4 vital steps leaders can take to create an AntiFragile culture
When leaders become AntiFragile they can foster a culture that supports their teams to be AntiFragile too. Here are four ways to achieve this.
Team and organisational culture can be tricky to manage at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic. As traditional places of work have been dismantled, teams have lost many of their cultural anchors. Add to this the challenges of new technology, working from home and various levels of restrictions on personal movement and it’s not surprising that research conducted by The Leaders Lab in August 2020 in Australian workplaces, shows that leaders feel their biggest challenge right now is understanding how to bring out the best in their team. And this echoes what I’m hearing from the CEOs and senior leadership teams that I’m working with; how to create AntiFragile culture?
But times of crisis also provide opportunities for transformation… this is how we leverage AntiFragile leadership
As old systems crack open, space is created for new energy, enabling light to pour into places that were previously unseen. For leaders, this provides both the greatest opportunity and the greatest challenge from the events of 2020.
The McKinsey Quarterly suggests that leaders have the chance to ‘seize a once-in-a-generation opportunity to consciously evolve the very nature and impact of their role’ and that this is ‘an opportunity to lead in a new, more positive and impactful way.’
Should they choose to take up this challenge and opportunity, it could change the experience of workplaces around the globe.
Because by changing leadership, we change culture.
Workplace and team culture, although invisible, has a powerful influence on how things are done in organisations. Consider how customer-focused, competitive, team-orientated, or innovative your team or workplace is – so much of this is driven by culture.
If you’re keen to understand more about the structure of culture, the Iceberg model is useful, as is Schein’s model of organisational culture, but of interest right now – given the opportunity that exists – is how leaders influence culture in their teams and organisation.
The reality is that culture is socially constructed. It isn’t something that sits separately from the team or organisation, it is created by the people within it through the way that they behave and interact with each other.
And leaders enjoy a unique position in organisations as they are both consumers and creators of culture; because of the influence that leaders have in directing energy and resources within a team, how they behave and where they focus their attention has a powerful influence in creating team norms and an AntiFragile culture.
4 vital steps leaders can take to create an AntiFragile culture
Step 1. Role model
AntiFragile team culture begins when leaders start to model the behaviour they want their team to emulate.
Leaders need to take time to consider how they can intentionally bring to life the culture they want in their teams through their leadership. So if you want to build an AntiFragile culture, one in which your teams learn to thrive through uncertainty, disruption and change, then you need to consider ‘how am I demonstrating AntiFragile energy, attitudes and mindset?’
(If you want to find out more about this you can read about it in my book and to find out where you currently sit you can take The AntiFragile Survey)
You’ll also need to provide clear expectations to your team about the behaviours that you want from them and be consistent in rewarding those behaviours with attention and praise.
It may be that the first, and most powerful, step towards successful culture change as a leader is to look in the mirror and make sure you are role modelling the kind of behaviours you want your team to follow, and that you are reinforcing what you want to see by where you choose to focus your attention and reward.
Beyond role modelling, what other levers do leaders have to influence culture?
In the same way that individuals have patterns of behaviour and habits, teams have routines, rituals and rhythms to the way they work together.
Step 2. Routines
Routines are the practices and processes that you use on a regular basis to get the work done. Routines are valuable in teams because they save time and energy by removing the need to think about and coordinate people around every individual task – the team knows the routine and so we can get things done faster. Routines include things like team meetings, performance reviews and project reviews.
Step 3. Rituals
It may be easy to think that rituals are not relevant in the workplace, but Dr Heidi Grant, Ph.D. from the Neuroleadership Institute suggests that rituals help people to feel more deeply involved in their team experience, which in turn heightens its perceived value. Whether these are directly related to work, such as how you induct a new team member or celebrate team success, or more personal, for example celebrating birthdays or giving someone a farewell celebration from the team, rituals are a powerful tool to create and shape AntiFragile culture.
Step 4. Rhythms
In the same way that music has a beat that sets the tone of the piece, the rhythm of your team routines is about the timing with which routines and rituals happen. This is important, because how frequently something happens communicates a lot about how important it is. For example, how often do you role model the desired behaviours? What frequency are team meetings? Are your performance review conversations annual, quarterly, monthly?
Leveraging the four vital steps (4Rs) to AntiFragile team culture – Containers for Culture
Used together, the 4Rs – role modelling, routines, rituals and rhythms – provide a useful scaffold to support culture change efforts. Rather than ‘adding on’ to the way the team works together, this approach uses existing work practices and processes to create ‘containers’ in which the new or evolving culture is brought to life.
And the super-power that these have is that they can be used regardless of the location of work. So whilst the ‘flavour’ of some of the Rs may have changed through the events of 2020 (i.e. team meetings via Zoom instead of face-to-face), the scaffold remains a solid structure from which you can build your ideas and your culture.
Try this: Identify the current 4Rs of your team and decide if they are contributing to the fragility in your leadership or your team.
Are there things that keep you reactive, playing small and staying safe, that waste time and leak energy without making progress?
Where could you make adjustments to help you create an AntiFragile culture?
Changes that create deep connection and trust, that invite different perspectives to create innovative solutions and in which responsibility, accountability and positive purposeful action are the norms.
The cracks are open, the light is pouring in; the time is now. Where will you begin?
As Gary Hamel, one of the world’s most influential business thinkers said when I interviewed him recently, “Be an activist, not a terrorist. People who change the system start from where they are.”
If you’d like some help understanding how you could create an AntiFragile culture with your team, you can contact Paige here.
Dr Paige Williams
International Speaker, Author, Mentor
Determined to help leaders move beyond just the need for resilience, Paige provides practical, evidence-based strategies for leaders to become antifragile, lead themselves and their teams to thrive and succeed in the Decade of Disruption.