Climate - A Byproduct of Coherence
In this short piece lets explore a natural byproduct of coherence. That is climate. Climate is the milieu that a leader creates for their team or company. If you as a leader are successful at providing direction, interpreting the company to your team, providing context for where they fit in, how things get done and setting them free to explore how they can add value in their roles you have established the foundation for what kind of climate your team will operate within.
What solidifies that climate is the consistent application of those principles. That consistency creates a climate that is safe to function in and safe to innovate and take initiative. These are the key ingredients of engagement. A workforce that is confident in their understanding of the company and how they can help are more willing to take risks, generate ideas and "own" those ideas.
The Southwest Example
Herb Kelleher the founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines is a good example of this. As a leader he was able to provide coherence to his employees with clear messaging around the values of humor, independence and respect. He defined the company to them and spoke often of how they fit into it and through policy and application encouraged them to function independently and rewarded them for it. He believed that it created a workforce that was much more flexible and able to adapt quickly to the ever changing demands of the airline industry. In 1991 Midway Airlines went out of business on a Friday morning and by Friday afternoon Southwest staff had physically taken over every Midway gate at the Chicago Airport. He wasn't even consulted at first but was brought into the loop later. They wound up with all those gates and he was proud of the quick thinking and initiative that his group took.
Much as he is prone to give the credit to his employees make no mistake that without his efforts around coherence and the climate that he created this would never have happened. People don't take initiative when they don't feel safe to do so. There is an old axiom that so aptly applies to what happens when people don't feel safe to take initiative - "nobody moves - nobody gets hurt" and nothing gets accomplished.
How's the Climate on Your Team?
By the way there are no shortcuts to creating this type of climate. Consistent messaging and interpretation of the company to staff are the only way to create the type of security and frame of mind that fosters innovation. If your staff are unsure, tentative or unwilling to step out of their comfort zone you need to ask yourself what kind of messaging and therefore what kind of climate are you fostering? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
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