• Mark Topley

5 things that are crucial to setting your business ‘thermostat’

As the adult male in my household, I have always taken my responsibility to manage the central heating thermostat very seriously.

As well as being the only person who knows how to programme the timers, I keep a close eye on where (in our case) the antiquated dial in the living room is set. Too cold, and everyone disappears under a blanket and starts griping. Too warm and we’re burning money unnecessarily and the dog’s panting starts to drown out the TV.

Is it just me or is this something in our DNA as Dads that means the thermostat becomes the key battleground?

It’s a similar situation in your business for your team’s culture.

Your Business’ Cultural Thermostat

Just to be clear, I’m defining organisational culture as the underlying beliefs, assumptions, values and ways of behaving that contribute to your unique social and psychological environment.

Or more simply – your culture sets the emotional temperature in your business.

And so it’s your responsibility as the owner, leader or manager to control the thermostat.

Businesses that are too cold have set the thermostat too low. If your leaders are withdrawn, disengaged, self-focussed, unclear and distant, and you don’t show genuine interest in your people, you’re setting up a pretty chilly environment to work in.

Other businesses have the thermostat set too high. They’re inhabited by leaders that are too intense, overbearing, micromanaging and driven. The level of control is suffocating and demoralising.

Getting the temperature right?

Extensive published research, combined with my observations and experience suggest to me that there are five things you need to do to set your cultural thermostat just right:

  1. Autonomy – Controlling people just doesn’t work. Force creates resistance. But great relationships build autonomy, which allow you to leverage trust, which creates massive influence . Great cultures are those where leaders are constantly trying to push decision making authority further into the organisation. With clear boundaries and an expectation that mistakes will sometimes happen, it’s how people grow.

  2. Mastery – Do you have to have a culture of expectation that people will develop their skills and abilities? ‘But what if we train them and they leave?’ As the second part of the maxim goes ‘What if we don’t and they stay?’

  3. Purpose – People are increasingly looking for a sense of purpose in their work. This has two dimensions. There’s the company’s higher purpose, which is unique to the business. There’s also the connection people need to the business doing wider social and environmental good through what people do day to day. If you haven’t done it, you need to identify your business purpose, and connect to good causes through your CSR strategy.

  4. Caring and Fun – As John Maxwell said – ‘People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care’. They also want to have fun. Both of these should be built in to your planning and organisation

  5. Expectations – People want to know what you stand for, and in the absence of something clearly stated, they will assume you’re just like everyone else. There should be a two way set of expectations and boundaries for you and your team. What can they expect from you, what do you expect from them. A lack of clarity leads to fear and inaction.

Setting your cultural thermostat is not an optional extra. You will get what you expect and what you allow. Is yours set right?

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