When it comes to cultivating cohesive company cultures, how managers act, behave, and treat those around them speaks volumes, far more than what they have to say about culture.
Enron, which was embroiled in one of the largest cases of fraud in the history of corporate America, proudly displayed its motto for all and sundry in the building lobby: “respect, integrity, communication, and excellence.” It even waxed lyrical with its mission statement, stating that “we treat others as how we would like to be treated ourselves… ruthlessness, callousness, and arrogance don’t belong here.”
Clearly, how its leaders actually behaved was a vast departure from those lofty claims. The culture they actually ended up creating was one that was shaped by how they neglected and abused their employees in the end.
Enron was a classic example of a fixed-mindset organisation. Here, regardless of what its leaders, preach, growth is stifled because of certain crippling organisational beliefs that thwart employee performance on so many levels. In contrast, according to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, growth-mindset organisations are proven to have employees who report much stronger feelings of empowerment, ownership, and commitment.
If you’re a manager or executive yourself, it’s not difficult to pick which one you want your company or team to look like. To that end, here are four organisational beliefs that can make or break employee performance.
It might seem disingenuous to state that the purpose of any organisation is and should be growth. Most people understand this. Whether it actually plays out accordingly, though, is another matter.
Are the movers and shakers in your organisation fighting for personal gain, or are they fighting for growth? There’s a fine line between the two. Growth includes gain, but gain doesn’t necessarily mean growth for everyone. When you, your teammates, or the entire team grows over time, everybody benefits. On the other hand, one man’s gain is another man’s loss.
Competition is good for progress. Too much internal politics, undercutting, and manipulation, will make people operate in self-serving, self-defensive mode. In short, it’s counter-productive. The most dangerous thing about this is that it erodes psychological safety, which Google named as the top ingredient for high-performing teams.
If people can neither trust their teammates nor their leaders to fight for them, it penalises teamwork and collaboration massively.
Organisations that prize natural talent and intelligence more than effort run the risk of developing highly elitist cultures and cultivating complacent attitudes among employees. Consequently, innovation takes a beating, and morale plummets.
In this fixed mindset, success is all about talent; if you have to make the effort to succeed, you can’t sit with us. Harbouring such attitudes can really harm collaboration. If everyone is trying to show that their work is effortless, the focus is on themselves being self-sufficient. There’s no team spirit, much less cross-functional collaboration.
Problem-solving and creativity, for one, are far better served by the kind of authentic collaboration that relatively flat organisational hierarchies facilitate. If there’s a solution that has to be thought of or a new idea to be brought into consideration, rank shouldn’t matter. Yet when a company builds a culture that condones elitism, it discourages such efforts.
In such cultures, supervisors, managers, and executives alike all tend to be geared towards showing that they’re talented instead of considering what would bring about the most growth for the company. Since they’re all clamouring for elite status within the company, they’re much likelier to engage in ways that are disruptive to effective leadership: taking credit for others’ work, stealing ideas from subordinates, and so on.
Perhaps most importantly, though, it deters innovation from happening. Why would you innovate if you think that you’re already at the top of your game while everyone else is beneath you?