Positive Workplace Culture

Focus on the HOW as well as the WHAT

How we work together is something we don’t tend to be taught much about. A lot of our learning along the way is more about what we do rather than how we do it – especially in terms of working well with others, management, and leadership. Even if we learn the theory, we often don’t focus on the practice; our “to-dos” get in the way.

An organisation is fundamentally a collection of relationships. How effective those relationships are translates directly to the success of the organisation. A positive workplace culture is one in which all people are able to work well together. In order to work well together we need to know about each other – who we are, what’s important to us, and how we work best. Often, the dynamics between us, right here, right now, are typically unspoken. Reflect for a moment — how aware are you of the unspoken dynamics around you? How skillful are you in discussing the typically undiscussed? These are the conversations we need to have in order to work effectively together.

Having a positive workplace culture requires working with what’s happening in real-time, often through facilitated conversation and coaching. For example, when working with a board of directors or an executive team as a process consultant or coach, the work is to feedback to the group how they are interacting with each other, to help them to navigate issues of difference if one perspective is dominating, and to help them notice and work with both mainstream and marginal roles and voices as a system. When we can see and talk about those dynamics, then we can develop the capacity to navigate more equitable and more useful ways of interacting and making decisions. We develop our ability to notice the how through coaching, process consultation, action learning, being present, drawing out issues and concerns – all of which increase our capacity to work well together.

Having a positive culture involves managing and attending to the interactions between people and having a clear goal, and a focus on what you’re trying to achieve– getting a good balance between the how and the what. In most organisations the balance is tipped towards what we do and away from how we do it. Focusing more on the how is not a goal in itself, it’s a goal for specific purposes, because groups of people who balance the how with the what – the process with the task — work better and achieve more, than groups of people who focus only on the task. And this is especially true for getting the best from a diverse group.

Building stronger, more effective working relationships leads to better outcomes. Measuring progress and outcomes is important – the numbers matter. And, when you are part of a positive culture, what you notice most powerfully is what it feels like. The numbers are a lag indicator — a result of being able to have the conversations and get the human interactions working effectively – a result of focusing on the how, balanced with the what.

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