.
    Whether management wish to make use of these (at times expensive) profiling techniques is a question worth asking. They can provide a deeper appreciation and understanding of others, and thus improve the culture of the organization.


I hope you have enjoyed the top 10 leadership tips for creating healthy organizational culture.

Also have a look at the TOP 100 Leadership Tips here.

Please go to www.facebook.com/petebrookshaw to read more on leadership, spirituality and how God can make all the difference in your life.


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Emotional Leadership

'The laborer's appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on.' - Proverbs 16:26


  1. Nice article. According to me every employee of organization is key member of organization's success. It will definitely beneficial for organization's growth If organization take opinion of employees before taking any decision related to policies, applying rules and regulations, creating performance systems & many other.

    HR Consultancy India

  2. Really some great information. A healthy organizational culture will bring suitable opportunities to the organization and their members for development. But due to lack of leadership atmosphere, several organizations are facing problems. So it is quite better to follow rules and regulations to develop organizational culture.
    Leadership Coach


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