A good culture embarks an organisation on a path of rise, a bad culture embarks its decline. It all depends on the culture the leaders of the organisation are promoting in their day to day interactions. I have always seen D98 as a group which upholds a strong culture of innovation, quality and excellence. What has fostered this culture is nothing but the quality of A.I.R. (Action, Intent & Response) demonstrated by each member. Every component in A.I.R is critical for triggering a cultural wave in an institution. Leadership is the primary medium through which culture spreads its roots in an organisation. Let us examine how each component of A.I.R contributes in promoting or triggering a cultural shift in an organisation’s progress.
Action adds credibility to a leader’s vision and strategy. But these actions are not just limited to strategies, they also have a deeper influence on the day to day interactions within the team. Let us take a hypothetical example. Imagine a leader (club President) entering a meeting later than the scheduled time. What impact does it have on the team and the club? These consistently delayed arrivals can create a feeling among the members that “it is okay to be late” . This feeling leads to an imitation of behaviour, because culture is all about imitating leadership behaviours. This attitude further percolates into the cultural framework of an organisation. Slowly the organisation’s culture promotes late arrivals and approves late schedules. What impact will this have on the overall quality of the meeting? What message as an institution are we driving home to our members and guests who attend a Toastmasters meeting where two of the values are service and excellence? Can any club or group survive if its value system is broken?
Response can be verbal or non-verbal. Every response of yours can reinforce a good culture or can trigger the emergence of a new culture. Imagine a situation where the leadership is asked to respond to club related concerns and membership queries. But they choose not to respond. What impact will it have on the members and the club? Slowly this behaviour will seep into the cultural framework of the organisation. New members might consider not responding as normal. This can hamper the members’ experience and eventually the respect quotient of the organisation. Slowly, this culture of insensitivity and disrespect towards peers and processes will start to emerge within the club and ultimately hamper the ecosystem and overall sustenance of the institution. Respect is one of the prime values of Toastmasters and can any club survive if it breaks the value system?
It is imperative that we select our Actions, Intent and Response by understanding that it is going to have an impact on the way our organisation is perceived internally and externally. Every Action, Intent and Response is a brick in the huge wall of culture which an organisation will build to surround its existence.
Intent is not visible but cannot be hidden. It manifests in the form of outcomes. Imagine a hypothetical situation, where the leadership intends to disengage non-performers and replace them with new members who have the potential to contribute on a consistent qualitative basis. Here the intent of getting a good committed team is right, but the catch lies in the way it is communicated to the organisation. The major challenge of the leadership team is communicating the intent. It is very easy to misjudge intent and then the entire organisation spirals into a negative cultural wave. Now the question is, how do we communicate our intent and align it with our actions and response? Remember, a leader not only needs to communicate, but before that needs to ratify the same with oneself and the team.
One of the ways is to ask questions that identify the very purpose of making the crucial move, such as, “Why do I want to replace the non-performers? What will happen if they remain? Will it help the organisation sustain and preserve the right culture?” More importantly, am I addressing the person or the problem? The answers to these questions define the Integrity of our action. Integrity is one of the prime values of Toastmasters and can any club survive if there is a breakage in its value system?
Everyone at a Toastmasters club is a leader and it is a place where leaders for tomorrow are made. It is imperative that we select our Actions, Intent and Response by understanding that it is going to have an impact on the way our organisation is perceived internally and externally. Every Action, Intent and Response is a brick in the huge wall of culture which an organisation will build to surround its existence. How we act, what we intend and how we choose to respond will determine the strength of the wall that we are building. How strong is the brick that you are contributing to construct the cultural wall of your organisation?
This article was first published in District 98’s bi-monthly newsletter ‘Communicate 98’. To read more articles, click here.