Leveraging the Environment to Build a Better Culture

by | Last updated Jun 28, 2023 | Culture, Leadership



Leadership is about influence…

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

In this sense, leaders 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 put 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.

Let’s consider what can influence behaviour as we play with this idea.

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 will help when you create the right environment for each piece of the garden to be healthy to function 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 they are communicated behaviourally (i.e., with actions!).

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

However, a culture struggles when the values identified aren’t communicated adequately 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 team’s culture begins to unravel.

The key, as a leader, is to take those culture values off the page and bring them to life. This is done by communicating them clearly yourself, both in your language and your actions, and giving everyone else the opportunity to communicate them 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. Keeping the shared team spaces tidy and clean is a simple behaviour that communicates responsibility. This then becomes what responsibility looks like to the team. The visual appearance of shared space is how we can communicate to one another that we are taking responsibility for the environment. Our shared culture value is being exercised and actively upheld. If there is a day when 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 authentic leadership comes in. What will you do when the team is not meeting the standard that was collectively agreed upon?


Values are Created Together

For team culture 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 team members. This is how an environment becomes transformational.

A top-down or 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 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 these collisions aimed 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 exemplifies the idea that – connection precedes commitment. People are more willing to commit to an idea if they connect with the people involved. This is what strong cultures are striving for and 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.


Keep a Pulse on Your Environment

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

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

Innerlogic is about creating and facilitating connections within your team. It provides a solution to measure and change team culture. It provides a safe space for team members to provide feedback and frequently gives valuable data to your team’s leaders. Our updated high-performance methodology measures results (aspects of a healthy and productive environment), focusing on creating a transparent, empowering, accountable environment where people have the resources and support to succeed in their work and relatedness (aspects of a supportive and inclusive culture), focusing on creating a supportive, inclusive, and empowering culture where people feel valued, connected, and inspired.

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.

Let’s create a winning culture together.



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.



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