Archive for May, 2012

Sub-Culture or Counter-Culture?

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Continuing the discussion around Organizational Culture that I started with my well-received White Paper-Blog, “20 Ways to Create Positive, Passionate, and Productive Corporate Cultures,” it’s important for leaders also to understand the “sub-cultures” that inevitably exist within organizations.

Given the challenging business environment over the past several years, I have witnessed numerous companies be acquired, as well as seen many companies struggle financially. As some of these organizations emerge from these changing, difficult times, the leadership is also seeing the emergence of distinct and strong “sub-cultures” – sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.

Additionally, over the past 8 weeks, I have consulted with two companies with significantly under-performing divisions/business units. In both scenarios, the challenged businesses happen to be housed in separate buildings away from the rest of the corporate team. And both of these CEOs are questioning whether the underlying stubborn and defeatist “sub-cultures” that have formed came about, in part, because of the physical separation from the “winning” part of the companies. The CEOs acknowledge that the communication with these groups has not been optimal.

It’s understood that the organizational culture provides employees with a reliable means of interpreting what may be for them a highly ambiguous work environment. And it is true that an organization may have many different cultures or sub-cultures, or even no discernible dominant culture at the organizational level; not every group develops a palpable culture.

Many sociologists believe that an overarching organizational culture is simply the coming together, or composite, of all of the company’s distinct sub-cultures. And it is perfectly normal and common for individuals to classify themselves into groups based on how they identify their work – to develop sub-groups as they mature. Cultural dynamics are ultimately a reflection of group dynamics, and recognizing the cultural unit is essential to identifying and understanding the culture.

As organizations grow, sub-cultures can become very specific and defined; they can be felt and articulated by everyone in the organization. Oftentimes, they bring an otherwise absent aspect of diversity and pride to an organization. A successful sub-culture – one with unique ideology, values and norms – clearly demonstrates how its idiosyncrasies are aligned with the core ideologies, values and norms of the organization’s overarching culture.

At times, however, sub-groups can develop as opposition within an organization. Rather than a healthy sub-culture, this is a counter-culture group which goes against the company’s core values. As you examine your organization’s various sub-cultures — particularly if your company is under-performing or suffering from negative cultural issues – determine whether there is a deliberate counter-culture force within your organization. Significant communication gaps often are at the root of counter-culture groups.

Differentiators | The Creation of Sub-Cultures

What kind of circumstances or differentiators account for the creation of sub-cultures?

Functional Areas of Differentiation – Sub-cultures frequently form based on functional expertise and the biases employees bring with respect to the stature of their functional domain, biased knowledge of company events, biased perspectives of cause and effect, and behaviors common to that function. Like-minded people often stick together; they gravitate toward what they “know,” which includes specific nomenclature. They can become accustomed to a “we” versus “them” mindset. Accounting, manufacturing, engineering, and IT can easily develop sub-cultures.

Product Differentiation – If your organization has multiple product lines, sub-cultures commonly form within each product group.

Different Divisions / Different Performance – As with product, any differences in corporate or business focus and performance can lead to sub-culture formation.

Geographic Decentralization – While easy to understand how sub-cultures form in global organizations with completely different geographic locations and different business environments (differences in local markets, local cultures, laws, labor, materials, etc.), as discussed above,  sub-cultures tend to form even when one common geography houses a campus with several different buildings. Under-performing business units or functional areas isolated or housed in buildings separate from corporate/HQ can struggle mightily culturally, as they can feel less important, cut off from vital information, and ostracized. The larger organization can even begin to label the separated group as less-than-competent when they are isolated. I’ve seen this happen time and again as communication breaks down. I have also seen several MN companies thrive when they were brought together under one roof.

Hierarchical Differentiation – In a vast hierarchy with many layers of bureaucracy, sub-cultures almost always form.

Mergers and Acquisitions / Joint Ventures / Alliances – Mergers attempt to blend or integrate the companies. In acquisitions, the smaller company often has/forms a sub-culture. It takes a significant cultural effort at the top to assimilate cultures when there is no shared history – it’s easy for one to feel inferior or threatened. There have been many disastrous acquisitions due to cultural mismatch. What are the cultural risks inherent in any merger or acquisition? How do the overall leadership goals and philosophies match or clash? Take the time up front for cultural due diligence to avoid crisis/disaster/failure. There is no excuse for not being informed about your company’s culture, and the acquisition target’s culture.

Observing and Assessing Sub-Cultures

What are your sub-cultures’ major characteristics? How do they identify themselves, and how does this impact their productivity and pride as a group? Do they dress differently? Are their work spaces furnished differently? Do they take separate breaks? Always be sensitive to sub-cultures – How have they formed? Why do they exist? What are the positive, as well as the negative, aspects? Make sure your sub-cultures share common goals, common language, and common procedures.  They must remain closely aligned with the overarching ideology, norms and values of the company’s leadership.

Healthy sub-cultures share leaderships’ conceptualizations of how tasks should be accomplished; how employees can advance and take on greater responsibility; how employees interact with each other; the ways in which change is accepted and accomplished; and how new knowledge is acquired and perpetuated. Distinct, healthy sub-cultures are organizationally aligned in their understanding of how they must perform to produce successful and acceptable results and outcomes.

Newcomers and Sub-Cultures

As new employees join your company, what do you teach them about the culture? Sub-cultures can be useful to newcomers as they “learn the ropes.” Clearly, it can be very useful for a high-potential manager to rotate through various departments and areas. This is because the close interaction with senior co-workers, peers, supervisors, and subordinates enables strong communication regarding “how we do things around here.” If the sub-group is closely aligned with the broader organization, this is an extremely positive point of assimilation. It is important to remember that during these initial interactions with newcomers, the established employees are sharing critical information around norms and roles, values, nomenclature, and identities.

Summary and Conclusions

Leaders actively seeking to influence their organization’s culture must consider sub-cultures. The major point here is to make sure that you are integrating and linking your sub-cultures into the broader, intended cultural objectives. Accept and foster productive sub-cultures while consistently communicating how employees must perform in order for the organization to be successful.

The leader’s overall cultural messages should be clear and strong enough to address ambiguities that are beyond the scope of any sub-culture to explain to employees. Cultural messages must specifically take into consideration the cultural ambiguities inherent in certain sub-culture practices within the organization, while resisting the temptation to eliminate a sub-culture’s distinctive identities.

 

Kristi LeBlanc is the Executive Vice President and Managing Director, N.A. Consumer Practice, with “Top-5” executive search firm, DHR International. She is also the founder and CEO of Living with Certainty™ LLC where she is a workshop presenter, keynote speaker, and organizational consultant with a focus on developing positive leaders and positive corporate cultures. To learn more visit DHR International  or email Kristi at KLeBlanc@DHRInternational.com.


 

Top 10 Reasons You Should Read Living with Certainty: Experience Deep-Soul Joy

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

10.  Developing awareness of your passions, defining success, devising a strategy, and taking productive action every day is often easier said than done. It requires specific understanding, guidance, discipline, and effort. The good news is that you have everything you need—here, now, today—to begin.

9.   Irrespective of your place in life today, you are capable of experiencing great joy while learning to harness and elevate your personal energy in the quest to discover— and share—your greatest gifts with the world. The book’s 65 Energy Enablers define a specific, practical plan to heighten and purify your energy.

8.   The most successful, joyous, self-actualized people share this trait: they are aware of, and in tune with, every aspect of their personal energy and understand the significance it plays in the co-creation of their purposeful lives. Living with Certainty calls upon ancient knowledge and helps you to understand and naturally heighten your energy vibrations, teaching you to think, believe, and act in ways that encourage and improve your life.

7.   Your life’s work should be an expression of purposeful authenticity that allows you to experience personal joy, growth, and enlightenment while also serving the universe in an inimitable way.

6.   Your life’s adventure should unquestionably include discovering your various dimensions, including your purpose, potentiality, and passions. The essential first step is to open your mind and awareness to the notion that you are spirit as well as mind and body, and to initiate the revelation of your inspired soul-view.

5.   Your internal instruction system, when fully in tune with Source energy (the ever-flowing, all-knowing creative energy of the universe through which we are all interconnected and from which all Earthly physicality emanates) and your inspired soul-view, enables brilliant boldness and authenticity over your actions.

4.   When you are exhausted and frustrated from toiling away without moving forward or experiencing any joy, Living with Certainty can transition you out of your rut, moving you ever closer to experiencing deep-soul joy and the life the universe always intended for you to live.

3.  This isn’t a process that should be undertaken only when you want or need something but is a belief system so deep and intrinsic to your ongoing growth and spiritual development that you cannot live any other way. It’s the ultimate way of honoring your self, your soul, your life, and your contribution to the universe.

2.   Living with Certainty provides a practical spiritual foundation—a deliberate way to approach and align your thoughts, emotions, beliefs, relationships, and actions. The process allows plenty of room for personal choice and authenticity as you carve out a unique life path in partnership with your inspired soul-view, and seamlessly learn to blend the various facets of your Earthly life with Source energy.

1.   You are a brilliant, radiant spiritual being of unlimited love and potential with the hardwired capacity to co-Living with Certainty by Kristi LeBlanccreate in every moment the life the universe always intended for you to live. Every day presents you with an opportunity to become and express more of your purposeful authenticity. Believe that the gifts you have can somehow, in some way, uniquely serve the world. It’s never too late.

…And I must add one more…Living with Certainty has proven itself to me and to others as a rewarding and powerful way to improve lives irrespective of whom or where you are. Now is the time to live with certainty; there is no other. This is the time for change and transformation, to discover your true self and to purify and heighten your energy. Anything that you deem meaningful or have longed to do but put off because you were “too busy,” pursue now, big or small. This will make you feel productive and create momentum. Now is the perfect time for you to make the decision to begin living intentionally—with purposeful authenticity—and to co-create not only your own life, but also a better world. If we all lived with certainty in alignment with our inspired soul-views, without question the world would change for the better.

“If you commit to Living with Certainty, you will discover the best of yourself. Daunting as some of the inner work required may seem, this is the most important work of your life. And it has a tremendous upside. As each of us begin to grow, heal, put the proper pieces into place, reprioritize, and awaken, one by one we will change the ways of the world. Once this happens, there will never, ever be any going back.” ~Kristi LeBlanc

 

Human Spiritual Evolution | Living with Certainty

Monday, May 7th, 2012

A new consciousness is permeating American culture. In the ‘great melting pot,’ a profound, soul-based spirituality has bubbled to the surface representing the essence of a beautiful medley of merged beliefs. This is contemporary American spirituality uniting ancient customs, rituals and traditions from around the world. As people continue awakening to their powerful inner stirrings, there is an ever-growing mainstream embracing of this blend of spirituality. Astudy released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 44 percent of Americans have switched religions during their lifetime, either trading one for another or completely leaving organized religion in favor of following their own spiritual path. I believe this is evidence that humans are increasingly seeking truth in more personalized beliefs.

As the human race continues to evolve, people of all races, creeds and colors around the globe are experiencing a global spiritual awakening that includes an expansion of our senses and beliefs along with a heightened awareness of our souls. Many millions of us are becoming more sensitive to our energy fields as we enter this Age of Instinct and Intuition. This is necessarily coupled with a heightened spiritual sensory awareness that something bigger than us is out there – a creative energy plane, the powerful unseen – that directly affects our Earthly experiences as it reacts to the human consciousness.

Are we more susceptible to believing that our senses are evolving and heightening simply because emotionally we need this to be true – we need hope, we need to feel better, and we need to feel like we have some power and control? Yes and no. I believe that we are evolving through awakening, becoming more aware and returning to the simplicity and knowledge our predecessors lived by thousands of years ago. We are also insatiably curious about how and why the universe works as it does and are longing to feel that we have some control over our experience.

It is understandable that we would experience this spiritual awakening in such a fundamentally uncertain era. We are increasingly sensing the spiritual mystery at work in the universe and in our lives and are opening to the centuries-old concepts of vibrational frequencies and universal interconnectivity. It is precisely our collective awareness and embrace of this unseen facet of our existence that illustrates the powerful extent to which everyone and everything is connected – spiritually connected, as in we are one. Our growing energetic sensitivity to this all-knowing, omnipresent energy suggests that there is far more to life than that which we can see, hear, smell, feel or taste. Consequently, there is an increasing hunger, not a mere appetite, but a hunger to understand the energies at work behind our lives and to explore our consciousness – that high-level mental state of being of which we are increasingly aware. We want some reassurance — some hope – that this world which seems to be careening out of control isn’t going to result in a train wreck of our personal lives. We want to seize our own power.