Creating climates that produce results - the real power of leadership

Simon Thiessen

Simon Thiessen About The Author

10-Feb-2015 07:47:36

Leaders can change results by changing something that is completely within their control

workplace performance is directly linked to leadership capabilityThere is a lot of focus today on developing leadership capability within organisations – and with good reason. Leaders have a disproportionate impact on the climate of an organisation and therefore on the behaviour of their team which flows through to performance, results and the bottom line. In short, leaders have a significant ability to influence the success of the organisation – and with that ability comes responsibility.

Any manager who understands how each of these elements (climate, behaviour, performance and results) links together and how to influence them has a significant advantage over managers who are only willing to work in ‘one gear’ – managers who have one way of doing things and they inflict it upon everyone and every situation.

Let’s work through each of the elements and look at ways to influence them

Organisational climate and culture

First, climate and culture are not interchangeable. So what is the difference between them? Climate is broader and best described as ‘the way we do things around here’. Sure, it’s a cliché, but it is also accurate. Culture encompasses the overall organisation – what it represents, what it stands for, what its values are and how people feel it is OK to behave within the organisation. In a future leadership post, I will discuss culture and ways to influence and build it in more detail.

Climate is not as broad and refers specifically to the employee experience – ‘what is it like to work here?’ Climate is a subset of culture and it is the part that has a direct impact on performance. Where does organisational climate come from? Many things influence organisational climate – the competitive or regulatory environment; external community events; recruitment; history; etc. However none of these impacts organisational climate as profoundly as leadership does. Research indicates that the way a team is led can be responsible for up to 70% of the variance in the climate within that team – that’s a lot of influence, and responsibility, that lies with the leader.

While other things influence the climate, these are often either completely or largely outside the control of individual managers. Put your energies into the key variable that is within your control – the way you choose to lead.

The way leadership creates organisational climate

Every manager has their own style. If you think about the managers you work for now (or have worked for in the past), you could probably summarise their leadership style in a short sentence: some are very hands-on, some seem more remote; some delegate a lot of responsibility while others like to keep things more tightly controlled; some involve their people in decision making and problem solving while others tend to do these things themselves; some emphasise the team spirit while others focus more on results. This is just a small sample of the variance in leadership behaviours – and all of them could be good if used at the appropriate time.

The most effective leaders have certain things in common:

  • They are good at adapting their leadership style to meet the specific needs of the situation they are dealing with and the specific individual they are working with
  • They can draw on a broad range of leadership styles
  • Whenever possible, they use leadership styles that enable their people to grow and build initiative, self-sufficiency and ownership
  • They are prepared to use ‘tougher’ approaches – but don’t do them by default or as a power trip. They use these approaches because the specific situation calls for them
  • They recognise that as their people grow and develop, their leadership style for that person must evolve

It is the difference in leadership style that creates the difference in organisational climate – which is empowering if you are willing to learn and adapt. If the current climate isn’t working, you have more power to change it than anyone or anything else.

Developing your leadership capability will have people strive harderThe impact of climate

The organisational climate has a direct impact on the way people behave. If the climate is conducive, they respond to it positively by trying harder; being more committed; going ‘the extra step’; taking responsibility; being more engaged and motivated – in short, all of those things that have managers ‘tearing their hair out’ when they don’t happen.

When the climate isn’t conducive, people don’t try as hard. This often called discretionary effort – have you ever wondered why some of your people seem to be coasting or have you ever said ‘why can’t my people be as committed as me’? The answer is likely to be at least partly that the climate isn’t encouraging or motivating them to go beyond what they have to do

Does each team have its own organisational climate?

Yes - in fact each team has its own culture as well. In my work with national and international organisations I have often been amazed by the variance in cultures and climates between teams within the same organisation. Going from department to department and especially from location to location can be like travelling to a different planet. The difference can be felt the minute you walk through the door and is almost always a result of differences in leadership style – and always has a profound impact on results.

If this post left you wanting to know more, please subscribe to receive notifications when we post a new blog – we will look more at climate, culture, leadership style and discretionary effort in future posts.

Keeping leadership style top of mind

It can be hard to focus on leadership development when you are just busy getting the job done each day - have a look at the post on managing people issues and you may also like these free and inspiring leadership posters - print them out and display them on your office or meeting room walls

Download six high quality wall posters with inspiring leadership messages

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