Corporate Culture is the New Strategy: Keys for Leading in the New Era of Work
Automation, Artificial Intelligence, business strategy, Data Science, Data Analysis, data everywhere, machines everywhere. The present belongs to computers, but the world belongs to humanity more than ever. If you’re truly searching for efficacy, productivity, returns, and corporate immortality, take a careful look at the employees inside your organization because that’s where the key lies. Welcome to the new model for work and corporate culture.
Stress: the black hole of productivity
Stress in the workplace is the second-most-frequent work-related health problem in Europe. According to Nascia, the economic impact due to stress-related absences from work “represent 7% of Spain’s GDP, around 80 billion euros in additional costs relating to these absences and more than 175 million lost workdays,” (citing data from TICbeat). Data from Spain’s INE (Instituto Nacional de Estadística or Spanish National Statistics Institute) note that approximately 60% of Spanish workers believe they have a high level of stress, a dramatic figure that is shooting up. What’s causing this? Among the reasons are the volume of work, pressure, responsibility, and the lack of clarity when it comes to defining roles.
But, why such high stress levels?
The way we work has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, affecting all the layers that make up the social fabric on both a personal and professional level. In contrast to our parents or grandparents' lives, we're moving in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, constantly surrounded by interruptions (the true attention hackers), and with the feeling we're never getting anywhere. But that's not all; for the first time in the history of the human race, we are asking our job to elevate us, to bring sense into our lives, and to motivate us.
In the face of this dynamic, unstable, and intense puzzle, it’s increasingly evident that those firms that don’t consciously modify their corporate culture will disappear. However, the responsibility is not solely in the hands of the organizations, but it also belongs to every individual, but above all, its leaders. The new way of working will stem from a conscious and harmonious co-creation on an equally individual and collective level. Here are some points to work on to effectively lead this transition towards the new corporate culture.
Say goodbye to micromanagement in your new corporate culture
If there’s anything that characterizes the work revolution we’re witnessing, it’s the freedom of action. Believe in your employees and give them free rein to shine in their functions and you'll get much more than you ever thought possible. When we say "believe" we are not talking about an imposed posture but rather an authentic faith in those who are working for you. It's not required, nor well-received, that you control them. The only thing you have to do is to believe, praise, recognize, value, and let go of some of the reins. The rest will come along the way.
One thing at a time
Our mind can only do one thing at a time. Multitasking? Impossible. According to recent Harvard studies from Killingsworth and Gilbert, due to current communications and relationship systems, our minds are adrift 47% of the time, something that only causes unhappiness. Think about it: If you're working for eight hours, you're working for four on average. Adding hours and tasks will create more chaos, and the more things you try to do at once, the lower your real productivity will be.
Apply these productivity techniques: set fixed hours, turn off distractions, and finish what you started, no more and no less than one thing at a time. Repeat and make it catch onto those around you. Simplify communication channels, tasks, and interruptions.
Routine kills creativity
We, humans, are not designed for repetitive tasks but instead for researching and exploring, experimenting, and learning. Daniel Cable, a professor of Organizational Behavior at the University of Pennsylvania explains that organizations today should appeal to their employees’ creativity and enthusiasm more than ever since our innate impulse is dominated by one part of our brain, called the “search system,” that rewards us for looking beyond and moving, and compensates us by taking part in these activities. If this system is not properly nurtured, that person will sooner or later disconnect, starting to work automatically without any interest or talent.
Make your teams move and create more horizontal dynamics than vertical ones, where every employee can change focus and team, learning and trying out new tools, and evolving their tasks from time to time.
Excellent? Yes. Perfect? No, please
Besides being a foe of excellence, is one of the most conditioning human factors when it comes to suffering from work stress. If it’s an individual characteristic, there are leadership styles that weigh negatively in the balance. If most of your employees feel that something they are doing is wrong and their work is not standing out, you have a management problem.
Instead of promoting addiction to perfection, develop a habit to the best possible version of every individual. And believe in it. A way of achieving it is to thank people for a job well done every day, making your team feel comfortable with their performance and show that you're satisfied with the outcome. It's an essential exercise in humility that takes time, but it's more than worth it.
Those who aren’t part of the conversation won’t understand the vision
It's critical for someone to be in practice to suit up and be in the game. If you continuously withhold information, people will slowly become disinterested in what happens to the organization. If you don’t share what’s happening, it’s impossible for them to feel like they’re part of the team.
Corporate culture is the new strategy
Numbers over people? Head over heart? It’s more than proven that taking care of your internal customer generates a considerable productivity increase. If you want to boost your ROI, focus on corporate culture. And, in this case, culture means real care, genuine interest, and time (especially when you don’t have it).
Exercise your mind
To run a marathon, you need a good pair of running shoes, eat well, quit smoking, drink liquids, and training every day. Training your brain requires an even more considerable effort because there's nothing more complicated than training your mind (and nonetheless there's nothing more critical). Practicing active presence (also known as Mindfulness) in daily intervals for at least ten minutes will help you stay focused, decrease your stress levels, think before you act, tackle challenges more effectively, reduce internal dialogue and prejudicial looks, and open your mind to new perspectives and viewpoints.
Putting this into practice at the office can be exciting and will take you a step further, improving understanding and interpersonal relationships in the short-term, as well as relieving tensions among collaborators. Google, Nike, Apple, Aetna, and the World Economic Forum are some of the organizations that have documented the benefits of this method.
Feedback, feedback, and more feedback
Do you know how to give good feedback? Are you sure? How often do you do it? Good feedback is the difference between learning and not learning. Weave it into your routine and your team’s. Always keep it positive, in short phrases, starting with what was done well, and adding a maximum number of things that, in your opinion, could be better, and you’ll have an optimally effective formula.
Meaning, meaning, and more meaning
Time is the most precious thing we have, and we spend most of it working. It’s logical that if we don’t find meaning to what we do during most of our waking hours, we end up tired and empty. No evolution happens outside these two principles. It’s what takes us to the most out-of-the-way places, both internal and external. But behind this is the feeling of what we’re doing it for. Taking into account that the meaning changes for every person, there are some things we already know: work-life balance, money, health, freedom, and growth, are some of the most longed for things that create meaning.
If you still don’t know what this involves, your employees won’t know either. If you know it but don't communicate it, no one will be able to follow you. If you've expressed it, but it's not what you believe, no one will believe it.
Being a leader today involves opening your heart and mind to all voices, both internal and external, using enough Emotional Intelligence not to let any obstacles stand in your way and have a presence that stands in the face of the circumstances. “Leaders should create contexts, environments, driving change and self-knowledge, and having the need of entering in a continuous learning dynamic clear,” said Jordi Serrano, a partner of the Associació Catalana de Direcció de Recursos Humans (Catalan Human Resource Management Association), cited in Aedipe Catalunya.
So, what are you going to do differently from now on?
If you like these topics as much as I do, here is some recommended further reading on the subject:
- Think Eat Move Thrive: The Practice for an Awesome Life
- Work Rules! Insights From Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead
- Alive at Work: The Neuroscience of Helping Your People Love What They Do