Michelle holland culture and leadership podcast

How to build an effective and resilient culture

What’s the key to building an effective and resilient culture within your organisation that leads to long-term success? Michelle Holland says it comes down to decision-making, honesty and open communication.

Michelle, founder of SynergyIQ, is a culture warrior, best-selling author, speaker, executive coach and entrepreneur who firmly believes that ‘culture is the DNA of a business’.

Michelle explained to KnowHow founder Bushy Martin on the Get Invested podcast that culture is critical factor in whether a business will survive and thrive in any challenging time.

She said culture is defined by the decision-making processes of leaders and whether they think about the impact of their decisions on both their employees and clients.

“If you want great outcomes for your client, then you need the decisions to be made as close to the client as possible. We often say that the experience that your employees are having is directly correlated to the experience your customers are having,” Michelle said.

In light of COVID-19, Michelle said leaders need to be flexible and swift with their decisions.

“With all this uncertainty and the change that’s happening, it actually is enabling leaders to think differently about their decision making,” she said.

“What I think is really important for leaders during this period of time is that you don’t make decisions and chisel them out in concrete. You can actually, in two days time, go ‘you know what? That decision that we made was based on that information, but we’ve got new information now. We’re gonna have to be agile, we’re gonna have to shift what we decided then. And this is the new decision’.”

But Michelle also emphasised that a great culture goes well beyond its leaders – it’s an ‘everybody game’. She said every employee, no matter their position, has a role to play in upholding an effective work culture.

“It’s every single person in the organisation that creates the culture and keeps it in play,” Michelle said.

“You don’t need to be in the CEO (role) to have good, open, honest conversations with your colleagues that help then learn and grow and help you learn and grow.

“There are really simple things that people can do that actually really contribute a lot to culture … there’s the experience that happens within a business, and that’s what each individual person can actually have some control over.

“What experience are you giving to your colleague? What experience are you having when you’re dealing with another team? These things are really simple, but they are really impactful.”

Michelle said it is key to understand the idea that all employees have the power to communicate with those in leadership positions and make positive changes in their business.

“I’ve seen a lot of change happen because a group of people from within the business have not only raised concerns, but taken action to make things different. And it might be those small actions to start with, but those small actions can have a big impact,” she said.

“We wait way too long for the people at the top to create change. But unless you tell them change is necessary, unless you should them a different way … then there are times where the leader is sitting at the top and they’re having a very different experience.

“If you’re not actually saying something, then nothing’s going to change. The most powerful thing that people at your traditional non-management level roles can do is actually just start talking. Start talking with your people. Start expecting things to be different. Start wanting something different. Do some research. Read some books.”

Great cultures are known for their two-way communication and overall honesty and candour.

“Their people are involved, and they have input into the way the work is delivered, not just the work that is delivered,” Michelle said.

“Their leaders are very skilled at leadership and management … they will actually work together and seek out collaboration because they know it gives them better results.

“We don’t use the word ‘nice’. If you’re being nice in a business, that’s a real problem because nice is passive. Nice means we’re not having the conversations. We need to have to get better results. We love candour.

“In a functional, high performing culture, (you have) to be able to have the freedom and the safety, to be able to challenge what’s going on. And having stand-up robust conversations in workplaces doesn’t mean it’s a bad culture. Actually, it usually means it’s a functional one.”

A huge change which has emerged from COVID-19 is the move for businesses to work remotely. Michelle reveals that despite some fears from leaders that people can become distracted from their role at home, research tells a completely different story.

Again, these improvements have emerged through leaders’ trust and faith in their employees.

“Some of the positive things that I’m definitely seeing and hearing is things like ‘wow, our meetings are much more productive’ … so all of a sudden, they’ve got more time in their day.

“The research actually shows that people are much more productive when they’re in their remote working environments, whether it be at their home or in a small office.

“We’re getting this real efficiency happening from people working from home. And I think part of that is because they’re not looking over their shoulder constantly …they’re actually just seeing the outcome rather than seeing the mistakes.”

Listen to the full interview here.

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