As the world continues to evolve, and as business, economic, and social influences emerge, the NeuroLeadership Institute is always revisiting the emerging research and our internal frameworks to make sure we’re as relevant as possible. Since so much is going on in leadership, culture — and is now becoming clear, power — we felt a responsibility to revisit the way we describe our leadership practice not only to the world, but to ourselves.
Going from Leadership and Change to Culture and Leadership may seem superficial at first glance, but in my twenty-plus years of human capital experience, I have realized that words matter. We say to our clients all the time: think essential, not exhaustive. For us to focus our energies, research, and discussion internally and with clients, it wasn’t just change we were interested in impacting, but culture.
So what is culture?
For one thing, it’s not a mystery. In the management world, culture is often spoken of with hushed tones, as some mercurial substance, ever-changing and impossible to be harnessed. But in fact, if you look into the brain science, it’s radically simple.
Culture is shared everyday habits.
They are shared in that they operate between people. They’re normative: they’re common across many people. It’s not reserved for the top echelon of the house, but the sum total of how everyone in the system behaves. They’re everyday, because frequency matters. It’s the consistency and the reinforcement that we provide one another that tells us what the norms are. And they replicate from person to person over time, like genetic code.
The fundamentals need to be so integrated that you don’t even need to think about them. When you’re under pressure, your precious energy at work isn’t diverted to what you ought to do, but the expected behaviors are already baked in. You can apply your energy to more urgent issues and unique, in the moment problems. Habits are the stuff of muscle memory, enabling the automatic response. And the way you do it is with frequency, practice, and focus.
Habits are contagious. They radiate out from leaders, who set the norms in their teams and across the organization. Decades of social and brain science research has shown that people defer to status, hierarchy, and power in conscious and nonconscious ways. That means that shifting leadership behavior is a lever for shifting culture, the center of the nesting doll of organizational habits.
Understanding what your priorities, habits, and systems are allow you to take ownership of your culture. To that end, we have a host of research, insights, and products coming this year about culture. We have upcoming webinars on the science of smarter teams, the means to editing organizational DNA, and rethinking the 9-box. We are launching DIFFERENTIATE, for taking bias out of performance reviews, and DEVELOP, for better long-term career conversations.
Culture is an ongoing process. We’re excited for you to join us.
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