It’s a known fact that in an organisation, culture is taken for granted. That is, until it becomes a toxic and destructive environment to be working in.

When that happens, we wonder how it ever got to that point. By that time, the toxic culture has seeped through every part of your organisation, and has inltrated your people, processes, structures, and systems. It may even have impacted on your clients and suppliers. This will happen faster than you think, and the way out is not easy. It is something that can be done, but it will be a lengthy process. So, it’s very important that, as a leader, you keep your eye on the ball, and mindfully observe your culture.

Now’s the time for leaders to be very conscious of their organisation’s culture. Virtual teams are developing more and more, and flexitime and home-office working seem to be the new norm. As euphoric as we might be that we don’t have to get up early, we can avoid the traffic to get to the office on time, we’re able to spend quality time with the kids, and can even play some sport whenever it suits us, we have to keep in mind the new virtual culture that’s developing around us. And it’s always best to be aware – and proactive – on how you want to direct it. If you don’t, it will develop by itself and you might not like the outcome.

What is culture?

Every organisation has its own unique culture. It’s the shared purpose of management and employees. Your shared purpose will be the reason you exist as a business, and it’s not to make a prot. Professor Edgar Schein, a former professor of the MIT Sloan School of Management in the US, denes culture as ‘shared assumptions and beliefs that a group of people learn from one another through working together.’ These assumptions often occur on a subconscious level, and by seeing others perform them, we start to do the same. It moves on to the next person, and the next. This behaviour – positive or negative – becomes acceptable, and it’s then passed on to new employees. As an example, if we don’t address tardiness to online meetings, it becomes acceptable to be ve or 10 minutes late, and soon the entire virtual team will be doing it. This will have a knock-on effect, which will make having candid conversations difcult, and it will affect efficiency, trust, and other work-related matters.

In a nutshell, culture is your team’s rules that everybody begins to use. The rules may not serve your macro strategy or goal, and that’s where the conflict will start to come in.

It’s up to leaders to be proactive in directing the culture of virtual teams. Which behaviours are positive, drive the objective of the team, and will drive higher performance? Be clear on what that behaviour is, and don’t let it evolve. Which behaviours are you starting to notice that concern you? Start to address these with your virtual team as it’s likely that the behaviours haven’t embedded themselves, and can be changed without too much effort. Involve your team in these discussions, and form the culture collectively. Discuss – and even debate – the rules, because everybody needs to agree on them and live them out. Be agile with your culture, review it, assess it, and change it. Remember to keep your eye on it all the time.

This new virtual working concept will give rise to a different culture, and you have the opportunity to give your old one an overhaul. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the working world has changed, and it has brought about change in how your virtual teams operate. Embrace the new door that has opened, walk through it, and create the culture you have always dreamed of.

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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