Changing Organisational Culture – One Team at a Time

Trying to change organisational culture without putting the needs of your people foremost is like trying to grow a new forest without considering the trees: an approach that is doomed to fail.

Consequently, the best strategies for developing organisational culture lie not in only developing leadership but in focusing on the needs of the teams that they lead.

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Developments in neuroscience and behavioural psychology in recent years have been effectively combined with the best management theory to improve the performance of teams – and to spread this culture of high performance from the inside out through organisations.

Taking a needs-based approach to improving teamwork is the most effective strategy because it is shaped around the fundamental motivators and drivers of human behaviour: the very mechanics of who we are.

Leadership and Team-Based Approaches

A key problem with making leadership the sole focus of organisational change is that this can lead to a culture of resistance.

When people have change imposed from the ‘outside’ there is an almost innate sense of resistance. Hence, unless team members are included, and are having their needs recognised and met by the process of change, then it’s no surprise when they start digging their heels in. This is the primary reason why attempts at changing culture through a purely ‘top down’ approach fail. People must see the benefit of change and how they fit into the bigger picture, and it must have relevance and meaning to their lives.

The reason that teams are often an afterthought in terms of changing organisational culture is that they are complex. Human interactions are intricate and require an understanding of the reasons why people act the way they do, of how they behave in relationships, what motivates them, and so on. This takes a level of psychology that is beyond most leaders – many don’t really understand their own role within a team and are certainly not equipped to be able to deal with diverse groups of people; it’s no wonder that attempts at change fall on deaf ears.

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That’s where frameworks based upon neuroscience and behavioural psychology can help bridge the divide between what management wants and what people need. This is the secret to sustainable change.

Addressing Team Needs

A high performance teaming methodology approaches teamwork and behavioural change from the needs of the individuals within that team.

A highly performing organisation views itself as a collection of highly performing teams with cultures that align; and it sees these teams as a collection of highly performing individuals having their needs met by the team.

Neuroscientific research from the University of California and the University of Queensland has helped to identify the six key social and cognitive needs of individuals within teams:

  1. Relatedness – the brain needs to be part of a group that is cohesive, fair and safe.
  1. Expression – the brain needs to express emotions if it is to function properly.
  1. Leading the pack – the brain needs status to feel as though we are achieving.
  1. Interpersonal connection – the brain needs to feel connected with, and genuinely understood, by others.

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