What’s the culture of a high-flying, high-performing business? Traditionally it’s likely to be high-octane, driven by pressure to perform, with plenty of rivalry and motivation to out-perform colleagues. Results are the primary driver, and early starts, late finishes and long hours are the measures of commitment.

But the cost of that cut-throat culture has become more and more apparent over the years, as many workplaces have begun to choose a different way, and when the outcomes between the two approaches are compared. Let’s look at what a cut-throat culture can do to your organisation – and three steps you can take to create a more positive and supportive culture instead, for the benefit of you, your whole team and your business.

 

The Cost of Competition

It may bring some results in the short term – your team are motivated to do well by the competition, and comparing their performance with others’ – but it will come as no surprise to learn that a high-pressure environment, which encourages performance and achievement over all else, with no let-up – leads to high and sustained levels of mental stress, and the physical impacts that poor mental health can have, ranging from digestive and metabolic problems to cardiovascular ones. Whether mental or physical, stress can lead to a decline in health, and much-needed time off work to recover.

Secondly – and largely due to the physical, mental and emotional demand – these motivators will only serve to keep people engaged for so long. True engagement in your job comes from the feeling of being valued; that your manager and team are there to support you; and that you and your contributions are respected. If they don’t feel truly valued your team will become disengaged from their roles, which leads to more mistakes, lower productivity, and higher absenteeism.

Longer term, this disengagement leads to the most damaging cost of all: waning commitment and loyalty. Ultimately, staff who are unhappy will leave. This means you’ll be faced with the time and cost of backfilling or replacing them, and your business will suffer from the loss of knowledge and experience too.

 

The Wrong Fixes

In attempting to address the high rates of absenteeism and attrition that all this pressure causes, senior execs often believe the answer is to offer employees more perks to retain them. Flexitime, the chance to work from home, childcare facilities, discount schemes, and gyms are all variously on offer – but all of them fail to address the root problem, which is the lack of nurture and focus on the wellbeing of staff as individuals. Bringing in incentives like these will do nothing to reduce the pressure, or the culture of competition, that are causing the stress in the first place.

 

Three Ways to Change

So how to get it right? The answer is wellbeing, but what is that – and how do you focus on it without losing the levels of performance you want to encourage? The answer is a positive culture that permeates across the organisation. Here are some features of that culture:

  • All staff feel inspired and understand what their work will do to contribute to everyone’s success
  • All staff feel able to voice their opinions and feel heard
  • It’s common practice for colleagues to offer support to others, and that anyone struggling is treated with compassion
  • There’s no blame culture, and it’s taken for granted that mistakes will be forgiven
  • Everyone is treated with respect

And these are three ways you can begin to build and nurture that in your organisation.

1 – Give them your time. Schedule regular team meetings that are sacred and cannot be cancelled, and make sure everyone gets the chance to speak about what they’re doing.

2 – Create a coaching and mentoring culture. Talk to each of your team about what they do well and what they could develop, then come up with a plan to get them there, with support from you or from a member of the team who is more experienced than they are.

3 – Model empathy. When someone comes to you with a problem, listen to them and react with support and understanding. This will soon become the culture across the team, and staff will begin to support each other more rather than competing.

When you lead with support and positivity, you’ll see the return in engagement, performance, commitment and job satisfaction. You’ll see your team develop and grow, and provide better service to each other and their customers. They’ll speak positively about your organisation as a workplace and as a business. All of that is essential for your financial performance, your customer satisfaction, and your reputation – and your happiness, too.

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