Emotional precision — Tone from Top
Organizational sentiment affects the culture, stance and energy of the organization directly.
For a company, being Happy or Sad; Confident or Anxious; Optimistic or Pessimistic, all these are natural states. Never binary. But dominant sentiments can prevail. Leaders have a big role in shaping the dominant sentiments in a well functioning organization. I am not referring to tactical behaviors like “encouraging words”, “nice email”, “spot awards”, “team dinners”. I am interested in the structural sentiments. What people feel in their bones in their organizational context.
Tone from the top has a major role in the sentiment in the organization. How should it be set? How to use it as a lever in building high performance organizations?
The best-in-business are self aware (or we can use the fancy term metacognition 😉) to precisely and deliberately know what tone to set. What stance to encourage? Where to direct the energy?
Besides many things that I probably haven’t even observed, one of the things I have certainly observed is that the best-in-business determine their tone basis their assessment of where their companies / projects are in the business cycle. And mostly (a) they are counter cyclical. And (b) always constructive.
Lets say the business leaders have a high conviction view on roughly where they are in the business cycle. This is step-1. If they don't then they need to form one.
Step-2. They need to get the senior team share the view. This creates the right pre-conditions for setting the tone from top. If the senior team doesnt share the view then the tone can be misinterpreted.
What is your business situation?
Step-3. Frame the tone from top.
Being consistently pessimistic when the rest of the organization is already down. Or being consistently aggressive when everyone already thinks nothing can go wrong are two huge mistakes. Leaders who don't adjust their own emotion to the need of the business and the organization face this all the time. I have yet to see a good ending to such scenarios. But then again, I have a lot left to see as well.
Admittedly this is very hard. And the unlock can be in getting together a team of heavyweights who can provide counter perspective rather than depending on one individual to get his/her emotional state right. This is why some organizations make better quality decisions — ceteris paribus.
ps: Views are personal