Organizational Climate & Leadership


Dr. Relly Nadler:
This week on Leadership Development News we interview Teresa Ray talking about Organizational Climate. Every organization has its own climate and Teresa is an expert on working with organizations in that area. She is a consultant and executive coach, a facilitator and also adjunct professor and trainer.

Teresa is a professional executive coach and she has her own consulting firm, TSM, Inc., also called NWA Executive Coaching Solutions. She’s based in northwest Arkansas. She does a lot of traveling around. She has had her organization since December 2005. She’s leveraged her 15+ years of leadership and team building experience that she’s provided coaching and consultation to a wide range of individuals and organizations. She also has experience in public and privately held corporations as well as state and federal government organizations.

Teresa began her coaching practice after serving as the Associate Director of Executive Education at the Center for Management and Executive Education at the Sam Walton College of Business, at the University of Arkansas.

She specializes in executive coaching, consulting, leadership, communication, high-performance teams, conflict resolution, and emotional intelligence. She has worked with all kinds of organizations; NASA, the Stenos Space Center, The Grant Research Center, University of Arkansas, and more.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg:  I am very fortunate to know Teresa. We met at the Executive Education Program at Walmart’s corporate headquarters in Arkansas. As you could hear, certainly our listeners who are with us right now, Teresa had spent a good deal of time at the Sam Walton School at University of Arkansas, so she has a very close relationship with a lot of the organizations in that region, including the Walmart Organization.

It was fascinating to me; we were actually there to welcome a gentleman who has been on our program, you may recall, from NASA, Joe Dowdy. Teresa came as part of the organization that was supporting not only Joe’s work as a mentor with his students at the NASA organization, but also because she does so much work doing executive coaching and using her NWA Executive Coaching Solutions program.

I’m going to go into our question and answer phase of the program because I think she has so much to share. She’s energetic, she’s one of those people who you just want to get to know better, and that’s what I’d like to do during the radio show time that we have.

I want to say that one of the things that Teresa really brings to the table is this really grounded focus on climate and the difference between climate and culture. Relly, as you know, many of our listeners struggle with how to change a culture and we’ve been trying to tell them for two years, you cannot change a culture. What you can do is for your own individual leadership, change a climate around you that permeates like a wave and starts to change the organization around you. That’s the best way that you can start your own change in your organization as a leader. So without further ado, I would love to welcome our friend, Teresa, to the show.

Teresa Ray: Thank you very much, it’s my pleasure to be here and it was wonderful to meet you there at Walmart, Cathy, that was a true blessing.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Here’s what we always start off with, then we’ll get specifically into talking about organizational climate.

Who have been some of your most influential people or thinkers in your life and career that have helped shape your thinking today, people that inform your work?

Teresa Ray: Well, this may sound a little cliché, but as far as my foundation of how I think about work and my approach, I have to give credit to my parents. My father spent 22 ½ years in the military and to my mother who every day of her life managing us. I would say that’s probably the foundation of how I think about work.

If you grow from there, there have been a host of people and what may be surprising is, I would say, even good and bad leaders I have worked with have taught me quite a bit. There’s something to be gained from all of those experiences.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Teresa, one of the very important components of culture and climate, which we are going to get into, are how people define them. Could you tell us what is organizational climate and is it the same as culture, and how do you differentiate them?

Teresa Ray: Well, that’s a very good question and we run into it all of the time like you mentioned. There are a lot of companies that still use the word culture meaning climate. So let’s talk about that. Culture is a much bigger animal. We’re talking about values, beliefs, myths, traditions in the organization and norms. Not something easily touched by a few exercises. So, like you said, you can adjust climate which is more about clarity, responsibility, standards, flexibility, the rewards, the team commitment; the things that live within our work every day that can eventually have an effect on culture.

Climate is more tangible; something you can do and touch. Culture is just painted with a much broader brush.

Dr. Relly Nadler: So Teresa, just using those terms. So climate, if we are talking about weather, is kind of more the daily weather patterns where culture would be more the type of seasonal weather patterns over years and stuff?

Teresa Ray: Exactly, great way to put it.

Dr. Relly Nadler: I think that is a good distinction. It sounds like a lot of your work is helping folks make some of those changes going back to a little bit we said earlier about some of the things that are within their control; some of these initiatives that can have a big change.

What is the process of understanding and changing the climate? It sounds like a big endeavor. What does that look like to an organization?

Teresa Ray: One of the things to think about when you start talking about changing the climate in an organization is to start recognizing the climate in an organization and from recognition, evaluating what is working and what isn’t.

We know that leadership style creates climate, that’s a given fact in research. We fully understand that leadership style creating the climate can have an effect of up to 1/3 of the productivity on that organization, positively or negatively, depending on the style.

So, beginning to recognize it at first, asking the questions, doing the surveys, becoming more aware of what is actually going on within the organization.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Teresa you were talking about the influence a leader has over climate. We talk about that in our introduction, but that is really critical. Here at Leadership Development News, everybody we imagine is listening are leaders at some level, and just how much influence they have over the climate and you said up to about 30%.

Teresa Ray: Absolutely. In an organization today, in these economic times, you can get 30% productivity out of your people in addition to what you are already getting, that’s an extreme value.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Yes, that’s huge. You also were saying something about leadership style. Maybe you can say a little bit more about the how and why is their style so important in affecting people?

Teresa Ray: Well, from the Hay Group, there are six areas of leadership style that they believe and we believe are valuable. They talk about the authoritative; it used to be called visionary, affiliative, participative, coaching, pace-setting and directive. There are positive and negatives in each one of those.

What a good leader needs to know how to do is to be fluid within those. To know when it’s time to apply each one of those and what’s the best case for each. When a leader comes in with one style and it happens not to be the most positive or can’t get the best results, then the organization suffers.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Teresa, you just talked about these styles and you said some of them have shifted. For our listening audience who aren’t familiar with these, can we just kind of take them one at a time and give them a snapshot of what that is?

Teresa Ray: Absolutely.

Authoritative which used to be called visionary, is that leader who inspires, is able to explain how and why people’s efforts contribute to the dream or the goals. There’s a lot of positive with that person. Although the word changed in recent publications, so now it’s authoritative which has a bit of a negative connotation to it. It really is a positive leadership style.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: So it’s more somebody who is taking the authority to design and help implant, if you will, immerse the organization in his vision and they get them going and inspiring them to get there.

Teresa Ray: Right. Absolutely,

Dr. Relly Nadler: I think it used to be that visionary. They are the ones pointing to where we are going and inspiring them to get there.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: I think the difference, and Teresa maybe you can help us with this, is when we use the word visionary, Relly, I don’t know if you remember those days, it was almost as though they were this sacred person leading this path into the desert when what Teresa is telling us is it’s so important for people to have someone who understands the vision and who inspires us to get us there so they have the authority to make that decision. Is that fair?

Teresa Ray: Absolutely correct.

Another one is Affiliative, and although that sounds more positive, it doesn’t have as many positives results to it. That’s the leader who is creating harmony, which is important, but at times can have a difficult time resolving a lot of conflict. So that is someone we’ll call the peacemaker.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Yes, and I suspect for most of us who are listening, that’s the individual who wants to make everybody happy and as a result they don’t really make a decision and the last person that walks into their office is the person that they remembered that gave them input that changed their decision and then every day it’s a little bit of a waffle situation.

Teresa Ray: That’s right.

Dr. Relly Nadler: I think the goal here is you want to be able to use these judiciously and some of the writings that they have they use the analogy of the golf clubs. All these golf clubs are appropriate but do you know when to be affiliative verses when to be authoritative.

Teresa Ray: And then there is Participative which sounds a lot like affiliative but that’s someone who is really a good listener, a good team worker, someone who actually is participating in the work. Again, there is a value to that, not 100% of the time, but there is definitely a value for that leader who knows how to roll their sleeves up and join in with the group.

Dr. Relly Nadler: I think some of that also is, Teresa, does the team feel like their voice is being heard. From a participative leader they are saying, so what do you folks think? Here’s where we are going, give me some of your input. People are feeling like that kind of leader wants that involvement.

Teresa Ray: Right.

Dr. Relly Nadler: You know the one for most people, that I think is a little harder, is this pace-setting. I know when I first heard it I wondered what is that? Maybe you can explain that one.

Teresa Ray: Absolutely: Well you know the pace-setter is that boss that you think about with high energy, that’s in at 7:45 am so the staff starts showing up at 7:45, and pretty soon they are there at 7:30, and everyone is staying until 6:00. The pace-setter can actually end up wearing out their employees because they are going at such a fast pace, doing so much, everyone feels the need to keep up. So that person is actually one of the more negative leadership styles.

Dr. Relly Nadler: I think with the pace-setter, it’s kind of that individual performer. Sometimes the way to look at it is that they do these other ones that you just mentioned, less. Meaning they are just getting there and they are plowing through work so it’s almost like do as I do, I may not do some of these other leadership styles, just do as I do, but they may not be affiliative, they may not be authoritative as much.

Teresa Ray: Right, absolutely.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: I’ve worked for a lot of those. You get burnt out? You do the death marches and you get burned out. Sometimes you think you are doing great because you are on schedule and under budget and all of that good stuff, but the people’s hearts aren’t with you, and you leave them behind and that’s kind of sad.

Dr. Relly Nadler: That leader is not really affiliative so they are not really concerned about the group as much, then one of the other ones that we will get to, that you mentioned, is the coaching, so they are not really connecting with people like they could.

Teresa Ray: Right. Let’s talk about the one that is more negative before we get to coaching. The Directive, the other style, which is just do it my way, or just do it like this, or here’s the answer, go do it. That person can also wear people out by stifling creativity.

Dr. Relly Nadler: I know when some if the first goes around, that was the coercive, and maybe when we come back after this last one, it will be interesting in just hearing that from your experience; how do you see that? Some of the military background at NASA and places that are hierarchal you would think that Directive is the common one. Maybe we’ll get some of your input in that.

Teresa Ray: Coaching, which happens to be one of the more positive and has the largest effect on staff; the reason that is that you are constantly asking people what they think and what their opinions are, and helping them learn to do their jobs. You are listening, you are helping, you are helping them identify their strengths and weaknesses, you are encouraging, you are delegating. But coaching style has the largest effect positively of the styles.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: One of the keys, and I want to check in with both of you Teresa and Relly on this, is making the style of Coaching leadership work is knowing when to use it. One of the issues that I have seen in big corporations, as you both know having been a managing partner to large firms, is if you try to use the asking and the delegating without making sure that the staff that you are working with have the skills and the capabilities to do that, you could put them at risk as well as yourself and the project. How do you feel about that?

Teresa Ray: I completely agree. I think that’s where a leader needs to very in tune and have the ability to be fluent, because you need to understand the skills and the strengths of your staff before you send them off to accomplish something on their own.

Dr. Relly Nadler: To add to that, that is where the coaching, when you have that hat on, or use that golf club, that’s when you are saying oh, okay, so what are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Let’s talk about that. What kind of training do you need? Oh for you I may need to be more specific about my delegation, where for somebody else not as much; if you are not having those coaching sessions you are not really able to individualize the leadership. That may be focusing on the authoritative and other aspects, but not knowing exactly how that person needs to do to get there?

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: So one of the optimal ways to use a coaching style be to make sure as the leader, you really know who is on that team and as you were saying Relly to Teresa’s point, you want to spend time with those individuals so you know their strengths and their skills and how to develop them and then you can give them this coaching style with more assurance.

You can listen to the complete interview about climate change in your organization, above, without commercials.


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