Learn the lessons of marriage therapy to make business work
Why is positive culture the key to achieving your strategic goals?
When helping our clients to prepare for organisational growth and sustainability, one of the first things we do is introduce the concept of marriage therapy.
Since we are a boutique management consulting firm, this typically elicits some bewildered reactions, but we assure them (and you) that this is a worthwhile exercise :)
While we aren't suggesting that our clients and their significant others need actual therapy, we bring up this discussion to point out the striking commonalities between marriages and businesses in the 2020s: both exist in an environment of increasing uncertainty and face a stark reality for success.
Dr John Gottman, one of the most influential and world-renowned relationship experts (known for being able to predict marital success with 90 per cent accuracy), has an incredibly insightful take on addressing marital challenges today: "Every new relationship is a new culture that has never existed before.
“When we build a relationship together, we must decide on our own new meanings. Culture means the way people create meaning out of almost everything."
So what does Dr Gottman's decades of research have to do with strengthening organisations?
Just as two people make a commitment to each other based on proven compatibility and a shared vision of their future (let's call this "strategy"), CEOs assemble their teams and build strategic plans of their own that, on paper, make complete sense. But over time, nearly half of marriages and 90 per cent of start-ups will fail — most often having little to do with strategy.
The culprit? Culture.
Logic dictates that strategy is the most important component for any business to succeed. But the reality is that organisations are not dysfunctional; people are. If leaders are not in touch with what is happening with their people, and their people are not aligned with the organisation's expectations, then the culture is weak and it's only a matter of time until the business will suffer.
We believe so much in the impact of culture that we've built a business centred squarely on it. Culture is the single most foundational element to driving organisational performance. And the best time to articulate, shape, grow and protect your culture is before you're faced with critical decisions related to growth, transition or crisis.
Dr Gottman suggests that newlyweds who engage in relationship therapy programmes (focused on creating meaning out of their new culture) are three times more likely to succeed than those who wait for a much-needed intervention.
Why should CEOs and board chairs view their organisational culture any differently? If you wait to address your culture until you're confronted with an economic downturn, a new leader, a threat from a competitor, or an unexpected reputational issue, the resulting ambiguity will make it an even greater challenge to find ways to protect your organisation.
As organisations face unprecedented uncertainty in the current business, technological, societal and political landscapes, the speed of change increases the pressure to perform. This forces leaders to make decisions based on short-term goals and gains that often times sacrifice long-term growth. As a result, employee engagement decreases when they see a disconnect between the corporate vision and operational realities.
When the culture of a workplace is not clearly defined, the risk is that under stress, the culture defaults to whatever the prior status quo was. While recoverable, this puts the company on its back foot at exactly the time it can least afford it.
IS YOUR ENVIRONMENT POSITIVE?
Shawn Achor, bestselling author and founder of the most successful positive psychology corporate training programme in the world, has proved that positive environments enhance organisational performance — characterised by higher productivity, less turnover and more resilient cultures (more adaptable with a capacity to see more opportunities that lead to better results).
We couldn't agree more.
Which is why we begin our relationships with clients by focusing on uncovering the DNA of their organisations — not by looking for what's wrong but by discovering what is working. We help to reveal what’s inherently good and unique about that organisation — based on the principles of positivity. This is a different view than traditional consultancies, which typically identify what is broken.
Marriages and organisations are formed with the best intentions — with thoughtful consideration of passion, long-term viability, compatibility and, ultimately, success. But the research on both is clear: the more we focus our attention on ensuring a positive culture, the better positioned we will be to weather downturns, thrive during uncertain times and grow with confidence and clarity.
These are the conversations we have at the Bermuda Clarity Institute and we hope you’ll join us in our open-house learning lab series, aptly named Catch up with Clarity, so you can actually experience the research and participate in the exercises which help to identify levers that can improve culture within your organisation.
Our last one is on December 9 from 4.30pm to 6pm and will be limited in attendance to create a blend of maximum personal value and respect for safe spaces. Please book your spot now by RSVP.
If you prefer to bring your team over for a custom tour, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request and we will be happy to accommodate you.
We look forward to seeing you in person. To learn more about our work at the Bermuda Clarity Institute, visit us at clarity.bm.