The Secret of Highly Engaged and Successful Company Cultures

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Today’s workplaces are fraught with disruptions, interruptions, and setbacks, even for the most successful among us.

Companies at the top of their game still have times when they are blindsided by market forces and must play catch-up. When faced with adversity, the difference between the winners and losers is often how they handle the upset.

That’s a key finding from Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s ongoing research on great companies and effective leaders. No one can completely avoid trouble, and potential pitfalls are everywhere, but resilience is the trait that helps us climb out of the hole and bounce back.

Recovering from the potholes of the workplace

Fortunately, resilience is a skill you can master, and it’s critical for thriving in a stressful business environment. Stress permeates the very nature of the bumpy road we travel daily.

Those who find the most success aren’t on a smoother road —  just mastered the skill of recovering from the inevitable tumbles and potholes.

Much of what feeds our resilience is how connected we are to our organizational purpose and to each other—to our team, our company, and our brand. They’re all directed and reinforced by our corporate culture itself, and in highly successful and engaged cultures, their resilience and connection to work combine to reinforce each other.

Resilience thrives on a sense of community — the desire to pick oneself up because of an obligation to others and because of support from others who want the same thing. Humility and a noble purpose fuel it, and it’s manifested in actions—a new contribution, a small win, a goal that takes attention off of the past and focuses and creates excitement about the future.

Resilience draws from strength of character and from a core set of values that motivate efforts to overcome the setback and resume walking the path to success. It involves self-control and the willingness to acknowledge our own role in the defeat. While we might not be able to control every problem, we can control our reactions to them — choosing whether we give up or find an alternative path to our goal.

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3 steps to get your organization going again

But flexibility alone isn’t enough — we have to learn from our errors. Those with resilience build on the cornerstones of confidence which underpin people, teams, and organizations that can stumble but then resume winning:

  • Accountability – Taking responsibility and showing remorse;
  • Collaboration – Supporting others in reaching a common goal;
  • Initiative – Focusing on positive steps and improvements.

Potential troubles lurk around every corner, whether they stem from unexpected marketplace jolts or individual flaws and mistakes. Whatever the source, what matters is how we deal with them.

The keys to resilience

While surprises and uncertainty are the new normal, resilience is the necessary new skill.

  • Make every mistake a learning experience.
  • Create a culture supportive of risk taking so people learn when they stumble.
  • Encourage people to try again for the good of the teamit will get them back in the game and strengthen their connection to their colleagues and the company.

What are you doing to ensure your team’s resilience? What measures have you put in place to learn from challenging times so your ability to bounce back becomes more skilled, focused, and sustainable?

This was originally published on the OC Tanner blog.

Named as one of the Ten Best and Brightest Women in the incentive industry and to the Employee Engagement Power 100 list, a Change Maker, Top Idea Maven, and President’s Award winner, Michelle is a highly accomplished international speaker, author, and strategist on performance improvement. A respected authority on leadership, workplace culture, talent and employee engagement, she’s a trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful organizations and the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States.

Michelle speaks and writes about what she knows first-hand – as a former executive of a Fortune 100 global conglomerate, and as a researcher and strategist. She passionately shares new insights and tools for leaders to confidently, effectively and strategically lead their organizations to success.

Michelle is the Past President of the FORUM for People Performance at Northwestern University and President Emeritus of the Incentive Marketing Association. Michelle was the Founder and Chair of the Editorial Board of Return on Performance Magazine, and has been featured on Fox Television, the BBC, in Fortune, Business Week, Inc. and other global publications, and contributed to the books Bull Market by Seth Godin, Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk, and Social Media Isn’t Social.   




5 Comments on “The Secret of Highly Engaged and Successful Company Cultures

  1. We need to built a complete ecosystem where Accountability, Collaboration and Initiative is not only encouraged but rewarded also. That once set as an example will be easily followed and instill the same culture in organization.

    1. Satish, I completely agree with you. Management must first (and consistently) lead by example, and then we know that what is rewarded as valuable in an organization is often adopted much more quickly by the rest of the company, and much more likely to become a sustained element of the culture.

  2. This ideal is totally unrealistic in a business culture that is unwilling to provide a safety net when failures occur. Most businesses let workers go instead of giving them an opportunity “to learn when they stumble”. So much for a “sense of community”.

    1. Your point is very well taken, Russ. And that’s why we must all work so hard to change corporate cultures that don’t allow mistakes to be viewed – and embraced – as learning experiences. There won’t be innovation without some failure, and few will be willing to try to innovate if leaders don’t understand that mistakes are part of the process.

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