When was the last time you took a deep-dive into the hidden psychological culture of your business? Have you ever? For around the assets and the balance sheet, there is an invisible, intangible and far bigger force at play in all of our businesses: psychology.
Looking at the real culture of your team is an investment in the intangible riches of your business. A productive culture helps you enhance the potential of and chemistry between your team, and it’s that which helps create and maintain the magic.
Groups are complex systems
Human beings are complex. The brain stores millions of ingrained beliefs and patterns of behaviour and interaction, only some of which we are aware. Within every group system thousands of these unconscious messages are conveyed every day, unconscious roles taken and positions adopted.
This makes for complex relationships. And where behaviour is not conscious and emotionally regulated, productivity and potential is inhibited, however unintentionally.
A real life example
I recently emailed the team at midnight with a heap of ideas and tasks to improve our service. A week or so later a colleague picked me up on this – “That email you sent the team so late at night… Don’t do that”, they said. “It doesn’t set a positive example of healthy company culture”. They also said I needed to get some sleep.
I saw red (defence mechanism kicking in). “Don’t?” I was working two jobs, whilst finalising my divorce, and
I was tired. I was doing my best and I felt criticised and told-off: I felt like a kid again. I stewed on this. I
didn’t want to let it go, because although I realised it was fundamentally my issue to address not my
(a) the “Don’t” language bugged me – and I knew would keep bugging me if I kept hearing it, and
(b) I knew my colleague was right.
So, I decided to raise this with my teammate (after a good night’s sleep). I thought it through first (thankfully), and said the above (without snapping). What astounded me was the way they responded…
No weirdness, no arguing; instead my colleague simply said they were sorry for the way it came out, and that in fact they were worried about me. And then they thanked me for raising it as now they could consider the way they expressed themselves in future. Their lack of defensiveness highlighted my own. It was so refreshing. We both acknowledged our part in the tension – transforming it from one mired in negativity and resentment to one underpinned by clarity and supportive understanding. We then carried on our merry way more positively, more collaboratively, with a stronger “cleaner” relationship and a juicier company culture thread on Slack to boot.
Evolving Your Company Culture
Is this story unusual? It certainly felt it. I’ve experienced my fair share of autocratic managers, dismissive
colleagues, clashes when such issues are raised, performance management…. the list goes on.
But my thinking is that this unusual way is a great way to do business. It helps that most of us in our team have or have had therapy and work hard to understand and regulate ourselves – and that we have a company culture that actively encourages all of this. We work hard to:
- Create a flatter hierarchy – in fact, we have no hierarchy
- Align personal callings and talents with company purpose
- Maintain personal motivation, boost morale and accountability.
- Create more psychological safety to allow colleagues to experiment and be creative.
- Improve communication in our team: Slack, calls, meetings – but not too many meetings!
But to really develop your company culture we need to see right inside of it. Inside the people, their motivations, their defence-mechanisms, and their lives, their context. When we see all the fine lines, the chips and cracks, we know where to focus on healing them. But we have to see to the bones of our workforce first – like an X-ray.
A Company X-Ray
First question is probably, an X-ray? How does that work? Simply put, through observation and discussion. At the Circle Line, our organisation X-ray is a new dynamic format we’ve developed to help businesses spot, analyse and improve the psychological culture of their business. It’s an intensive kick-off to recognising and developing a positive company culture. The key is that it’s carried out by accredited psychotherapists trained to diagnose and understand the psyche: how it works, what drives us, what inhibits us, and why we behave like we do. This is what they do.
We offer to apply this refined skill to your business to help you unlock potential you didn’t know existed in your team. We help you spot both positive and negative styles of management, working and interacting, to form a plan of action to develop your group dynamics and ultimately team performance.
We sit down with your HR team and leadership to discover your perception of your culture, any problems areas or teams, and what you want to improve.
Our psychological consultant and a therapist visit your offices and speak with members of your staff at every level of
your business. In confidence and in-depth.
We observe internal team meetings and interactions inflight. It is crucial we see behaviour and interaction first-hand to understand the group dynamics at play in your teams.
We prepare a written report of our findings, with action plan (targeted workshops, therapy) and communication plan (small group sessions and 1:1 meetings).
Maintaining the Momentum
I know forming and maintaining healthy work relationships is not easy; what relationship always is? But depending on how you monitor the mental health and performance of your teams, how open you are about it, and the self-development support you put in place, you may find a deep-dive exploration of the deep seas of your company goes far to start the change. It all starts with awareness. You may then be able to uphold your own psychological “manifesto” and principles in-house. Or you may want some regular help from therapists and facilitators. Either way, we all know there is no shame in asking for help…
By Philippa Richardson, Founder of The Circle Line