Is company culture holding back your organisation?

Company culture can be a difficult thing to quantify and measure, especially for an SME that is looking to become more innovative.

While CEOs and company leaders will play a major part in establishing and maintaining a strong internal culture, there are still issues which derail these initiatives.

This is especially challenging if it means that companies cannot remain competitive and stay ahead of the opposition. Innovation is just one area where company culture can play a major role in long-term success or failure.

This issue was recently explored in the Culturing Success report from Microsoft into how widespread innovation is within a small business and what is setting apart high-performers in this space. The research reported that nearly 70 per cent of SMEs in Australia are finding it difficult to become more innovative because of company culture.

According to the report, there are four cultural issues which are undermining the performance of Australian firms. These four are; working in silos, employee distrust, poor collaboration and a fear of failure.

The importance of innovation was underscored by Microsoft Australia’s Managing Director, Pip Marlow, who stated that “innovation is vital to the success of any business, no matter how big or small.”

“However, our research reveals that many businesses find it difficult to develop a culture of innovation.”

While there is clearly a lot of room for Australian companies to improve their processes, the report did highlight features that set highly innovative companies apart from the competition. The 33 per cent of firms that fell into this highly innovative category possessed five key features, including:

A strong customer focus
Awareness of and appetite for innovation
Visible and involved leaders, which in turn create engaged employees
Authentic internal dialogues
A supportive working environment

The result of implementing these processes is a considerable improvement in the performance of an organisation. According to the research, 39 per cent of high-performing firms reported above average growth, compared to less than a quarter of those who are poor innovators.

So how can companies achieve this new focus? The report suggested four strategies that companies can embrace to move closer to the example set by highly innovative organisations:

Attract new staff

The study emphasised that attracting the right staff is an important part of building an innovative business. By bringing in new perspectives, organisations will be able to create great ideas and subsequently see them through to completion.

The advantages of attracting the right staff go beyond boosting innovation, they can also play an important role in realising customer engagement.

Many Australian companies are already aware of the challenges that come alone with attracting and retaining valuable staff members. For fast-growing SMEs like Enablis, finding the right staff members has been the core challenge when trying to scale the business to handle further expansion.

Collaborate with external partners

Creative ideas and innovative solutions don’t just come from within a business – in many situations, creative ideas will actually come from tapping into the skill sets of other firms and working collaboratively.

Business collaboration is also becoming increasingly important across new technology, with collaboration over cloud technologies predicted to double over coming years, according to a study from Research and Markets.

Evaluate performance

Companies that are looking to become more innovative will need to have established and concrete processes to measure performance. Microsoft suggested organisations can audit themselves to understand exactly how well they are realising an innovation strategy at each stage.

One option that companies can use is the assessment tool provided by Microsoft. This quick test was designed to accompany the research and allows businesses to measure how innovative they really are. This sort of information can then be used to identify the areas an SME will need to work on if they want to move up the scale.

The benefits of this system were also highlighted by Pip Marlow, who emphasised the advantages of taking this assessment for small-business owners.

“Microsoft’s new self-assessment tool is the first of its kind to help small and medium-sized businesses identify their culture-related obstacles and then implement tangible solutions to become true innovation leaders,” stated Ms Marlow.

Build a flexible workplace

Staff will often perform better if they have the opportunity to get out from behind their desk and work in a way that best suits them. Not only can making this change ensure that staff are thinking creatively, it can also reduce the amount of stress they feel outside of work.

Solutions like working from home and employees choosing their own hours are easy ways for small businesses to introduce more flexibility, and thinking along these lines is a key ingredient in building an innovative company.

A flexible workplace can also involve introducing new processes to reduce the amount of time spent working on menial or repetitive tasks. For TEC member Alister Haigh, introducing ‘Baxter’ – a robot  designed to take over menial processes – has introduced a new level of flexibility into his family’s chocolate business.

Of course, none of these approaches alone is going to transform a business into an innovative organisation. But, by combining these different factors into a single coherent strategy, businesses will be well-placed to become a highly innovative firm that is also a leader in their industries.

For small businesses, building this sort of culture is going to require constant attention and maintenance. While this might sound daunting, the benefits for SMEs that can embrace this way of thinking are certainly going to be considerable.

The behavioural DNA of a typical TEC member

Exploring EQ (Emotional Intelligence) & the motivating behaviours evident in the ‘typical’ TEC member.

After running over 70 presentations, from a behavioural perspective, a pattern has emerged as to the type of member TEC attracts and keeps. This article will bring data to the table and explore the natural strengths and weaknesses in the behaviour of your typical TEC member. There are generic challenges that arise out of what I have found with the such a TEC member. Challenges include, building trust, dealing with conflict, flexibility & handling differing points of view.

“Emotional Intelligence? That’s an oxy-moron! How can you be “intelligent” and “emotional” at the same time?”

This was a common response particularly when I first started presenting “Applied Emotional Intelligence” over 12 years ago to TEC groups. More and more research confirms, (such as “Built to Last” & “Great by Choice” Jim Collins) there is a strong link between Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and business success.

The cynics are becoming fewer.

That doesn’t make it any easier however to understand and apply EQ to business.

TEC members seem to have a thirst and equally a frustration working out this ‘emotional intelligence’ piece of their Management equation.

A tool that I have found particularly useful in helping TEC members grasp EQ is called “DISC Profiling”. The DISC profiling process came out of research back in the 1920’s by Dr. William Marsden “Emotions of Normal People” who wanted to work out ‘what drives people’s different behaviours?’. Then in the 1960’s Dr. John Geier developed the “DISC profile” to help people measure these drivers– Why they do and behave the way they do.

In a nutshell “D.I.S.C.” represents four quadrants of behaviour (see Table 1). Behaviours we exhibit depending on the environment we are in. Similar behavioural models use birds to help visualize and identify these behaviours (refer: “Taking Flight” Rosenberg & Silvert):

  • ‘bold’ Eagle (“D” behaviour),
  • ‘flamboyant’ Peacock (“I” behaviour),
  • ‘peaceful’ Dove (“S” behaviour) and
  • ‘wise’ Owl (“C” behaviour):

Table 1: Brief summary of DISC:

Type Behaviour Motivated by Characteristics Indicators
Eagle Direct & Decisiv Power & Control Risk taking & Task oriented Strong Willed Bold Competitive
IPeacock Interactive & Inspirational Recognition & Influence Risk taking & People oriented Talkative & Fun loving
SDove Steady & Supportive Acceptance & Stability Risk reducing & People oriented Sincere & co-Operative
COwl Cautious & Correct Security & Correctness Risk reducing & Task oriented Logical & Thorough

The key is to recognise that we have a unique combination of D.I.S.C. behaviours. However we do tend to revert to a couple of behaviours that are our natural preference, ‘wiring or DNA’.

The DISC profile measures below were gathered from 40 TEC members participating in ‘Applied Emotional Intelligence’ sessions from four recent TEC groups. The results revealed some interesting patterns in TEC members; patterns that reflect my experience working with nearly 1,000 TEC members over 12 years.

Strongest Behaviour % Behavioural Preference* %
D 56.1% D 77.5%
I 3.6% I 20.0%
S 17.4% S 35.0%
C 22.9% C 75.0%

*It is important to note that around 80% of the population have 2 DISC behaviours, such as a D & C or S & C combination which are their natural behavioural preference, ‘wiring or DNA’

  • “Strongest behaviour”= measures “which of the four DISC behaviours is the strongest preference for the TEC member?”
  • ”Behavioural Preference”= measures “which DISC behaviours are a natural preference?”

The results are not surprising. “D” rates as the strongest rating behaviour for 56.2% of TEC members while 77.5% have D as part of their behavioural DNA. “D” behaviour is driven by the need for Power & Control. In other words they prefer to call the shots, than be told what to do!

They love TEC because they love fierce conversations (no ‘BS’), making life efficient and continually focus on results.

Heading up or creating a business can be high risk and thus tends to attract people who are comfortable in taking risks and driven by getting results. TEC provides that framework.

75% of TEC members are driven by the need for security, correctness and compliance (C behaviour). The need to get things right, need for process.

They love TEC because it helps fine tune systems, processes and procedures. Quality and accountability are king!

So, where does EQ fit into the TEC picture?

From an EQ perspective, the challenge for TEC members with 77.5% and 75% of members respectively having D & C behaviour as part of their DNA means that their world is highly TASK driven. Results tend to be more about taking risks, getting systems, processes and procedures right.

The danger:staff may in themselves become just another “task” versus an “asset” to be nurtured, coached and engaged.

Believe it or not, EQ is not about being touchy feely. It’s more about maximizing your people’s input, engagement and thus productivity. No point having great products, systems and processes but no decent person wants to work for you!

A challenge to TEC. Is TEC attracting a certain type of business owner/director? Are there opportunities to target a wider community of leaders that are not being tapped?

Finally, the KEYS TO HIGH EQ:

  • knowing yourself: strengths/weaknesses
  • knowing what drives you (knowing your D.I.S.C. preferences)
  • knowing what drives those who are most important to you and
  • taking responsibility to build your key relationships (high EQ)

Emotional intelligence is more related to your ability to be flexible than where you live in the world of DISC.

Good luck!

By the way, if you are looking to sharpen your EQ check out ‘Leadership NOW’

About the Author

Wayne Dyson is the Director of Bridgeworks – a specialist leadership and team development consultancy dealing in people skills for professionals. Delivering processes that build collaborative work environments where staff are fully engaged. Providing the starting point is helping managers find the sweet spot between managing process and leading people. His programs have been delivered nationally and in USA, SE Asia, UK, & NZ.