Leveraging the environment to build a better culture

by | Jun 30, 2021 | Culture, Leadership


Leadership is about influence…

It is getting individuals to buy into a group idea – a process that requires everyone to be connected in a meaningful way and motivated by achieving a common goal.

Leaders, in this sense – must think about the team first and how leadership decisions will impact the collective. It’s as if standing at the bottom of a pyramid where the base represents the group, and the top represents the individual. Your thought processes and decisions must filter through the team lens before getting to any single member. Leaders must also consider that team members will often think about things from the top of the pyramid, where they believe themselves first and the group second.


Leaders as influencers

If we consider leadership under this framework, we must also consider what we are attempting to influence. Ultimately, in a team, we are trying to influence the behaviour of the members. We want them to behave in a high-performing manner toward team success.

As we play with this idea, let’s start to consider what can influence behaviour.

We can think about it like cultivating a garden. It takes a lot of time, care, and attention. A garden needs the right amount of sunlight, water, nutrients for the soil, continual weeding, etc. It would help if you created the right environment for each piece of the garden to be healthy so that it functions well together.

This article will explore the impact of a team’s environment on the behaviour and ultimate success of the group.


Environment dictates behaviour

Research suggests that the environment dictates up to 70% of behaviour. The good news is that leaders can significantly influence this area. Good leaders are essentially engineers of their team’s environment. So, if you are pursuing the desired behaviour within your team, consider the environment you create.


Environments = values communicated

Let’s define environment. For this discussion on team behaviour, let’s boil it down to the core values within a team and how those values are communicated behaviourally (i.e., with actions!).

Most people tend to agree with specific proposed values, such as honesty, integrity, togetherness, etc. These are all virtuous concepts that intuitively make sense to most people; therefore, people typically desire to embody and uphold them.

However, a culture struggles when the values identified don’t get adequately communicated or aren’t lived up to a consistent basis – especially when things get tough. What happens then is the undoing of most team cultures. The values merely become words that are plastered on a wall somewhere. Team members stop trusting them, realizing they don’t really matter to anyone, and the culture of the team begins to unravel.

The key as a leader, is to take those values off the page and bring them to life. This is done by communicating them clearly yourself, both in your language and your actions, as well as giving everyone else the opportunity to communicate them to each other in safe and habitual ways in the daily environment.

Let’s say for example, one of your team values is responsibility. You have determined, as a group, that everyone needs to take responsibility for the team’s performance and their personal contributions to it. A simple behaviour that communicates responsibility is keeping the shared team spaces tidy and clean. This then becomes what responsibility looks like to the team. The visual appearance of shared space is how we are able to communicate to one another that we are taking responsibility for the environment. Our shared value is being exercised and actively upheld. If there is a day where the space is disordered, then we know we are falling short on one of our values. This example makes value entrenchment seem quite simple, but this is only just getting to the stage where real leadership comes in. What are you going to do when the team is not meeting the standard that was collectively agreed upon?


Values are created together

In order for team values to be created and effective, they need to include input from everyone on the team. Values and how they are communicated must be created and agreed upon by both the leaders and the members of the team. This is how an environment becomes transformational.

A top-down approach or even a bottom-up approach to determining values only creates a transactional relationship. Everyone has to agree on the values that underpin the culture of the team, as well as understand how they are communicated to each other.

Tony Hsieh (pronounced Shay), grew the shoe company Zappos to a billion dollars in revenue over the course of a decade and eventually sold it to Amazon. Hsieh is widely recognized as an expert on what makes humans tick. He’s quoted as saying, “if you set things up right, the connection happens.” He spent most of his time as CEO of Zappos, creating an environment that allowed for what he called “collisions”. He was constantly thinking of ways to ensure the members of his organization would organically run into each other and connect, ideally igniting otherwise unlikely conversation. This culture became so ingrained that the goal of these collisions was for each member to suggest another person they should talk to or connect with. Transformation over transaction.


Connection precedes commitment

The environment created by Hsieh at Zappos is an example of the idea that – connection precedes commitment. People are more willing to commit to an idea if they feel a connection with the people involved in it. This is what strong cultures are striving for, and this is what tribal leadership has been anchored on for thousands of years. Team members become connected to one another in meaningful ways. Creating a space for everyone to rely on each other, communicate with each other and have psychological safety.

At innerlogic, we’re all about creating connections within your team.


How to keep a pulse on your environment

Suppose you’re serious about creating an environment that is conducive to productivity and team success. In that case, it’s important to get consistent feedback on how it’s going and how members are feeling inside of it.

Innerlogic is about creating and facilitating connections within your team. It provides the solution to measure team health (culture) and team mood (emotions). It provides a safe space for team members to provide feedback and give valuable data to the leaders within your team on a frequent basis. The smart-pulsing surveys measure six team health indicators (trust, communication, resilience, alignment, impact, and clarity) and team mood based on six families of emotions members are experiencing in the environment (enjoyment, motivation, curiosity, stress, discontent and anger).

This information will give you insights and feedback in real-time about your environment and areas that might need more attention or critical conversations that should be had. It will point leaders in the right direction toward high-performing teams.


“If you set things up right, the connection happens” – Tony Hsieh, former CEO of Zappos



About the author

Kevin Duffie, Chief Revenue Officer at innerlogic.

Kevin has a Master’s of Education in Leadership from Acadia University. His Master’s degree included Program and Leadership Development for non-profit organizations. Before joining innerlogic as their Chief Revenue Officer, he was a full-time university basketball coach for 14 years. He has led teams representing Nova Scotia nationally and Canada internationally.



Innerlogic is a business intelligence company that helps organizations reimagine their culture. We use a leading culture measurement methodology with dynamic technology and data science to improve organizational outcomes like employee well-being, engagement, effectiveness and retention.



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