Every day we hear stories of wild swings in temperatures, massive storms, or apocalyptic-like impacts on the ecosystem due to climate change. I am a believer in science and that climate change is real. I also believe that humans impact the “climate” of our indoor worlds.
We often talk about a company’s climate or culture and hear extreme descriptors like, “great” or “toxic.” What factors are at play that could cause such a difference?
A company’s culture is created by valued and rewarded behaviors, and leaders are at the forefront of shaping that culture. I’ve previously written about how leaders impact the culture of their team, but I want to look at this idea through a different lens.
Weather forecasts offer an opportunity to prepare for what’s to come. Similarly, we can predict the work environment based on how our leaders show up.
During times of change, leadership has an even more significant impact on shaping employees’ experiences. Let’s explore three important factors.
- Transparency – Communication style and approach in an area where many leaders struggle. Considering our preference in communication, it’s safe to say honesty is top of the list. During times of change, it’s even more vital. Even if the news is difficult, people want to know the truth. While there are some situations where confidentiality is needed, when leaders freely share the information they can, it goes a long way in building trust and loyalty.
Transparency in setting expectations is essential. The primary cause of conflict is when people have different expectations or when expectations and reality are not aligned. Clearly outlining performance expectations, change impacts, and timing can bring people along a change journey and gain their buy-in and support along the way. Setting expectations serves as a forecast so people can prepare accordingly.
- Consistency – How a leader shows up, sets the tone for the entire team. Even if the leader is difficult, if that is the norm, people know what to expect. When people understand the dynamics, they will be more successful in navigating the relationship.
Obviously, we want leaders who demonstrate positive leadership behaviors consistently. It’s especially meaningful for team members to support productivity and development, encourage learning, remove roadblocks, manage workloads, and provide overall direction. Being consistent is an element of predictability, a bonus when change happens. Like we expect to get a daily weather forecast, we expect our leaders to be consistent in how they lead.
- Frequency – The frequency in both general communication and in giving recognition are other important elements in the work environment. As noted earlier, transparency in communication is vital, but the frequency is just as critical – particularly in times of change.
When we don’t hear from leaders, we fill in the blanks, often with worse-case assumptions. Even if there is no new news or complete information to share, share what you DO know. I can’t emphasize this enough! Leaders often wait until they have answers to ALL the questions. Don’t do that.
- Share what you know – what you don’t know – and when you will have more information.
It sends the message that you’ve not forgotten about those impacted by the change and are continuing to sort through answers along the way.
Frequent recognition and feedback are other factors shaping the climate of a team. Stopping to notice when someone does something well is often overlooked. No one tires of being told, “well done!” Giving feedback, positive or constructive, is also highly valued. It’s what signals how their performance is meeting expectations.
Change is hard, but as a leader, you can help bring others along and create a climate where it feels less disruptive. Like a pebble causes ripples in the water, how leaders show up with their team has a ripple effect on the team environment
Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at email@example.com.