I was recently chatting with a colleague about one of my favorite topics, Organizational Culture; what it is? how does it form? what elements make some stand out against others? how does it bring out the best in people? or how might it limit people’s potential? To me, the culture is the soul of the organization; it encompasses how we do the things that we do, the things we say, the pictures on the walls, the ceremonies and rituals we engage in, the processes we follow, the processes we don’t follow, the gratitude and appreciation we give and receive, the feeling we get when we walk into the space, the stories we tell…I could go on and on.
If done right, it allows us to be who we are within the walls of workplace and draws on the strengths of the people to take both them and the organization to new levels of excellence together. Win.
If done wrong, things can turn pretty scary, pretty quickly (read: hating your job, never feeling like yourself at work, distrust, burnout, gossip, conflict etc.).
Human behavior fascinates me to no end and while traditional psychology has focused mostly on what is wrong with individuals, which carries with it the inherent assumption that individuals are ‘lacking’ in some way, positive psychology focuses on strengths and building the best life possible, it looks at whats needed to take individuals from ‘good’ to amazing in all areas of their life, to find and nurture genius and talent.
SO, the question that has been on my mind for quite a while is how do we create and foster the principles of positive psychology in the workplace and is there a term to describe it? Ask and she shall receive: The answer lies in Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS). POS is all about studying excellence and ways in which organizations and the people in them prosper in extraordinary ways. There is actually a Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship in Michigan, and they outline (in this video) four powerful questions that POS asks to shift our thinking:
Question 1: What result do I want to create? This question puts us in a fundamentally different state of ‘I’m going to create something that doesn’t exist’, which means I have to go to the edge of my abilities and knowledge to create what I want to.
Question 2: Am I internally directed? What are my values? What would I do if I had 2% more courage in this situation? I might do all kinds of things…
Question 3: Am I other focused? Do I know what others really feel? What their needs and interests are?
Question 4: Am I externally open? This is the heart of how to get there – If I’m externally open I can now learn what I need to do to get to where we need to go.
There’s obviously so much more to POS but this is a start.
Currently, there are organizations out there that ‘get it’ and I call them Game-Changers. These organizations focus on what the possibilities are, they focus on strengths, they replace control with trust, they practice gratitude and develop authentic global leaders. Don’t get me wrong, we can’t negate what’s not working, it’s extremely important to, but it’s easy to get caught in a ‘damage control’ state where all we focus on is what’s not working instead of what the possibilities are and how we can unlock our people’s potential to help us get there.
The coolest thing is that POS, at its core, asks the same fundamental questions that shake individuals into understanding what makes them come alive, as it does of organizations:
For organizations: Who are we? What are our strengths? What’s our purpose/why do we exist? What do we want to create? What legacy do we want to leave?
For individuals: Who am I? What are my strengths? What’s my purpose/why do I exist? What do I want to create? What legacy do I want to leave? Because individuals are the basic unit of organizational change, shifting the way we think (and do) individually to become better leaders of our own lives can have a massive ripple effect where the outcome is an organization that embraces authenticity and greatness. Just imagine the possibilities of that kind of entity…
I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of POS and I feel a project coming on….stay tuned.
I also recently received my Zappos Culture book in the mail so I’m stoked to dive into that; now there’s an organization that ‘gets it’!
1. Chat Culture with MindValley CEO Vishen Lakhiani by December 2012 – DONE!
2. Chat Culture with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh by December 2012.
3. Chat Culture with Lululemon CEO Christine Day by July 2012.
4. Chat Culture with Nature’s Path President Arran Stephens by December 2012.
5. Chat Culture with former CEO of IKEA Canada – DONE!!