Climate control versus command and control

climate control
In most modern cars we are used to having climate controls – in order that we can create that ideal ambience for our journey. Not too hot or cold, enough air circulation that we don’t get drowsy or lose concentration and not too draughty to be uncomfortable. We can even choose models that enable us to make those options selectable for each occupant!

We accept and, increasingly, expect these features in our cars, in order to make our journeys more comfortable and enjoyable. We don’t necessarily take a similar view about the workplace. I’m not talking about the physical work environment (although that’s important for success) but the climate we create as business leaders.

There’s a lot of media coverage about climate – mostly the global variety, although recent events also provoked comments about the likely post-election business climate in the UK. But what about inside business? Inside your business?

I see a lot of businesses, especially those started by owner/directors where the early growth of the business has often been a direct result of what we normally characterise as command and control management. That is, “the boss” controls everything and everyone turns to her/him to be told what to do, when, etc. This approach to leadership, with its origins in the military, was particularly prevalent in businesses until the latter decades of 20th century. For most businesses this model is, however, unsuited to the competitive dynamics of our highly globalized economy.

Whilst there remains a place for a degree of command and control, for example during major change, today’s most successful, sustainably competitive businesses adopt a different approach. This is variously described as more enlightened management, in which a key component is what I choose to characterise as climate control – i.e. leaders create the right climate for others to perform, in preference to reliance on explicit direction and commands. This management approach is predicated on the experience that our businesses perform best when our people perform at their best, consistently – i.e. when we provide the right environment.

Unlike command and control, it’s not a “one size fits all” model. To create and maintain a high performance culture requires us to tailor the environment for individuals, teams, functions and departments and/or enable them to tailor it for themselves.

That may sound like an investment in flexibility that is difficult to justify in absolute terms. To a degree it is – but what we know is that businesses that invest in climate control – who enable and encourage their managers and leaders to create a climate that encourages and enhances creativity, promotes accountability, inspires personal responsibility – are able to sustain their competitiveness over the long term. Those that adhere to command and control, aren’t.

Of course, the right climate alone does not enable the creativity, accountability, responsibility, etc. – you also need to have the right capabilities in the business – but that’s a whole other topic.

So, how much attention do you pay to the climate you create for and around your people on a day-to-day basis?

How about engaging your people in discussion about how they perceive the climate in your business and explore with them how it could be improved? If that’s on the edge of your comfort zone, that’s not unusual – but be courageous! You never know, you might just discover some hidden gems or latent capability just waiting for the right environment in which to flourish.

We’d love to hear how you get on.

Author: Andrew Hall