Diverse team of men and women collaborating on a project

Ed Schein, an organizational consultant who has been working on culture for 50 years, notes that “leaders and managers of organizations (and societies) are creators, products, and victims of culture.”

Reflect on your last three staff meetings. How are they structured? Who gives updates? Are employees given a chance to ask questions? If so, does anyone ever ask questions? Are people taking away anything of importance as to how their role contributes to the company’s success, or are people multitasking?

One element of behavioral science recognizes that our brains are looking out for both threats to avoid and rewards worth pursuing. Using just this simple lens to look at your staff meetings, we can theorize that when the president or CEO asks a group of thirty employees if they have any questions, the invitation could feel threatening. Perhaps they’re worried about asking a silly question, or their brain freezes and they can’t think of a question at all.

Thus, we can consider how to leverage the brain’s search for rewards, which may be social recognition or the thrill of learning something new. With this knowledge, you might adjust your staff meeting from having leaders and managers give updates, to allowing frontline employees to give updates on projects, or identify something they accomplished in the last week or month that they are proud of.

As this McKinsey article from 2016 describes, small shifts in how you lead or manage your teams can have great impacts on your team’s dynamics. One leader is open and transparent when he’s taking a break to go for a walk. Another adjusted her attention to looking at the 95% that is working well, before jumping into problem-solving mode on the 5% that wasn’t working well.

Our impact as leaders and managers is powerful when it comes to creating a culture that balances our need for productivity with the recognition that we are all humans. If we can adjust our approach to our leadership style, we can enable our employees to behave in ways that allow them to achieve, be creative, help others, and work well across boundaries.

Next month’s newsletter will feature the first in a series focusing on the specific approaches managers take to leading their teams and how they can impact our employees’ behaviors.