Examining Culture and Climate within an Organization
By Dr. Michelle Benson, Ed.D., FPA-BM Special Advisor
Practically every high performing organization has a unique culture and climate from which they are known for. What needs to be realized is that a unique culture and climate did not just happen one day, but was developed over time through trials and successes. Curtis (2015) points out that climate can be viewed as local or a subset of the total organizational culture. In reflection, Taylor (2014) adds that organizational culture has also been identified as a salient antecedent of performance. In this assignment, comparisons, reflections and personal stories will be shared in examining the systemic culture and climate within an organization.
What are some preliminary observations between the content shared by the authors and your leader’s practices?
Shared and recognized leadership within an organization seems to be about even between Dr. Peter Senge and the authors of “Encouraging the Heart” by: Kouzes and Posner (2003). Senge (2010) shared in his video: “Organizational Leadership Expert” that collective leadership is fundamentally necessary and as leaders, we must learn from each other. Kouzes and Posner (2003, p.94) shared that an organization’s culture reflects how people are showing appreciation toward one another. In revisiting personal ethics and values, it does matter how much thoughtfulness you put into recognizing someone else’s hard work and unique qualities. These events reflect off you, as a leader and are copied by followers, making them better people in the long run. In reflection of my own practices, I am the leader of my job in the classroom. My practices are tested, tried and true through benchmarking successes, student surveys and recognition by the CEO’s of the organizations that I have worked for in the last 5 years.
From many professional meetings with the CEO of my current organization, I have always been impressed by the level of approachability and use of basic language that a leader in this position represents. There is nothing more appealing to me than to be friends and collegues with a leader such as this one that exudes compassion, recognition and overall happiness in their position. This is not only attractive, but very human.
Over the last 12 years, I have had the opportunity to work for 2 completely exceptional CEO’s and I can honestly state that my values were shaped upon the styles of these leaders. These leaders are the professionals that I, as a future leader in educational leadership would like to mirror and as it stands, my personal style in the classroom has a good chance to reach those levels in the future. In fact, I have students that I taught 10 years ago that still keep in touch and still call me Professor Benson. It is truly an honor and a life success to be remembered as a favorite teacher and I am forever grateful.
I also must mention a director of education that I worked for several years ago that always had an open door policy and would stop what he was doing for a solution to any problem that came his way. This person represented the organization with caring and concern for his employees. This leader let us, as his employees lead and make decisions based on the shared visions and beliefs of the organizational culture and climate. Since then, this person retired and is still a confidant and friend.
Ten years ago in 2004, professionals above me use to tell me not to lead from the heart. I listened and thought they were right. This created terrible battles with my heart because I was a teacher that led from the heart through motivation, drive and inspiration. I was not happy trying to be someone I wasn’t and this caused me to find other jobs where I could be myself. Years later I came to realize that leading from the heart was my calling as a leader. Since then, I have received awards and recognition for my leadership qualities in the classroom because I lead from the heart and people understand this. They say it’s a breath of fresh air.
What role did your organization’s leader take to shape the culture and climate?
One major thing that attracted me to the organization that I currently work for is their involvement in the community. I knew that this organization’s culture and climate was based on the celebration of the community in a wide range of settings from major sponsorship of a stadium to the availability of community scholarships, and the offering of company-paid events such as baseball or football games. Another thing that attracted me to the culture of my current workplace is the recognition of all employees by ways of monthly visits by the CEO of the organization. When a CEO calls you by name and says hello that is an honor. The CEO also added me to his LinkedIn network, as well as his Twitter page. He is approachable and recognizes talent, therefore the organization to me is people-centered and an attractive organization to work for due to the leadership.
A previous organization that I worked for as a professor had a similar style of personalized culture and climate. The CEO was a leader in the community and was very involved in the recognition and rewarding of top employees each month so much that he sponsored a day cruise for the monthly top performers in the organization, including an award ceremony and the winners’ names on the company website. The prize was so attractive that it inspired employees and leaders alike fight hard in great customer service and the delivery of the mission statement to the community. I was working on my Bachelor Degree while working at this organization as an instructor and I can honestly say that this company’s culture led me to earn my Master’s Degree and pursue my Doctorate to be this kind of leader in the long run.
As a Doctoral student, and a Professor in higher education, I have taken everything I have learned over the years and used it to lead in my classroom, in the community as a member of the city council, and in my personal/professional relationships. There is nothing more important than to recognize, inspire and motivate all the people that you meet with your involvement in the community and in yourself. This is the culture and climate of your values and beliefs and does shine through in your job, at home and through your children.
How has the leader implemented initiatives to improve or hinder the organization’s culture and climate?
As complex and challenging of a process the initiation of change can be, one thing must be remembered and that is to recognize that change cannot occur by one implementation alone, but by many implementations all focusing on one target, the culture and climate of the organization. In addition, the implementation of initiatives is only successful when it is done consistently. In reference to my current and former organization, both CEO’s offered recognition and reward for the employees who went above and beyond their calls of duty by ways of prestigious events and representation of departments and individuals.
From professional and personal experiences, I truly believe that change, whether it be from an increase in student enrollment, or the positive recognition of a professor by her/his students in a student survey, can increase the reputation and financial standings of any size organization for the better because happy and recognized employees, and students creates an organization that everyone wants to work. With this type of reputation in the community, the CEO has done their job to the highest degree.
Based upon your observation, has the culture and climate affected the productivity of the organization’s staff members?
Based on my witness, I recently attended a veteran recognition ceremony that was organized by the veterans’ services department and the CEO was one of the speakers. I was invited to this prestigious event because I elected my top 5 students in recent classes to be recognized for their hard work and honor in the classroom. When I walked into the main campus the night of the ceremony, I immediately noticed that the CEO was chatting with different groups of people. I was amongst Vice Presidents of departments, Deans of education, and leaders in the field and felt very fortunate to be in attendance. I joined a group of friends for the event and the CEO came over and thanked us for nominating our students for this event. I was beside myself with happiness and inspiration.
After the ceremony, the CEO met up again with some employees, including myself to fill out some thank you cards for the soldiers who are fighting overseas. I left this ceremony with a feeling of support, thankfulness and extreme love for my position in this company. I am sure the other attendees felt the same way too. The next day, I saw the CEO on the news and he was thanking the veterans’ for their services to the country. There was no doubt in my mind that this organization was one that focused their efforts on the recognition and reward of employees and community members’ culture and climate. Based on what I witnessed and am witnessing, all employees and students alike are on the same page.
Another sign that the climate and culture of my organization is one of recognition and trust is the amount of free reign that I have as a professor to hold my classes the way that I feel is professional and thorough. Each class has benchmarks, or objectives that must be taught and understood by my students by ways of quizzes and tests, but the rest of my classes are up to my creative energy and little bits of extra charisma in assuring that my students are prepared for their next classes and the professional settings of the workplace. I really appreciate the amount of creativity that I can put into each one of my classes and I appreciate even more that I am allowed to do it. I am positive that each and every professor that works in this organization works more productively because of the allowance of creative energy and personalization that is put into each classroom.
Another observation of employees’ productivity are within their very work areas which fosters a sense of belonging. Pictures of loved ones, awards, degrees, and colorful decorations make productivity almost always something that is work working for. This is the kind of culture that this organization sponsors and I find it an important part of success, especially at work where support is socially visible to all visitors and fellow employees.
What could be done differently and/or what was done effectively?
I honestly do not see anything in my organization that should be done differently, or more effectively. The leader’s focus in my organization and my focus are on the same wavelength and I plan to keep on representing it with services that perform above and beyond my call as a Professor in this organization. I hope that in the future, when I earn my doctorate in educational leadership that I may be able to join the upper eshilance of top leaders in this organization as a dean or a vice president of a department. I feel that my beliefs and the importance of my organization’s culture and climate will manifest further as a top leader.
Curtis, Mary. Journal of Business Ethics. Jan2015, Vol. 126 Issue 1, p61-63. 3p. DOI: 10.1007/s10551-013-2036-0. , Database: Business Source Complete
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2003). Encouraging the heart: A leader’s guide to rewarding and recognizing others. Boston, MA: Jossey-Bass.
Senge, P. (2010). Organizational Leadership Expert. http://youtu.be/iLFCrv7-XlI
Senge, P. (June 2010). Systems thinking in early education. http://youtu.be/q8w3Z9O7HLM
Taylor, Jeannette. Public Performance & Management Review. Sep2014, Vol. 38 Issue 1, p7-22. 16p. DOI: 10.2753/PMR1530-9576380101. , Database: Business Source Complete
The FPA-BM has as Special Advisor Dr. Michelle C. Benson, Ed.D. Dr. Michelle is a consultant, university professor and advisor to many. Dr. Michelle graduated from Northcentral University with a Doctorate in Educational Leadership. She holds a Master in Organizational Leadership/Management from Ashford University. Dr. Michelle has taught for the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Community Health for Bachelor and Master level learners. Dr. Michelle also can motivate and lead her students to career and life changing opportunities. She is a student-centered education professional and is passionate to see success in people she encounters. Dr. Michelle has authored five journal publications and is always seeking ways to add more research to existing topics in leadership, learning and management.