- September 9, 2021
How can I ensure my team works efficiently and well together? Managers and supervisors are put to the test these times with remote and virtual teams gaining relevance. Many feel insecure how to manage their team that is now spread over the entire city, country or world and the feeling of losing control is a problem, managers deal with at least at some point. So how can I control my employees?
Based on our experience in working with international clients, or own experience and research, you cannot micromanage and control your staff all the time. Instead, we recommend to build a strong corporate culture of engagement. This is a winning strategy not only in times of virtual teams gaining popularity, but also for your office-based employees. Regardless whether you are separated by a cubicle, a wall, or thousands of kilometers you will never be able to control an employee’s mind, actions into the last detail, so you just have to start trusting them. Focus on results rather than micro-managing daily tasks. But can you trust them? And how can you prepare your team to become part of a corporate culture of engagement?
Corporate Culture of Engagement
Turst, Fairness, Respect – This is an installment in employee engagement in Russia.Jon Hellevig, Employee Engagement in Russia
What influences corporate culture:
- Organizational chart/structure/hierarchy
- Leadership style
- National/Local culture
- Recruiting policies
Corporate culture, just as any culture is the behavior of a group of individuals, that share customs, believes, values and goals. Culture’s nature possesses a steering behavior, that is focused on survival and creating stability. It is inherited, created, developed, changed and learnable, and has a past, present and future. A particular culture is also influenced by its environment and at the same time influencing it as well.
Culture is a man-made environmentHerskovits, 1948
Culture is collective programing of the mind, that members of a group share and which distinguishes them from othersGert Hofstede et al. 2010
Culture is passed on from generations and changingKumbruck et al. 2009
Culture is a way how people deal with problemsTrompenaars et al. 1998
As leader of an organization, you will probably sooner or later ask yourself: How can I create the optimal corporate culture for my organization?
Unfortunately, corporate culture is not an off-the-shelf product that you can buy, install and implement in your organization just whenever you feel like it. It is a long process involving all agents and considering the environment. Consider a plant that grows slowly and need tending and care. Organizations are living constructs and also develop and reinvent themselves constantly. As leader you can create the right incentives, environment and support to steer it into a certain direction, but always keep in mind that you cannot completely control it or predict its exact development path.
Structure, Hierarchy and Leadership Style
A corporate culture of engagement flourishes best in lean hierarchies, low level of bureaucracy and short formalized report chains. Engagement means taking over responsibility for tasks, projects and actions and the more employees are able to hide behind a long chain of command or bureaucratic structures, the less they will be willing to act responsibly and accountable. In ad hoc teams, People do not manage other people based on hierarchical structure, but based on their level of competence for this specific task.
Project organization and ad hoc teams are suitable for addressing complicated and unanticipated challenges, which many companies face these days.
The ideal member of a corporate culture of engagement is a self-organized, self-motivated and self-disciplined individual. The relationship between leaders and followers, company and employees is a two-way-street that requires trust, fairness and loyalty on both sides.
Consider your leadership approach wisely! Democratic leadership does not mean that employees are always involved in every single decision taking-process. The goal rather is to select the right people with the necessary background knowledge and abilities to solve a specific question or problem. An inefficient form of democratic leadership style would be to invite your entire staff for a question that concerns only a certain department, having everybody adding their opinions and vote, when they actually have not enough relevant information to do so. Often the result would not even concern them.
Laissez-faire leaders, who stay out of any leadership processes completely are generally frowned upon. However, in a successfully set up culture of engagement, shorter periods of laissez-faire during crisis or absence of the leaders will not result in the organization breaking down, since engaged employees know their role, their responsibilities and act in the best interest of their company, even without a leader being present. Hypothetically it is a good test to withdraw and practice laissez-faire leadership style to see where your firm is going. If no chaos breaks out, you can assume that your employees carry the business spirit well, even without the leader present. (Disclaimer, we do not recommend this in practice, unless you are very sure that you have a team of engaged employees).
Consider further to practice situational leadership and consider the readiness of the followers. Your leadership approach may differ. The young and ambitious, highly motivated university graduate, with no practical work experience may need more task orientated leadership than your high level specialists in the company, who may have lost motivation over time. The latter may need more personal development opportunities.
What about leaders’ charisma? Charismatic leadership is a two-sided coin, but generally makes for good visionaries in your organization. People often follow charismatic leaders based on emotional motives, they identify themselves with the leader’s vision and goals, putting their own goals second. With a charismatic leader, accepted by followers, an organization may be well equipped to overcome periods of crisis, lower wages and difficult times, since members of such an organization may be willing to sacrifice now, to see the light of the tunnel later.
One cannot NOT communicate (Paul Watzlawick 1# axiom of communication)
Communication is key to any functioning organization. We communicate constantly in our day-to-day life. We communicate not only with our words, gestures, body language but also with our appearance, the way we look and dress and even the way we smell. Good communication is not merely about what we want to say, what we want to bring across and how we say it, but more importantly, how our message will be received by the individual we are communicating it to.
Imagine that one of your sales managers has done a good job developing your sales over the last year. You now want to praise him and at the same time encourage him to further develop the sales goals, what should you say to him?
What you should say depends on the nature of this specific employee and your level of emotional intelligence. Words of praise can be motivating for one employee to perform even better, but another may understand it as having reached the goal anticipated from him or her, and hence will now keep the status quo. A third employee may have not even have given his best, but performed well by some strange coincident and now, with your praise of his work regards you as fool, for not knowing the market potential of your own company.
Communication is also vital to align your employees under the same company goal. Ensure that your employees on all level understand the organization’s goals and how their job contributes to the overall success. In order to account for their work and take responsibility, their role in the organization needs to be clear.
Vision and mission assist to remind about the overall goal, but according to our experience, missions and visions became more of a marketing and PR function for outside agents rather than the real core truth of the organization’s spirit. We do recommend to create an ambitious, but honest vision, that motivates your employees, but at the same time is achievable and not perceived as an unreachable phantasy of the upper shareholders.
National and Local Culture
Corporate cultures of international companies are influenced by all of their members and their personal cultural background. Depending where your offices are geographically, the local culture will have an impact on your local office culture. In addition to that, even though you will want to extend the global corporate culture exchange virtually to all offices, local offices will develop sub-cultures that may diverse from the overall culture and worst case even clash with it. We recommend to embrace your cultural diversity and ensure that all country offices can contribute with their local traditions and values to the overall culture. That way you tap into the benefits of an intercultural background and at the same time avoid rejection of your corporate culture.
Employees and Recruiting
Organizations and their cultures consist of the people in it. Consider this when hiring new people. The cultural and personal baggage that they bring into the company will influence your culture and may affect it, or change it. A professional recruiting approach will determine the ideal candidate for the company and specific position, source the right networks and apply the required strategy to hire the right person. For this, a specialized recruiting department or recruitment agency is essential.