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