Survival of the fittest

Company culture is at the heart of competitive advantage because it’s the one thing competitors can’t copy. Competitors may be able to replicate what you do, but not how you do it — or, most importantly, why your people do it. Think of culture like the ‘immune’ system of a company — it protects against attack. Like the human species, only the fittest companies survive and flourish — the companies with the best culture.

Creating a culture of engagement from the top of the organisation all the way to the front-line is the key to delivering enhanced performance: that extra bit that enables a company to sit head and shoulders above the rest. We all know that the culture of the organisation is determined at the top — with leaders role-modelling the right behaviours to drive performance. However, often the importance of culture on the front-line gets overlooked. The front-line is where customers experience your brand and where the brand promise gets delivered on or not. The very best organisations get culture right by focusing on aligning employee behaviours at all levels of the organisation with core values. Human behaviour is determined by how we feel. Our personalities, individual values and experiences will determine our judgement, decision making, attitude and ultimately behaviour.

Developing a culture of Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the key to aligning employee behaviours with organisational values and ultimately delivering on the company’s goals. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is not a fluffy concept. It is a set of competencies that can be recruited for and developed to build a strong culture that drives performance.

What is culture?

Culture is about how people behave in an organisation and the meaning that people attach to that behaviour. It’s how leaders behave and how employees behave and the real test of culture comes in times of stress.

People behave in way that aligns with what is important to them. Organisations that understand that the way people feel at work, the work they do and the company they work for, prioritise employee engagement and culture to drive performance. Employees that value contributing, working as part of a team and helping customers, choose behaviours that enhance company culture and performance.

So ultimately, culture is about values — what leaders and employees believe is important to the organisation. Aligning individual values with company values is the key to effectively recruiting and engaging employees.

Leaders are critical to determining company culture. Leaders are responsible for establishing acceptable behavioural norms in a company. They role-model behaviours and determine what gets rewarded, what sort of behaviour is required to ‘fit in’, and what sort of behaviour doesn’t ‘fit’. Aligning leader values with company values is the first step to building a high performance culture.

Create a high performance culture

All companies have different and unique cultures. In any organisation, a high performance culture relies upon the behaviour role-modelled by leadership, including reward, remedial action, and rituals created in the workplace to communicate and reinforce our values.

Through strong leadership, a high performance culture filters down to the front-line. Employees in high-performing organisations typically display similar patterns of behaviour. They leverage EI skills to work collaboratively, are open to change, think innovatively and take initiative. They care passionately about succeeding and orient themselves outward, focusing on customers and competitors rather than on internal politics.

In a high performance culture, employees are more engaged, motivated and productive at work. They harness EI skills to create emotional connections with customers and deliver personalised experiences, engaging emotionally to solve the problem. These EI skills and behaviours are critical to successful job performance.

Harness EI to drive employee engagement

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is rapidly becoming the new ‘emotional competency’ for work performance. As a skill set, EI is an important aspect of intellect that can determine both workplace and life success.

EI is about perceiving, understanding and managing emotions in constructive ways. Employees with high EI foster emotional competencies or ‘self-skills’ such as resilience, self-management, self-control, reasoning, empathy and strong working relationships with colleagues and customers.

In emotionally demanding front-line roles, these ‘self-skills’ are particularly important. Having the ability to understand emotions — to be aware of them and how they impact personal behaviour and interactions with others — creates stronger, longer lasting relationships between employees and customers. Front-line people who harness EI are better equipped to manage customer needs and exceed customer expectations, lifting engagement to new heights.
Advocate engagement from the top down

A culture of engagement happens from the top down, impacting the bottom line. Leaders who harness EI foster strong emotional competencies in others, directly impacting their employees’ commitment, discretionary effort and desire to improve.

In any organisation, the best leaders are present, authentic and empathetic. They harness EI to empower and engage others, inspiring more meaningful interactions on the front-line. Both leaders and employees with high EI quickly build rapport and foster trust, have needs-based conversations with customers and deliver personalised solutions.
An emotionally intelligent management team is more likely to have an engaged team, resulting in higher productivity and performance. This, in turn, creates a culture of engagement and high performance.