Best from the Worst and Potential New Norms: Blog No.2 – Climate

Where were we?

Welcome back to the second in our series of Blogs about Performance Climate System.  The first article introduced the overall concept of what PCS does and how it can help leaders to frame the Climate that in turn drives the performance of their teams.  In our forthcoming articles after this one, we will break down the core components of how PCS evaluates that climate and consequently how it can back-solve to improve leadership.

But before exploring each of those factors, today we are going to focus a little further on this central idea of climate.  What it is, where it comes from and why it’s relevant.  Whilst without getting too carried away with it, we will also define how and why climate is different to Culture; that more widely known old friend.

How to think about Climate?

To start with, let’s consider a straightforward metaphor.  School.  Think back to your own time at school.  How different were your classes depending on how the teacher of each class set the tone in the room?  For many of us, I suspect that the teachers who engaged us most were the ones who inspired positivity, interest, pace, variety, challenge, dialogue and fun.  Forty-five minutes later you walked into a different classroom with a very different (let’s say, less energising) teaching approach and most likely it engendered a rather different atmosphere and response from you and your classmates.  All the while the long-established values, style and heritage of the school (shall we call that ‘culture’ ?) remained fixed in the background.  Each teacher conducted their classes very differently, whilst still adhering no more or less closely to the culture than the other.

Dialling that all back to PCS, it’s a system that has been evolving for more than 20 years.  We at PCS think about climate as the local atmosphere, mood and feel within a team.  In particular, we look at it through the lens of how that team’s leader is setting the climate.  We then extrapolate from it, based on the correlation that the “better” the climate, the higher the team’s performance.  Whether we’re applying the climate measure to a senior ExCo leadership team, a divisional sales team or a shop floor manufacturing team, the principles behind leadership, climate and team performance hanging together are consistent.  We might call that the “climate value chain”.

Where does the Climate concept come from?

Whilst it is a less recognised term than its better-known cousin culture, climate is a theory that has been put forward by Organisational academics for more than 50 years.  Back in 1968, at Harvard Business School, Litwin & Stringer identified that certain climates tended to stimulate or suppress certain motives, within individuals, and that different leadership styles created different climates.  In the 1980s, the notion of climate was further explored by another group of Harvard academics, including McClelland, Boyatzis & Spencer, who linked established models of leadership behaviour to climate and consequent team and organisational performance.

Subsequent 1990s academic research into climate continued to affirm the theory.  In Kelner, Rivers & O’Connell’s “Managerial Style as a Behavioral Predictor of Organizational Climate,” (1994, McBer & Company), they found that domineering and soloing styles of management tended to correlate with low achievement climates, while the use of governing, placating, involving and coaching styles tended to correlate with higher achievement climates.  As you will see in our subsequent Blogs, PCS examines behavioural approaches to leadership.  It analyses those inputs related to “governing, placating, involving and coaching” styles, alongside the more formulaic tools in team leadership.

And just straighten me out once more on Climate as opposed to Culture?

Back to the school metaphor, we touched on culture as being something long-established in that sort of domain.  Culture need not necessarily be particularly old, but nonetheless, it encompasses the deeper rooted elements that form the personality of an organisation (such as colourful branding, hierarchical structures and ladders, quiet cerebral work spaces, raucous target-hitting celebrations, cautious, familiar and steady approaches to market, constant innovation and risk-taking etc, etc).  Once set, these factors tend to become entrenched.  None of them necessarily better or worse, right or wrong.  But, they are foundation features of the organisation and hard to change.  They are the characteristics that its people know and its stakeholders recognise.

Climate on the other hand is more localised, short-term and consequently far more malleable.  Once again, it’s that atmosphere, that mood, that feel – constantly set by the frameworks and personal behaviours deployed by the leaders.  The better those frameworks and behaviours, the better the engagement and the climate.  If you’re still trying to separate the two, perhaps think of climate as a way of measuring the “so what” of the deliberate inputs made to form the culture.  In the end, the point being that the better the climate, the better the performance.  Whether that’s within a noisy, studious, innovative or cautious culture.


Hopefully this has shed a bit more light on the climate value chain, what climate is and how we think about it here at PCS.  Next time, we will turn our attention to the first of the six core elements that PCS assesses – the concept of Goals.

Toby Ellison, April 2020

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.