Last post, we used Liak Meng Chong‘s definition of engagement, which is ‘creating strong bonds/relationships that foster internal and external organizational growth towards the company’s vision and mission.’ We discussed vision and mission statements, defining how they differ from each other as well as discussing their inter-relationship. Today, let’s examine another factor, creating strong internal bonds/relationships.
As always, it pays to define what we’re discussing. Whenever we talk about bonds and relationships within a business setting, we inevitably end up focusing on culture. David Byrd describes culture in his book The Tripping Point in Leadership – Overcoming Organizational Apathy as “a measure of the positive or negative quality of interpersonal support, communication, values, ideologies, behaviors, and relationships that exist within the organization” (p. 98. Pilot Communications Group, Inc. Waco, TX 2008). Culture includes all the interpersonal organizational support provided. This includes the manner, type, and quality of coaching provided, systems of communication, and methods for creating awareness and use of those systems.
So, while the bonds mentioned by Mr. Chong aren’t by themselves corporate culture, the culture affects those bonds. Indeed, they are an integral part of that culture. The more positive the culture, the stronger and more productive those bonds and relationships become. Note that values and ideologies are part of the definition. This leads us back to our mission and vision statements (discussed in the previous post). Without a compelling vision that leads to a worthwhile and engaging mission, it’s hard to foster a positive culture. That’s why we’re discussing these fundamental components of engagements in this particular order.
What promotes a positive culture, or work environment, in an effective and sustainable way? In a word, it’s leadership.
Leadership – The Critical Factor
Since the topic of leadership is vast, let’s laser focus only on how leadership relates to workplace culture (we can visit other aspects of leadership in future posts). Positive workplace culture is a result of effective leadership. I can’t stress that enough. Effective leadership is the lynchpin upon which workplace culture hangs. When you’re in an organization with a positive culture, you can almost feel it the moment you walk through the door. People are vibrant and full of energy. You get the sense they enjoy what they do and like being there. Everyone doesn’t have to smile all the time, but you can tell that they are collaborative and vested in what they do.
Related to the culture is climate. David Byrd defines this as “a measure of the degree of energy and spirit” (The Tripping Point in Leadership – Overcoming Organizational Apathy, page 99. Pilot Communications Group, Inc. Waco, TX 2008). What I just described at the end of the preceding paragraph is an example of climate. A positive culture helps foster positive climate. Where both qualities exist, that organization has an effective leader (or leaders) at the helm.
Additionally, effective leaders create sustainable systems of communication. Every business feels the effects of outside factors whether they be political, social, or economic. There are ups and downs that every business must weather. Lord knows we’ve all seen our share of down times in the last few years! Culture, and the related climate, must continue regardless of what’s happening outside. Sustainability relates to how effectively an organization’s leaders create and manage systems to promote positive culture. This means regularly examining the quality of an organizations interpersonal support and multiplying what works, removing what doesn’t, and checking back periodically to see if the changes have the desired effect.
With a positive culture in place and the resulting positive climate it produces, employee engagement follows. This then leaves the need to create strong external bonds/relationships, which we’ll discuss in the next post.