Byron's Babbles

Cultural Paths

file-1 4Another thought process around adaptive cultures that I pondered during this past week’s Learning Innovation Lab 2017 Summit was cultural paths of employees and team members. This was such a deep thought process for me, as a person who believes in intent-based leadership and making sure employees are fully developed. The philosophy is that there are three cultural paths:

  1. Identity Oriented
  2. Contribution Oriented
  3. Practice Oriented

As I began studying the Sita Magnuson graphic recording of the session, I realized that two of the identities that I had always thought led to great cultures in teams can really be detrimental over time, particularly if not complimented by a Practice Oriented culture. After reflecting, it really makes sense that in the long haul a practice oriented culture will keep team members and employees growing and flourishing. file2-1

With Identity and Contribution Oriented cultures employees can become burnt-out, broken, and defeated. The problem is that with Identity Oriented cultures, individuals who are uniquely gifted end up working alone and having threatened identities and working alone. With a Contribution Oriented culture each individual has valuable skills and the focus becomes all about focusing on opportunities to innovate and lead change. While these things all sound good and most of us have probably been part of these types of cultures, when you begin to analyze and way these orientations against that of Practice Oriented, we realize there is a better way.

file1-1 2What I found when pondering a Practice Oriented culture was the theories that I really believe in in organizational leadership. A Practice Orientation really revolves around developing employees in real-time while actually doing work that matters for the organization. Developing this way enables learning and mastering work with others. It enables team members to be doing important work that really matters for the organization. In this way, employees grow and flourish while actually doing the work.

While at first the differences might only seem like semantics, at closer inspection I found that the differences have major implications to the organization. Identity and contribution are important for sure (in fact we should find way to help people on all paths), but without actually considering the real-work of the organization and intentional development of the employees while actually engaged in that work, they lack the important opportunities for learning and growth. These are the key ingredients to keeping employees engaged and from becoming disenchanted.


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