A personal reflection on climate

From as far back as I can remember I have always been fascinated by the ‘thing/s’ that make people and teams succeed. Why was it that some classrooms at school seemed better learning environments than others; why did some sports teams relationships seem to differ so much; why certain military groups or formations seemed so much tighter and in-tune; and why businesses I’ve worked with varied so much in terms of atmosphere and work environment.
On reflection, I’ve been guilty of mis-using the term Culture and the impact this might have on immediate success. I suppose like most people I’ve always thought it was that ‘thing’ that makes us all belong and feel part of something. Perhaps Culture (it has many definitions) can be described as the ‘personality’ of a team or organisation; which includes behaviours, customs or traditions, and beliefs, at a particular time. This certainly contributed to the good teams I have experienced, however, what is obvious is that Culture takes a long time to develop, an even longer time to change, and is very difficult to measure.

So if Culture is the personality, what about the environment or the mood? This – I know now – is the Climate, and importantly this is what really affects performance. Crucially, but not surprisingly, this is directly impacted by leadership; and reassuringly it’s measurable and you can improve it quickly.
When I think back to school days, my ‘best’ subjects were those where the teacher created a Climate that was good for my learning – they were also my most successful subjects and ones I went on to study in my further education.  Conversely, the classrooms that were frosty, inconsistent, rushed or confused, were often the result of poor teaching and an ineffective Climate that was detrimental to my performance.
Whilst playing individual sport, my coach had a huge influence on me, my effort and engagement, and my ultimate success. In a team, we collectively created a Climate for success – setting achievable goals which the team bought into; people were clear on their own roles and were utilised based on their strengths; the tactics or process was fully understood and appreciated; strong connections between team members developed both on and off the field; coaches taught us to be reactive and adaptable to change, to be resilient, deal with setbacks and we would bounce back even stronger.
In the military one could tell the difference in Climate between different sub-formations, almost immediately. You often learn later in your career, just how much of an impact you have as a leader on the success of the group you lead. It’s a big responsibility, but when that impact is understood, and the principles of Climate are understood, you can be much more effective. When deployed on intensive and complex operations, those units with the strongest leaders had the strongest Climate; were ultimately more successful, and were certainly more resilient and able to react quickly to operational changes.
Perhaps the best illustration of the impact of Climate was witnessing first-hand an ineffective and self-serving leader, who didn’t create a successful Climate: they poorly articulated and misunderstood goals for the business; created mixed and confusing roles and responsibilities; developed ineffectual internal processes; had a resistance to innovation and change; and team connection was virtually discouraged though fear of a mutiny occurring! The result – which was all down to toxic leadership – was a deeply unhappy and disenfranchised workforce, an alarmingly high staff turnover and an environment of fear and apprehension.

So what have I learnt?  That understanding Climate is the keystone to building and maintaining successful teams; that leadership profoundly impacts Climate and therefore team success; and that Climate is measurable and able to be improved, relatively quickly.

Zac's Challenges:

Zac’s tech business is growing rapidly. He’s gone from being a developer with a good idea to now overseeing an ever-expanding team. Zac knows that in order for the business to grow successfully, it needs to stay true to its founding values and his staff need to feel valued and engaged. Zac wants to understand if he and his team are on the same page and he needs to do it quickly and cost effectively.

Zac's PCS Solution

Zac decides to use PCS Lite to get a quick temperature check of how his team are performing and what they think about the business. The PCS Lite report quickly surfaces the fact that his team have lost sight of the organisation’s purpose and goals. Zac realises that he needs to improve his on-boarding processes and help orientate the new team members better in the company culture and vision. 6 months later, Zac uses PCS Lite to check his new onboarding process is working; concludes that the growing team are much better aligned to his vision and are generally operating in a more positive working environment.

Annabel's Challenges:

It’s Annabel’s job to help the Partners in the firm manage their clients and ensure they’re consistently adding value. Recently, Annabel has been asked by one of the Partners to find a tool or framework that the consultants can use to benchmark new clients looking for team and leadership improvement programmes. It needs to be cost-effective, established and reputable and able to be branded with the firm’s own logo.

Annabel's PCS Solution

Annabel recommends PCS Pro to the Senior Partners as it provides an objective measurement of team and leadership climate against which the consultants can build performance improvement programmes. PCS has a good track record, academic validation, excellent training and customer service, so she’s confident that it’s the right tool for the firm’s consultants to use.

Sarah's Challenges:

Sarah has to keep across the multiple training and development needs in the organisation and do it within a tight budget. Recently, Sarah’s been asked to design a L&D programme that improves the staff retention rate and helps staff feel more engaged with the changes happening in the organisation, not least the shift to more flexible working.

Sarah's PCS Solution

Sarah uses PCS to measure how different teams across the organisation are performing and look at any patterns which suggest the need for organisation-wide, leader or team training. Sarah notices that all teams and leaders have a low climate score in the Processes segment. Sarah knows that allocating budget in this area will improve performance. She works with the Senior Management Team to review the organisation’s processes as they transition to more flexible working and designs a training programme to support staff in the transition. She’s helped staff to feel supported, acknowledged and engaged which ultimately drives performance. 

Jim's Challenges:

Jim’s client has a team that’s not performing as well other teams in the organisation. The team has a high staff turnover, sickness and the lack of cohesion is impacting the team’s wellbeing and performance. Jim needs to get to the bottom of why this is happening and design effective coaching interventions which can generate tangible results for his client.

Jim's PCS Solution

Jim uses PCS Pro to measure / benchmark how the team and leader are performing across the 6 segments critical to team performance – Goals, Roles, Processes, Adaptability, Connection and Resilience. He can immediately see the disparity in Goals, Processes and Connection between the leader’s perception and those of her team. He uses this information to build a coaching programme designed align team and leader. After 6 months, the team seems to be more settled and productive. Jim remeasures using PCS Pro – the results show the client the effectiveness of his coaching intervention.