Building a Culture Of Resilience – The Power of Collective Energy
The pandemic has posed many challenges for companies, chief among them the difficulty of maintaining an internal culture. In a world constantly disrupted, the threat of burn out and the loss of focus and drive is a real and constant threat.
Culture matters, says Alastair Creamer, who has built an agency on working with companies and employees to identify and embed theirs.
“People aren’t just here for the money,” he says. “They’re here for the culture, yeah, but they’re also here for the people, for the legacy and the impact. They’re here to grow, to do meaningful work that makes a difference. They’re here for the challenge, and here for success.”
The next generation of workers, Creamer says, want to know: “What are the norms? What are the values? What’s your higher purpose?”
Here are three takeaways from his vantage point.
Energy can make or break a company culture
“Without a doubt, culture is leader-led,” Creamer says. “You can’t get around it. But very soon underneath that, you then are people-driven. It starts with the leaders, the people take it up, and then you have that beautiful dance when it’s actually led by your people. That’s when culture is truly working.”
So leaders ask him and his team all the time – what can I actually do?
The key, Creamer and Co. has determined, is energy.
“Leaders, we’ve realized, have these levers, these forces, taps that they can turn on and turn off,” Creamer says.
He uses the phrase “collective energy” to describe tangibly how leaders can change the energy within their teams. “Energy builds momentum and it can drive change,” he says. “It is renewable. I’m someone who collapses at the weekend; my batteries run down, but I can recharge on Monday. It’s also fragile. It can disappear and fracture very very quickly.”
So because energy breeds energy, it’s “very transferable – you might also call it contagious,” Creamer says. “It cascades out. One person within a team that can bring in that energy on a daily or weekly basis is deeply valued.”
Communication is more important to culture than ever right now
What is in your control as a leader in this transitional moment? What can you do more of and less of? And what would make the biggest difference to your team right now? Its more important than ever that leaders bring their humanity to the office and address what we are collectively feeling and experience to build trust and a sense of community.
Companies must pay close attention to how they’re communicating in this online/in-person/hybrid moment. Here’s how:
- We have to blend real life with life online.
- We’ve got to communicate in different ways – both formal and informal
- Our higher purpose as a team and company needs to be even clearer
- We need to understand how we come across online, whether we are opening the conversation in meetings and conversations, or whether we’re closing it down
Companies need to be better storytellers – and better listeners
“One of my big insights about businesses is that they’re not very good at describing themselves, they’re not very good at telling stories, and they’re not good at all at metaphors,” Creamer says.
Harnessing the power of narrative, the way that Unilever, one of his clients does, is key to changing it. So Creamer teaches companies to visualize the narratives they use to manage their teams and how to change it.
But storytelling alone won’t get you there.
“Storytelling and listening are two parts of the same coin,” says Creamer.
Listening is so critical to company culture that Creamer brings in a listening expert – Richard Mullender, a former hostage negotiator – to help boardrooms identify their weaknesses.
His skill is to build bridges by listening, and he believes that companies can use that skill, too, to further embed their culture.
We’re living through a challenging time for hearing each other. Communicating through remote tools presents unique challenges.
Listening, then, may be how we build that virtual bridge. Because, Creamer says, “when people feel heard, something extraordinary happens.”
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