Climate Change


According to Daniel Goleman in his book Primal Leadership, an organization’s climate — how people feel about working at the company — accounts for 20 – 30% of performance, So what drives climate? According to Goleman, “Roughly 50 – 70% of how employees perceive their organization’s climate can be traced to the action of one person: the leader.” Hmmm . . . so I guess if some climate change is needed in your organization, at least you know where to start.

I’m not suggesting that life in your organization has to become one big party. However, counter- intuitive as it may be for some, peak performance isn’t all about the numbers either. It is the balance of head and heart that leads to maximum outcomes. Unfortunately, far too often the “soft stuff” gets pushed to the side when the going gets tough, to the detriment of all involved. Why do you think Harvard Business School researcher John Kotter wrote a book called The Heart of Change or Kouzes and Posner supplemented their well-know book The Leadership Challenge with another book called Encouraging the Heart?

The “soft stuff” matters.

Leaders have an oversized impact on organizational climate because people take their emotional cues from those with roles at the top of the organizational chart. If the leader “looks stressed” . . . if a typically outgoing leader is suddenly withdrawn . . . people notice. Leaders’ words are given more weight . . . their positive or negative outlook on an opportunity ripples throughout the organization. Climate can also be enhanced when a leader recognizes and accurately articulates the challenges staff is experiencing. Organization climate isn’t about “happy stuff.” It is about a leader’s attunement to, and resonance with, staff members. It is about a leaders’ emotional intelligence — his or her self-awareness and social awareness, self-management, and relationship management. It is not about leadership style. It is about being in sync with your people, and they with you.

So what should you do if you sense the need for a bit of climate change within your organization? For starters, get real . . . with yourself and your people. (They know when you’re faking it anyway, and you just lose credibility when you try.) It’s okay to say, “Things are tough right now.” But follow it up with, “and here’s how we’re going to get through this.” Ask for input and then really listen, don’t just wait to talk. Connect the dots for your people, point out what is important and tell them why.

Organizational climate isn’t about them — those people and variables outside your organization. It is about us, and you as a leader set the temperature. Need a change in climate? Lucky for you, you know where to start.

Mirrors and Windows

Woman Standing By Bedroom Window And Opening Curtains

Recently I was flipping through the channels on television and ran across a makeover show. The episode started with an individual dressed in (my opinion) outlandish attire who described the image she thought she portrayed. The host then showed a picture of the person to a series of individuals on the street and asked their impression. No surprise, the observations of others were much different than the individual’s perception of themselves.

It’s easy to look at someone else and chuckle at their apparent lack of self-awareness of how they come across . . . but what about you? When it comes to perceptions of your leadership style, do you spend more time looking in the mirror, thinking it’s a clear reflection, or do you open the window to feedback from others on how they see you as a leader.

We all have blind spots. Not intentionally, of course, but we know what we intend to portray and that is the frame of reference we start from in “seeing” ourselves. It is our mirror, and it usually reflects back what we are looking to see. Windows, now, are a different thing entirely. They don’t reflect, rather they are designed to let you see through, and the view can be totally different. I remember a time when members of my leadership team took a behavioral assessment, and each person’s “results” were shared with the entire team. In discussing the assessments, I made the comment that I thought most of mine was on the mark except one specific aspect that didn’t seem accurate. Almost in unison, my team responded, “Yes it does!” Hmmm . . . that was an unexpected but enlightening view from the window. Guess my mirror wasn’t entirely clear after all.

The tricky part about getting a clear view from the window is that people have to feel safe enough to share their perceptions of your leadership. If everyone reflects back to you the exact image you have of yourself, it’s possible that they are cautiously holding up a mirror rather than opening up a window that might let in a bit of fresh air. How can you tell the difference? Ask the right person. Come on, you know who will tell you want you want to hear and who, if truly given permission, will honestly share what they see.

The goal, of course is for the view to be the same whether reflected the mirror, or seen through the window. The best way to accomplish that? Start with the window.