Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why culture matters (and YOU need to do something about it)

If you are a manager in the knowledge industry in India and have a team with an average age in the late twenties or early thirties, one major fact that you would be aware of is that they tend to behave atleast a little, if not very differently from you when you were of their age. They have grown in a globalized India with an upward looking economy. With either one or both their parents working, they have learnt to manage themselves, stand up for their preferences and tend to question conventional boundaries. They might not fight shy of the fact that they like to earn money and that the career is a means to earn money for their personal life. In short, they could be called 'free agents'. 

Having done exit interviews over the years, I have found a recurring theme that tends to trigger attrition among 'free agents'. It is the fact that they stopped enjoying the time they spend in the organization. Combine that with a growing economy, fairly valued competencies they hold and the 'free agent' thinking, you have a potent mixture that challenges the best of the managers and organizations.

'Free agents' tend to constantly evaluate their achievements on a daily basis and like to have done 'something worthwhile' at the end of the day. They know what they want and how to get it. They are willing to work hard for it and stretch themselves. So, the confounding factor? Culture!

Culture in your team tends to hinder or help higher performance. Assume for a moment that three out of eight team members start displaying non-collaborative and sublime-aggressive behaviours. This in turn can limit the initiative of the other five. Curb initiative and you have curbed creativity. Reduce creativity and you have killed performance. Kill performance and you are reducing the possibilities for success of your brightest and best. In a way, you have not struck your foot with an axe. You have chosen to strike the axe with your foot!

So, would you sit back and wait for the 'drama of life' to continue or would you become an active player and set expectations? Would you give the benefit of doubt to the fouling players or call a spade a spade? 

Remember, the 'free agents' are watching. Be it culture or otherwise, they tend to think of themselves as professionals who know that the good times do not last forever and are giving you measures of their time in return for growth and professional success. If they do not see you actively building culture, you are setting the stage ripe for attrition. 

If you want to learn more about free agents, you can read the book 'What got you here wont get you there' by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith.

Happy culture building. Either you actively build it, or watch it collapse all around you. It's your choice.

1 comment:

  1. Some consider culture the glue that holds everyone together. Others compare it to a compass providing direction.
    Operating largely outside of our awareness, culture creates a common ground for team members. It reduces uncertainty by offering a
    language for interpreting events and issues. It provides a sense of order so that all team members know what is expected. It contributes to a sense of continuity and unity. And it offers a vision around which a company can rally. At the observable level, culture is manifested in an organization’s climate — the behaviors and strategies that can be managed in support of organizational goals.

    In simple words. See Monkey, do monkey!
    ~ Arthur Michael