As part of the webinar from the Business People's Club of Ukraine, expert Olga Sadokha, organizational development consultant, designer, and facilitator of strategic planning processes and team sessions, delivered a speech on the topic "Team Resilience: How to Strengthen and Develop It."
The speaker said that the sustainability of a business depends primarily on who is in the team, how well this team works, how well it manages to find and retain the right people in it, and keep them motivated and involved.
Speaking about the resilience of the team, the speaker used a metaphor from seismology. “Seismic resilience of a business” is the capacity of its strength: what magnitude of an earthquake it can withstand and what can be done to increase the seismic resistance index. One way to do this is through the identity of the organization.
Continuing to compare the earthquake resistance of buildings with the strength of a business, the speaker mentioned the buildings of the Incas, which were distinguished by the extremely careful and dense fitting of stone blocks to each other without the use of mortar. Despite the fact that the blocks were of irregular shape and different sizes, they were polished to a such high quality that it was impossible to insert a knife blade or even a sheet of paper between them. During earthquakes of low and medium power, the masonry remained practically motionless, and during strong earthquakes, the stones “danced” in their places without losing their relative position, and after the earthquake ended, they returned to their places.
Photo from open sources.
Thus, if the people, processes, rules, and principles that guide the company are stones, then organizational culture and identity help to select and polish these stones. A strong and healthy culture makes a business more viable, while a toxic culture tends to destroy the team and the company without earthquakes at all. Therefore, it is important to understand whether the company culture is healthy.
An example of an unhealthy culture is the declaration on the website of some values, while in life the company is guided by completely different ones. So, the site may say: “Our client is the most important person in our business”, but the employees are not even trained to work with clients, the business simply does not invest in training. And the employees themselves have a dissonance because there is a declaration that the client is a value, but in reality, it happens differently. And the owner can also strengthen this dissonance by saying that there is nothing wrong with complaints, they say, there are enough customers, and if it falls off a little, sleeps off – it's okay, and that's enough. Then the question is – why write this on the site?
The less the declared things correspond to what is happening inside, the less stable the corporate culture is, the less healthy it is and the less united the team is. People in such a team often just survive.
“An iceberg is also a good metaphor for organizational culture. In the course of management research, my colleagues and I discover that policies and procedures are what is on top. And when we ask what principles people follow in business, analyze the answers of 10-15-20 people, and examine what is written in the documents, on the website, we see the difference. One is written on paper, the other happens in life,” says Olga.
The company claims to do so
The company really does it (real corporate culture)
What is important to us
Is such a mismatch always that bad? Not always, the speaker says. But she emphasizes that it is necessary that one be brought to the other as much as possible so that there are no significant disagreements. In fact, the team is led not by what is written, and not even by what is said, but by what is actually happening and what people believe.
For example, employees may believe that only by working very hard, saving everyone who contacts the organization, they can fulfill their mission. Prejudice can also be prevalent: not going to the manager on Tuesday with any problems, because on this day they have a meeting of directors, after which they are often in a bad mood. Certain traditions are also adopted: meetings on Mondays. Whether they are needed is unknown but it happened historically.
The answers to the question of who is the hero in the company, what are the stories about the heroes in this or that business can be very interesting. They often talk about one of the former or current employees who is a prime example of a team success story. Also indicative are stories about anti-heroes, whose actions, on the contrary, are not welcome.
Then you can measure whether beliefs, prejudices, traditions, and unwritten rules support the company's movement towards the implementation of the strategy, or, on the contrary, it slows down the team, stops the business, and takes energy. These moments are very important to keep track of.
“To determine what we are about, I recommend reading the book “Start with Why”. When I read it, among other maxims, I liked this one: “If you hire a person just because they can do this job, they will work for your money. But, if you hire people who believe in the same thing as you, they will work for you with sweat, tears, and blood.” This is a rather radical expression. Now we see that it really works, people really join. Volunteer movements, non-governmental organizations, and charitable foundations that start with enthusiasm work on this. The same is true in business: if people believe in the mission of the company, and know that what is declared is true and valuable, they will hold on and work to keep it that way. Especially if it's close to them. If this is not close to them, they will only need to be encouraged with a growing salary,” Olga assures.
That is why it is so important to recruit and retain those people who believe in the same as the company, for whom the mission and the purpose of the business are close. If there is a coincidence of private goals and needs with the goals and capabilities of the organization, a common motivating field appears. Then maybe you need to put in less effort to motivate people.
You also need to carefully select the people on the team. Even 15 years ago, no one spoke about the selection of people according to values, business did not operate with such concepts at all. However, according to the speaker, if a person whose life principles and values are at odds with the principles and values that people in an existing team live by, this person will not last long in the team. It's not because the people are bad or the company is bad - they just don't match. These are emotional things, and they have a big impact on how cohesive a team becomes and how well people work together.
Corporate culture is the thing that answers two important questions:
1. Why do we do what we do?
For people, especially cognitive workers, it is very important to understand the meaning of things. Not just to do a monkey job, because they are told so but to understand why they need to do it. Therefore, the leader should regularly talk about this to people: why they have to do what they do, why it is important, where the result goes next, what their actions affect, and what inaction can lead to. It is a mistake not to talk about it because supposedly it is obvious and self-evident. However, what is obvious to one person is far from obvious to another. And what is important to one person may not be so important to another. The organization of people is united by the concept of "common why" – a common understanding, a common desire. This “why” is not a look inside the team, it is a look outside: what benefits the company brings to the community in which it operates, its customers, society as a whole, and also what these customers, and society, will lose if the company stops doing what it does.
2. How do we do it? What principles and rules do we follow, what is very good for us, and what is taboo?
These boundaries help embody the why. Whether the company wants it or not, there is an organizational culture in it, Olga assures. People come with their own beliefs, attitudes, upbringing, character, principles, and values, and this culture is formed in a certain spontaneous way. And when something goes wrong in the team and the manager or business owner starts saying: “This is something, not mine, these are not my people”, this means that during the selection and retention of employees, the “why” and values were lost sight of the candidate. They took them because they are a great specialist. It's nothing that their honesty and responsibility are not as important as for the team – you can just pay them enough money. Ignoring such things reflects badly on what kind of people get on the team.
“Once I took part in the selection, and very often there were conversations about what is important for a candidate in work, what rules they will never break, and because of what they can get up and leave – and it doesn’t even matter what happens there with their workbook. Such questions may sound somewhat radical, but thanks to them you can hear about the most important things for a person that they want to get by joining the team,” the expert notes.
What matters when it comes to culture is that people believe what a company does rather than what it says. Therefore, management should be careful about what they say and what they do, and how they look when doing so - everything must be consistent. Even "good afternoon" can be said in different ways, and it is already possible to determine whether a person really sincerely wished a good day or just said a formal phrase of courtesy.
Also, a manager may say: “It is very important for us to achieve a result. We need this result in order for us to achieve our mission.” Or they might say, "We're being asked to achieve this result because they say the company really needs it." In which case will the team be quicker charged to achieve this result and trust the manager?
In fact, according to Olga, neither in the first nor in the second. Because in the first it will be simulated, and in the second - the manager himself does not believe in the goals they declare, but honestly says, they say, let's just do it for them. Perhaps, in the second case, they will believe them faster. The only question is what they believe in: that the results definitely need to be achieved, because they are important, or that the results need to be given because someone is waiting for them.
Everything in the company, its culture, and its team begins with a “why”, with a mission: “we are there – for what?”. At team sessions, the expert notes, when there is a need for team building, they often start a conversation with why a team is needed at all, and what its mission is. And it is important for the team to understand this.
When you ask business owners what their business is about, most often they choose the answer from the “What?” circle. For example, "we make tractors", "we knit socks" or something else. And when they ask, “What are you doing this for?”, it can be difficult for them to verbalize it. But this is important. In a small business, according to the expert, it's all in the head of the owner, often only they see the mission. Other people begin to guess what the business is about based on the behavior of the owner. Therefore, it is very important that the behavior matches the words. And even more important is to talk about it to people, discuss with the team why we are, why we are a business, how we do what we do, and only then about goals, strategy, and the rest.
You should also talk about your people in the team, and about what criteria you can use to determine who is your team player, "the people of my dreams." When people are recruited into a team, they are retained, it is very important to compile a list of characteristics by which you can determine that these are “own” people. They need to invest effort, time, and money, to develop and train them so that they have features close to the owner or management. It is also important to trust people in a team. And trust does not arise in one hour.
Each company has its own list of such parameters, according to which they determine that the candidate will fit into the team. You can add values, and life principles of people that guide them when making important decisions for themselves. If these principles and values coincide with those accepted in the company, then this is “their own” person. And even if team members argue, there will still be things that unite them.
All people are guided by different principles, but there are those that may not suit this particular company. In this case, cooperation may be complicated or even impossible, it will be difficult to trust each other. Competence, the so-called hard skills, is also a very important thing. After all, a stable, productive team is held together by values, retained by the motivation that coincides with the capabilities of the company, and knows how to do everything in order to achieve goals, knows how to work together.
How to distinguish between people in the process of employment: those who simply say what is right to say, but do not share such a position and those who really adhere to it. Olga advises using the technique of asking questions about an example from the past. So, if you want to know how the candidate feels about the possibility of mutual assistance among colleagues, they should be asked to talk about a situation when they had to do their job and needed the help of colleagues. One can ask what the situation was, how the candidate coped with it, what they did to solve the problem, how other people reacted, what was the result, how much did the result meet the candidate’s expectations, what would they do differently now so that the result was better. So, you can find out if a person knows how to negotiate, to be part of the interaction.
You can use the same question constructor to find out the other side of the situation: that is, ask to talk about a situation when a colleague with whom the candidate was not very comfortable working turned to them for help, and at that time they had a lot of work. And here it is very important to pay attention to how a person responds. Perhaps they use the word "we" – and then it is not a fact that we are talking about them personally.
In general, there may be several versions of the use of this pronoun, the speaker emphasizes. First, a person can be so commanding that it is difficult for them to separate himself from others. Then it is necessary to deliberately clarify exactly how this person acted in this or that situation. Secondly, they can hide behind others. Thirdly, they can philosophize, and it can sound something like this: “In this situation, it would be good to ...”. There is nothing wrong here, but it is not a fact that a person will really do this. And in order to weed out philosophizing, one should again ask: “What exactly will you do?”. This is not a very comfortable question, people sometimes run away from it, in which case it is worth asking about something else and then returning.
In addition, one should be guided in their questions by the recent past, not 15 or 20 years ago, but by a horizon of up to three years. And the actions of a particular person must be discussed. You should listen to their conclusions and, based on them, ask why they decided to do this. And not because it does not resonate with the views of the leader, but in order to understand the logic of a person, what they are guided by. Given the answers, one should choose or not choose a person for a position in the team.
When asked why a candidate left their previous job, there will most likely not be a direct answer. The speaker said that at one time they invented questions that worked better:
It is in this case that you can hear about motivation, important fundamental things for a person, about how they get along with others.
“Interviews are a separate issue altogether,” says Olga -,” If we talk about the team, then you should watch people and how they behave. Observation, the ability to track reactions and analyze is a very good competence for leaders and managers.”
When a leader decides whom to keep and whom to fire, they must choose those who are close to them in terms of goals, values, and principles. Of course, competence is also important, but if values diverge, competence loses its importance. They simply begin to endure such a person, and this is definitely a toxic relationship.
“I had training budgets,” says the expert, “and my task was to use them as efficiently as possible so that the company I work for gets exactly what it needs. Therefore, when you decide what things to teach and whom to teach, you need to evaluate your strategic goals, as well as what tactical and operational goals you need to achieve. You also need to figure out what your people need to understand and know in order to achieve these goals. Next, you should analyze who can do what and who knows what. This does not require any massive tools; all this can also be understood through observation and conversation. To do this, the manager has such a meeting format one-on-one, and there is an analysis of the implementation. If something does not work out for a person, you need to ask them about the reason, and the factors that they lack in order to achieve a successful result. More often than not, people themselves know what they lack.”
When choosing people to be trained, one should be tied to their functional duties, the tasks that are set for people now and that will be set in two, three months, six months, and a year. After all, there are things that take a long time to learn. You also need to have an action plan, Olga notes. An individual development plan is a document available in large companies, but it can also be used in small businesses. To do this, you can simply talk to a person, explain to them what they do well and what does not, and ask what they need to do well. It may be necessary to conduct additional training, therefore, one should choose the method of training or combination of methods that are acceptable for the company in terms of both finance and time.
The best way to learn is right at the workplace, through direct activity. Here is already a question of the managerial skills of the leader, their ability to develop people through setting tasks for them, more and more complex, the ability to instruct, mentor, be a mentor or find mentors for newcomers among the team.
Indeed, although training or a webinar will give a person some knowledge, perhaps even certain basic skills, if they are not used immediately, 5% of knowledge will remain from them for a certain period.
And you should also talk with each individual person because everyone also knows what methods of learning affect him: it’s enough for someone to read, listen, and if someone wants to see how others do it, try to do it yourself and hear possible corrections. This may be a terribly inconvenient way for the manager, but for the employee, it will be the most effective.
“From my experience. I had at least three people on my team, a maximum of 28, and half of them worked remotely. I realized that when I imposed my way of teaching, 70% of it did not work. They didn't study and I got angry. Then I thought about how they should be taught if it doesn’t work out that way. But why invent something when you can just ask? At one of the working conferences, I asked people how they generally study, and how they studied at the institute, which helped them learn the material. I realized that I have half of the people who learn through action, who say – show me, and now let me try, then I will read and add something else to myself. Although for me personally, a completely different way of learning works.”
If a company invests in people development, it should remember an important thing: the people you need to retain are the key employees of the company. Key people are those who have the competence and who have the same values and goals as the company, those who have the potential, who may not yet be very good at what they do, but have enough enthusiasm and are worthy of investment in their investments.
Attraction, in this case, is not about recruiting. It is rather about the inclusion or non-inclusion of the employee in the work.
All that employers offer are opportunities for the candidate, among which they choose those that their soul responds to. Whether it's development, connections and socialization, or reliability – whatever is important to them. And sometimes there may not even be money on this list. For example, we can talk about non-profit organizations and volunteers. And in this context, motivation stands out. At the beginning of the war, the employees of many companies were so immersed in volunteering that there was a serious imbalance when they ceased to fulfill their duties.
“A manager approached me for coaching with a complaint about an employee whom they gave an ultimatum: “If you volunteer so much, I will not pay you money.” And they said, "Okay, then I'm leaving." They just got up and left and never returned to this leader,” the expert said about a case from practice.
Money does not motivate, money is a tool, says Olga. When it comes to important needs, money is a tool to meet these needs. Money is needed, we live in a society of money, and it helps to satisfy a lot of needs, from physiological to needs for security and status. Therefore, leaders need to know what important needs people can satisfy while working in the company. This is their employer value proposition, the value proposition of the employer, which can attract those people who will be attracted by its opportunities. People have needs, companies have opportunities. It is important that they match. If a person has a need for career growth, and the company is a small business, this is no longer a coincidence. You can, of course, take this person, but you won’t be able to keep them for a long time.
A tool based on the 12-factor model of Martin-Ritchie motivators provides for the ranking of needs by importance, as well as the degree of their satisfaction at the moment. It will help you figure out what employees want.
The company may have its own needs, the employees may have their own, they may not coincide, and they should not. Ultimately, the satisfaction of these needs may be unprofitable for the company, contrary to its values and strategic goals. Therefore, they must understand what they have in their arsenal of opportunities, and attract and retain those people where there is a match.
Olga Sadokha advises managers not to resort to such actions or inaction: