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stairs-to-anspirition-4-clThere is general acceptance that “structure drives behaviour”. In an organisational context, structure is derived from policies and processes, and this is how people respond behaviourally. This behaviour eventually becomes the culture which, not surprisingly, ends up driving structure (as a response to behaviour).

Let me use a sports example: in tennis, before the second-serve rule was introduced, the speed of the first-serve was considerably slower than it is today. By allowing a second attempt, players gave the first-serve their all. Similarly in cricket, we saw the introduction of field-restrictions in ODIs that significantly changed the way the game is played. When the balance of the game gets a bit out of hand, new rules are introduced accordingly.

In your organisation, are policies and rules driving positive behaviour, or are you running things like a schoolmaster? For example: Do you enforce strict office timings where people are fined for arriving late, or do you focus on what they produce? Employees may be physically present but mentally (and emotionally) absent. Also, do you implement severe rules for all employees just to rein in a few recalcitrants?

Do you create structures and hierarchies that foster silos and distances between management and employees? This has a wonderful way of stifling open communications and the free flow of productive ideas. In a restrictive environment, employees are not ‘engaged’ and will only do the bare minimum to avoid being fired. On the other hand, an enabling environment allows staff to thrive and grow themselves as well as the organisation.

Take a look at your policies and processes (and practices). Do they say you trust your employees or do they reflect a suspicious mindset (“If we don’t have these policies in place, employees will cheat us.”). Yes, you need to maintain decorum and discipline (and financial propriety), but by trusting your staff to behave like responsible adults, you are actually encouraging self-regulation. This signifies you are an evolved or enlightened organisation.

Introduce changes slowly and allow for lapses. After fair warning, come down hard on those who don’t want to play the new game. This way you don’t have to penalise everyone for the sins of a few.

– Leon Menezes
The writer is a senior HR practitioner, professor-of-practice and an executive coach.

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on April 6, 2014.