Image: Ethan Robertson

Are You A Culture Catalyst?

According a leadership survey conducted by McKinsey, US companies spend around $14bn on leadership development. Yet only 7% of respondents in the survey felt that their global leaders are developed effectively.

That’s the thing about leadership. You can send people on endless programs and get them to follow particular pathways, however, unless they make the decision to be a good human being when all around them may be doing the opposite, then they’ll never reach their potential.

Those that do go on to become role models for others make courageous decisions, act as an umbrella for the team that they’re managing, remove roadblocks to get things done and challenge the status quo. In order to do this — and to be the catalyst for vibrant workplace cultures — they relentlessly develop their emotional intelligence.

Culture Catalysts are emotionally intelligent

They are role models in every sense of the word and set the example for others to follow. They are people who take the time to listen, grow and to work closely with their staff to remove barriers and inspire incredible performance from those around them.

Emotionally intelligent people like this are a positive driving force for culture evolution. They are empathetic when it’s easier to be dismissive. They make time for new ideas and thinking. They have a tractor beam that you’re drawn to and you know that they won’t allow themselves to get dragged to the dark side.

These are the people whose conversations, meetings and training sessions are different. Whose communications are tailored to individuals, who can converse with all levels of people, who celebrate success, and who make you feel that anything is possible.

Leonardo Da Vinci put it best when he said, “It has long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

These culture catalysts stand for something. They have purpose, influences, ethics and they continually look to safeguard the future of their organisation. They do this by getting to know each member of the team, set expectations well and hold people to their promises.

Where people don’t deliver, they lead with empathy; asking how they can help and ensuring that they understand what’s required. Where people still don’t deliver, they performance manage with strength and courage. As a result the cultures that they lead hit their targets. Everyone within the team feels inspired and motivated to do their bit.

Culture catalysts are a force of positive energy and see the good in everyone that they interact with. In short, they are good humans who have your respect and you would work for them time and again.

Having these kinds of leaders are critical for organizational performance as they make people feel valued for the work that they do, which leads to greater engagement, which leads to enhanced productivity, which leads to greater value for customers and improved profitability or reputation.

Yet they also recognize that culture is everyone’s responsibility. They make time, find budget for and undertake activities designed to allow everyone to make a real difference to the way things get done. At the heart of every successful business you’ll find culture catalysts.

How do you become a culture catalyst?

Changing oneself is one of the most life affirming things that can be done. It’s a demonstration that lessons have been learned, you’ve grown as a person and are dedicated to making a real difference to people’s lives. Here are three things to get you started:

  1. Become more self-aware

List the things that you (or others) don’t like about your approach, regardless of whether it’s the way you communicate, how you run meetings or the time that you keep. Find one thing then work hard to change it. It won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile. Once you’ve changed that, pick another one and so on.

2. Say thank you more

As a self-aware leader you’ll realise that the team do all the real work, so use your manners and say thank you more. Find different ways to do it; post-it notes, hand written cards, call it out in a team meeting (providing you won’t embarrass them), but let it be known to the team that you’re someone that appreciates the efforts that people are putting in.

3. Make the time to build the culture

Do something different. Take the team off-site for two-days. Agree a vision, some behaviours, get to know each other, socialise, define the principles of collaboration and challenge your status quo. This will create ownership, energy and motivation. You’ll also be embracing the team as fellow culture catalysts.

There’s no dark art when it comes to being a culture catalyst. It’s simply a case of being a good human, making the choice to do things differently and ensuring the team feel valued for the work they do. When you are that kind of person, you’re the catalyst for your own success too.

Best-selling Author of Culture Fix | Keynote Speaker | Facilitator | Devoted Dad | Evertonian | Whisky Lover | Likes to laugh, a lot