culture club – Thoughts on instilling company culture

Hybrid Workplaces May Not Be Culture-Killers After All

A surprise discovery

When the COVID-19 pandemic upended traditional work arrangements and propelled the rise of the hybrid work model, many AE firm leaders feared a corrosion of their corporate cultures. A surprising poll, however, found that hybrid workers actually feel more tied to their organization’s culture than those working in an office. While 20% of all U.S. workers surveyed by Gallup in September 2022 strongly agreed that they felt connected to their organizations, that number rose to 23% among hybrid workers.

Intentional talks

While the poll provides only a single data point, there are some theories about why the conventional wisdom about the impact of the hybrid model on corporate culture may have been wrong—at least in some firms. One is that employees who have been permitted to work remotely for portions of the week are grateful for the flexibility and believe their employers genuinely care about their needs and wellbeing. Another is that some employers are being more intentional in building culture by periodically bringing staff together for in-person teambuilding workshops and social events rather than passively trusting that culture will be instilled by osmosis through serendipitous water cooler encounters and the sharing of the same physical space. “Hybrid workplaces have been forced to make in-office experiences more meaningful and substantial,” Gallup reports. 

Connection issues

The Gallup poll found that one group of employees, though, is struggling in a hybrid environment—managers. The survey found that hybrid managers feel less connected to their corporate cultures than managers working fully remote or on-site. That might be because coordinating and communicating with project teams that don’t share the same physical space can be challenging, particularly for managers who were never trained in leading hybrid teams. In addition, because they can’t confide in their reports, managers have limited social networks of peers to begin with, and in a hybrid environment there is even less opportunity to bond with fellow managers.

The next you – The latest on developing next-generation leaders

Building Character in Your Future Leaders

A real character

While most people would consider high character to be a prerequisite for leadership positions, Ivey Business School’s Mary Crossan, William Furlong, and Robert D. Austin contend that business executives downplay the importance of character in leading an organization. In an article published in the winter 2023 edition of the MIT Sloan Management Review, “Make Leader Character Your Competitive Edge,” the three authors assert that leaders tend to conflate character with ethics and fail to realize character’s critical role in “judgment and the choices we make minute by minute, day in and day out.”

Myth busters

The authors also identify another misconception held by many firm leaders—that character is a fixed trait innate in a person. “Contrary to popular belief, individuals are not born with character, nor is it set in stone at an early age,” they write. “Character can be strengthened, but it can also atrophy without conscious attention to its development.” Since character is a variable and not a constant, firms can bolster it among their rising stars by incorporating character building into their leadership development programs.

These go to 11

Based on focus groups and quantitative analysis that involved more than 2,000 executives, the Ivey Business School team developed a framework that defined 10 separate dimensions of leader character—accountability, courage, transcendence, drive, collaboration, humanity, humility, integrity, temperance, and justice—that each interact with an 11th trait—judgment. A deficiency or excess in any of the 11 dimensions could transform a virtuous character trait into a vice. As an example, the researchers write that leaders who lack sufficient courage are timid while those with excessive courage are reckless.

Building character

The Ivey Business School researchers have developed a Leadership Character Insight Assessment that can measure a person’s 11 dimensions of character. Through the framework and assessment, they write, individuals will discover latent character strengths and be driven to make course corrections to address their deficiencies. The training is often a self-realization exercise as workers examine potential character strengths that may be operating as vices and restore them as virtues by buttressing the areas of weakness.

Communications CornerIdeas on connecting with your workforce

The 67-Year-Old Study That Could Boost Your Communications

For a limited time only

Can you remember where you parked your car the last time you went to the store? How about what you had for lunch last Tuesday? Probably not, if you’re like most people. The human brain’s short-term memory function has the capacity to hold only a finite amount of information for a brief duration of time. Short-term memory has been likened to a mental sticky note that is tossed away when a task has been completed.

Seven up

Just how much information can be retained in your short-term memory? In 1956 cognitive psychologist George A. Miller published a research paper in Psychological Review that concluded that the average person can simultaneously store only seven pieces of information, plus or minus two, before reaching their short-term memory capacity. More than six decades later, “Miller’s Law” remains an important tenet of cognitive psychology, although contemporary studies have suggested that the maximum number of items that can be held in short-term memory is even more limited, perhaps just three or four unrelated pieces of information. 

Thanks for the memories

Firm leaders need to take the limitations of short-term memory into account when communicating with their employees. Communications professionals suggest organizing and breaking down content into smaller chunks that make it easier for your audience to process, understand, and retain information. The classic example of this “chunking method” is how a string of 10 digits in a phone number is divided into three easy-to-recall portions. What’s easier to remember: 3754973201 or 375-497-3201?

A little chunk-y

To facilitate the ability of staff members to process information, AE firm leaders should employ the chunking method to break down verbal and written communications into easily digestible portions. Use bullet points instead of prose in presentations. Highlight key takeaways or action items and limit them to no more than seven. In any written communications, keep paragraphs short, avoid long lists, and deliver the main ideas in a finite number of headlines. Don’t convey information in a blizzard of text that will only serve to bury your message. 

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