What gives a business its personality?

Aug 07 2008 by Charles Helliwell Print This Article

Most organisations determine their relative success by a set of performance-related metrics. So, what happens when they fail to meet those expectations ? Do they look for a quick short-term fix, or do they knuckle down to search out and identify the possible root causes of their relative failure?

In most cases, organisations opt for the quick-fix, which may include things like introducing more products or services; opening up new markets and more channels; cutting prices to sell more volume for less profit; cutting operating costs to save money or consolidating jobs and cutting headcount.

But isn't this just a case of popping yet another pill to remedy a symptom and alleviate the short-term pain in the hope of some instantaneous gain?

Perhaps so, but the perception of pain an organisation might feel in addressing the deeper root cause of their ailments is probably greater - particularly when faced with the prospect of major surgery.

And that's what may well be required to address things like business restructuring,

re-deployment and re-training of resources, re-alignment and re-organisation, re-financing and re-investment or even recruitment.

Yet whatever choice an organisation ultimately makes, one thing is certain. It will inevitably affect the behaviour patterns of its various stakeholders

So what are the key drivers of these behaviours in the workplace and how do they influence the behaviour of the workforce ?

Behaviour is one of those words which is so commonly used that it's worth reminding ourselves of its popular definitions. It is the way a person reacts towards other people as well as the way an individual acts and conducting him or herself.

The more obvious drivers of behaviour might include things such as perceptions,

habits, beliefs, circumstances, background, environment or childhood.

Given this, it isn't really a surprise that the choices organisations make when they fail to meet expectations are more superficial than deep rooted. That's because it is much easier to manage superficial behavioural changes rather than try to step into unknown territory Ė which is where you need to go if you're going to implement real change in the workplace.

Real change requires organisations to challenge the very foundations of their workforce's behaviour. Namely, the insuperable trinity of perception, habit and belief.

This raises a consistent dilemma in organisational change, which is that most individuals accept and adapt to change relatively easily, because it rarely, if ever, threatens these perceptions, habits and beliefs.

But equally, this means that change doesn't last for long. Individuals quickly slip back into the old habits, old behaviours and old working practices, while their deep-rooted beliefs and long-held perceptions remain unchallenged.

The consequence of this symptom-based change is that it creates a schism in an organisation's personality which leads to stress - both in the individual and in the organisation itself.

Whereas well-managed stress can be both energising and exhilarating (think making a sale or closing a deal), this personality schism more often leads to poorly-managed stress, something that is both draining and demotivating (think moving the goalposts as one of the more obvious examples).

Nevertheless, whereas stress in the workplace has a huge influence on employee performance and productivity, when it is combined with the key behavioural components of the workforce, it defines the character of the organisation as a business personality.

Don't forget, however, that organisations are made up of a number of different people, all striving towards a common goal, Consequently, they will have dual personalities; an external business personality, driven by image, brand and values and an internal business personality driven by culture, attitude and behaviour.

Examples of positive and negative behavioural alignment are to be seen everywhere. For example, a culture which is creative, coupled with an image which is cutting edge might have you thinking of Apple Computer. Conversely, an attitude which is tried and tested versus a brand which is conservative and dull might have you thinking of BT.

But whatever the business personality of an organisation, it must continue to strive to optimise the potential which lurks within. Only this way can it hope to deal successfully with the stresses and strains of managing its assets and the absolute inevitability of changing circumstances it will face every day in the workplace.


About The Author

Charles Helliwell
Charles Helliwell

For almost 20 years, Charles Helliwell has been enjoying a lifestyle and making a living as a behavioural and relationship mentor specialising in the personal and professional development of individuals and teams in the workplace.