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Leadership Climate: Creating a Culture of Threat or Reward


Leadership Climate: Creating a Culture of Threat or Reward

Creating the climate we need for success.

As we find ourselves in our new world, we are also starting to discover a new way of being. This time in 2020 has demanded us to be more considerate, more thoughtful, more patient, and more supportive. We have learned a huge about each other, our families, our lives and how we work. 

We now need to take this into business and create a sustainable leadership culture for now and in the future. Now is the time for us to self-audit the impact that we have on others. We have an opportunity to recognise how are attitudes and behaviours impact those around us and more importantly, how they see the world. 

Let me take you back to the times when our ancestors lived in caves and survival depended on being part of a group. If we were ostracised from the group, we would be unable to feed ourselves or look after ourselves and ultimately fight off the sabretooth tiger. 

Fast forward to the modern world it is important to realise that we still have the same animalistic part of the brain which is scanning for threat and reward, making sure that we are safe and part of a group. Our brain is a social brain; we get warm feelings when we have a good social interaction. We have chemicals which flood through us encouraging us to repeat the behaviour which is helping us prosper. This generally makes us happy, engaged, and productive. However when we come across somebody who we perceive as a threat, who could impact our social status, happiness or being, our engagement, motivation and productivity drops, as we are more focused on our survival as opposed to our work. So you can now see the direct impact on performance through behaviour.

As a leader you need to be aware that you could be impacting others through everything you do. You could be creating a culture of threat, rather than reward without even realising it. Whether that through video calls, emails, decision making or strategy, all interactions and behaviours are observed and perceived by others.

If we are displaying the more ‘self-survival behaviours’ such as being judgemental, having poor awareness of self, being rigid and reactive, blaming others and not taking accountability, we're likely to be bringing out the worst in other people. This creates a tone of ‘all or nothing’ thinking, defensive behaviour and generally not feeling okay about each other. This can start to create a culture of covering ones back, not looking after each other and doing just enough to get by. You could quickly see how this would start to erode business success. There is plenty of research to show the organisations with this kind of tone and culture have high attrition rates and low engagement rates in the workforce. 

The leader who displays more mindful behaviours, who is open, self-aware and manages their behaviours is likely to bring the best out of others, as they inspire and enable. This is the leader who creates a leadership culture of positivity, innovation, fun, and success. Those who work for leaders like this are more likely to want to put their head above the parapet and suggest new ideas, take the right kind of risks, flourish and continue to develop a growth mindset.
Have a think about the behaviours that you are displaying on a day to day basis through your communication. And do not forget you will be communicating all the time without even realising it. Analyse your conscious and unconscious behaviours, your words, your tone, and your body language. This is even more important in this virtual online environment. Don’t forget how easy it is to misconstrue a message which you’re convinced landed well but might have others saying something different behind your back. Leaders who create a positive leadership culture are leaders who thrive, enable others to flourish, and generally lead more successful organisations. 

Have a think about your approach and the tone and culture of your organisation. Now compare that to your success, your engagement results, and whether you are really getting the feedback and honesty that you would like from your people. 
You create the leadership culture. You are the leader. Your behaviours and attitude on a day to day basis are picked up constantly by the workforce. By displaying these more mindful behaviours and working to come away from the more subconscious threatening and self-survival behaviours, you will see a shift change in the organisation and start to drive up productivity, engagement, and motivation. This will lead to client satisfaction and ultimately financial results.

Go and find that person that will give you honest feedback and ask them about your behaviours, and what the workforce might be seeing. Get some 360-degree feedback, ask people what they think, and then put a plan together to outline the leadership climate you are aiming for. You will be surprised at some of the alignments and synergies that come out of these conversations. 

We can all strive to be better, different, and more aware of our behaviour. By looking inwards, as opposed to outwards you will see that the results show and reflect the effort that you've put into this, and it will undoubtedly be one of the first things people start talking about. That is when you start to build towards a truly positive leadership climate.

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