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 if a typically outgoing leader is suddenly withdrawn .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.