Monday, 5 September 2011

The News of the World - Culture leads behaviour!

A very good blog post caught my eye today from Susanne Jacobs managing director of Aspire Talent Management, (Blog Link) not only because it picks-up my interest area of behaviour in the context of organisations, but also the way she is putting across her point about behaviour and it becoming an acceptable or unacceptable culture in work environments. Susanne asks "When does internal organisational behaviour go from being acceptable to outside the moral code? When does it become OK to hack the phones of young murder victims and their families in order to further your career? Or, as with the Common’s expenses scandal, put through claims that may not breach internal policy but which are clearly at odds with a role that is supposed to serve the public good?". 

My own interest in these two scandals was in how such behaviour had become large scale "cultural" and I found myself wanting to get inside the environments to determine from talking to the people what exactly drives such thinking, how does having  influence and power lead people to make and distort their judgements. I know that fear stops when you have a culture of "we all do it" and arrogance that what is being done is quite okay - becoming a fixed state of mind - when these groups are looking at and interacting with the world around them.

I would want to determine what ways do they filter their values and beliefs, so as to self-justify what they and others around them behave. Susanne states and I agree, that how we all act is, among other things, a sign of the culture in which we live - at home and work. If you refer back to my previous posts where I make the point that how we create our Reality is how we truly believe the world is - which is not the same for anyone else. Our behaviour, plus that of others in any group will either be detrimental, or aid successful outcomes/goals/performance. Susanne rightly states "businesses need to be aware that our behaviour is driven by what we see around us and how it affects progression within an organisation. We are tribal animals. The urge to belong is fundamental to our emotional engagement. We need to connect to and be part of a community. Scientific research indicates this need for connection to others is a basic human requirement, on a par with eating and drinking".

When considering the popular phrase - which to me is a nominalisation that cannot be succinctly described - "Engagement" , to create harmony and aligned thinking, interactions and behaviours, you must first ensure that you understand (have gained insight of) the behaviour culture that already exists. Determine what creates and becomes acceptable and unacceptable behaviour within the various locations that make up the organisation and the employees/partners/suppliers that represent it. I often ask clients "How do you think that they think, act and interact? If not as you expect, does this actually fit-into your strategy? By knowing and factoring-in insight of the behaviours, you will ensure that you correctly align what the strategy is with your reality on the ground - therefore managing-in engagement rather than hoping for it!.

It is too easy, when attempting to create "engaged" environments to rely upon values written up and displayed in offices or perhaps within into contracts. As Susanne again states "How many of these organisations know that these values are lived across all their workplace communities? How many truly recognise which behaviours differentiate them from their competitors successfully?"

As I said in my post 6 Basic Human Motivation Needs organisations need to understand, when considering any employee focused strategy, what human needs are actively driving your people and therefore will determine what behaviours results. Without this key insight, whether that be positive or negative, then any strategy, change programme or daily performance turnaround project will be significantly impacted upon becuase people dynamics do not go where strategy dictates. Social norms, beliefs and values are a way of life for all employees, they experience their Reality from what they see around them and that is their measure of acceptable or unacceptable behaviour. As with MP's and NOTW employees, many will have (at the time) quickly justified their actions/behaviour by referencing superiors and colleagues as examples of "culture" to follow and copy.

Having read this, I hope to have provoked a challenge to how you view behaviour that exists around you. Have you considered it, how perhaps it is endemic or "cultural"? If you are a HR or Change professional who is looking after engagement within the scope of your role, have you considered the value of behaviour insight and what it can and will tell you about the "reality" of your organisation? If you are a manager or director then knowing how people behave has a direct personal impact upon you - as was found with the Met Police chief who felt compelled to resign - means you need to be fully aware of the intelligence gathering need.

Until next time....


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