Bringing Independent Directorates Together – How One Council Solved Their Culture Problems

council,culture problems

A local council had an issue with employee engagement. A lack of teamwork among its directorates lay at the heart of the issue. Here’s what they did to solve the culture problem and what you can learn.

As an organisation grows, it usually creates several directorates. Each of these directorates has its own goals. In an ideal world, these goals mesh with the organisation’s vision. But when they don’t, culture problems arise.

The same goes for local councils. They’re structured much like businesses. Each council has several directorates, each of which oversees a different issue. But each of these directorates must also work towards the council’s mission and vision.

Unfortunately, some councils struggle with bringing independent directorates together. This leads to a range of cultural issues that affect the council’s results.

culture problems,council cultureOne local council recognised they had issues. An employee engagement survey showed their true extent.

Bringing Independent Directorates Together – A Culture Problems Case Study

Our client oversees the needs of a population of over 30,000 people. Located on NSW’s north coast, the council’s located in a beautiful coastal town.

In fact, the region attracts over 1 million tourists every year. This is the main driver of its economy, which makes tourism a key focus for the council. The town also has a thriving agricultural industry.

The council aims to provide the best possible services to both residents and tourists. It does this via a structure that contains several directorates. It’s essential that these directorates work together. If they don’t, the council can’t achieve its goals. Plus, the directorates could start working against one another. This creates culture problems that lead to a lack of employee engagement.

That’s exactly what happened to the council in 2014.

The Issues

Our client conducted an employee survey in 2014. They found that many of their employees no longer felt engaged with the council’s work. Employees pointed to leadership issues as the chief cause.

These leadership issues stemmed from two problems. First, each directorate had separated itself from the others in the council. Each worked on its own little problems without communicating with the others.

This led to a lack of collaboration among the directorates. It also created an “us vs. them” culture. Each directorate became so focused on its work that it couldn’t see where it slotted into the big picture.

The council became fractured. Employees no longer had a clear overarching vision to follow. As a result, many disengaged from their work.

Furthermore, the council took a very ad-hoc approach to its training. The occasional seminar or training session got organised. But there wasn’t any structure to this training. Plus, many within the council had an aversion to attending the sessions in the first place. They felt that they didn’t provide any workable solutions. In most cases, the councils’ leaders went right back to their old ways. The training had no impact on their behaviour.

The council needed long-term solutions to these culture problems. They turned to Great Managers to provide them.

Culture Problems

The Great Managers Solution

Great Managers had to overcome the council’s aversion to training. We couldn’t look at any other issues before doing that.

This involved proving that our work isn’t some short-term fix. We partner with our clients and become a crucial part of their culture. We identify culture problems and propose solutions. Plus, we don’t do training in the same way as typical leadership consultants.

We use the 70:20:10 technique. That means that only 10% of training time gets spent in the classroom. The rest focuses on hands-on application of the techniques.

This solution appealed to the council. It would allow them to improve their leadership skills. Plus, they wouldn’t lose too much time to training sessions.

With that barrier overcome, we moved forward. We started training the council in bringing independent directorates together.

To do that, we helped the council in its use of 360-degree feedback. This allowed each directorate to express its opinions. Plus, it reinforced the council’s main vision and mission.

We helped the council use 360-degree feedback at every level. This meant that managers and their people all received constructive feedback.

Feedback is a crucial part of building employee engagement. This feedback system confronted two problems within the council.

First, it dealt with the issue of bringing independent directorates together. 360 feedback allows for the sharing of information, which creates better results.

Second, it ensured that the council’s people received regular feedback. This demonstrated the council’s commitment to helping its people improve. As a result, engagement levels improved.

The End Result

This council’s partnership with Great Managers produced some stellar results.

The council’s managers stopped viewing their training as a chore. In fact, the council’s leadership now seek out further training.

Great Managers also helped the council build a great culture. The results of a second survey, conducted in 2016, demonstrate this. The council saw the following improvements:

  • 20.8% more people said that the council was a good place to work.
  • 25.1% more people said they felt satisfied in the workplace.
  • 28.4% more people expressed confidence in the work that their managers do.

That paints a picture of a more united council. Each of its directorates now works together to achieve the council’s mission.

Bringing Independent Directorates Together – What You Can Learn

This culture problems case study offers an excellent example of what happens when directorates don’t work together. Engagement declines as the council doesn’t have a clear vision in place. This lack of engagement affects results. Plus, it increases the risk that the council may lose its best people.

This council’s situation can teach you a lot about bringing independent directorates together. In doing so, you can build a great culture. Here are three tips to help you along.

Tip #1 – Implement 360-Degree Feedback

We’ve already covered what 360-degree feedback can help you to achieve. Let’s now look at the nuts and bolts of the methodology.

360-degree feedback tools allow employees to receive anonymous feedback. Importantly, this feedback comes from several sources. These include managers, peers, and even clients or vendors.

This feedback takes the form of actionable reports. The recipient can then use the information in these reports to progress professionally. The report may highlight issues and point out positive aspects of the employee’s work.

Most importantly, 360-degree feedback offers an accurate assessment of how someone’s doing.

There are several steps to follow to ensure you implement the method well. These include the following:

  • Get the entire leadership team on board. A great culture starts from the top. If the leadership team doesn’t engage with the method, you can’t expect your people to.
  • Ensure that the feedback surveys measure the core competencies that your council needs.
  • Don’t focus on performance management. 360-degree feedback must focus on development.
  • Train your staff so that they understand what the system is and how it works.

Finally, it’s important that you and your people take action. The reports you receive offer some guidance. However, that means little if you don’t follow through.

Tip #2 – Find a Cultural Partner

Our client’s aversion to training came because they weren’t working with a partner. They just paid for the occasional seminar or workshop. Once that ended, the council didn’t work with the trainer again. That meant the lessons got lost and no long-term change occurred.  Their culture problems persisted.

That changed when they started working with Great Managers. For the first time, they had a training partner. We didn’t just want to show them how to build a great culture.

We wanted to become a part of their culture.

We’ve worked with the council since 2014 and we’re still partners today.

That may be something your own organisation needs to do. Most training providers just offer their service before driving off into the sunset. There’s no accountability and no focus on creating a return on your investment.

When you partner with a good provider, you work with a group that’s as invested in your success as you are.

Culture Problems

Tip #3 – Practice Forgiveness

Practising forgiveness is one of the key tips for cross-directorate collaboration.

It’s easy for a blame culture to develop if there’s a lack of teamwork in your organisation. That’s what started to happen at this council. A friction developed between the different directorates. Conflict became common as each directorate focused on its own objectives.

Mistakes became points of contention.

You have to recognise that mistakes happen, regardless of the organisation. It’s how you respond to these mistakes that effects your council’s culture.

Immediately pointing the finger just fosters distrust. That leads to employee disengagement, as in our client’s case. You people can see that the different directorates aren’t working towards the same vision. If their management clashes with another directorate’s management, toxic behaviours emerge.

Your people take their cues from you. If you’re unforgiving of others’ mistakes, they’ll follow your lead. Eventually, resentment builds throughout the organisation.

Counter this by introducing a culture of forgiveness. Recognise that mistakes happen. Instead of creating friction, figure out how you can work together to solve the issue.

A forgiving culture emphasises empathy and understanding. This, in turn, encourages more positive workplace behaviours. This positivity spreads to all corners of the organisation, which improves employee engagement.

The Final Word

Our client’s survey results revealed a symptom of a greater problem. Their employees no longer felt engaged with their work. The constant conflict between different directorates lay at the heart of that disengagement.

Things changed once the council started working with Great Managers. Suddenly, they had a long-term cultural partner. This ensured the council’s people felt invested in their training.

Implementing a new feedback structure also helped with their culture problems. It encouraged communication between the directorates and their people. This fostered a greater understanding of the challenges each directorate faced.

Finally, the council moved away from the conflict-based culture it found itself with. Directorates started focusing on finding solutions rather than assigning blame. This fostered a positive workplace culture that the council’s people want to be a part of.

Does your organisation have multiple directorates that can’t work together?

Do constant conflicts disrupt your workflow and affect results?

Do you need help with bringing independent directorates together?

Great Managers wants to partner with you to help you improve your culture. Please register for our upcoming webinar to learn more about how we can help.