Although the term ‘challenging behaviour’ conjures up images of toddler tantrums or teenage moods, it can be one of the key drivers for a successful organisational culture.
An environment where active questioning and challenge is welcomed is more likely to see increased innovation, a more collaborative atmosphere, and an increasingly dynamic and adaptable organisation. When employees feel able to challenge the status quo and challenge existing norms, it opens the door to new ideas and approaches.
Fostering an atmosphere where open and intentional communication is normalised, not only leads to higher levels of confidence, both individually and within a larger team, but also a more inclusive and cooperative workplace.
An atmosphere of challenge also increases general feelings of trust within an organisation, giving employees a feeling of ownership and a deeper engagement with the future development and success of the organisation.
This in turn increases feelings of psychological safety, the ability to pioneer new ideas and strategies, without worrying about potential failure. Psychological safety describes a climate where people feel free to take the interpersonal risks of learning. This is something encouraged through challenge- by allowing a culture of open questioning and discussion, it allows not only for learning opportunities but also increases the ability to adapt to ever-changing circumstances.
An example: Squarespace
This SaaS company is well-known for empowering small, independent and growing businesses through accessible website building and hosting. Fittingly, Squarespace has a horizontal culture, with high levels of challenge where employees feel their voices matter and they have a say in the company’s direction.
Employees, from developers through to sales and support teams, describe the culture as ‘ownership-minded, experimental, inclusive and empathetic’, all key hallmarks of a culture that values and encourages a culture of challenge and psychological safety.
This level of trust, autonomy and knowledge sharing not only means that the employees feel respected and valued, but also encourages them to be consistently developing and trying new ideas, without a fear of failure. This leads to a much higher level of innovation, and an increasingly successful business.
How to manage challenge
Foster an environment where open communication is encouraged and rewarded including taking on complex topics and working through disagreements. The act of working through these conversations is where the most collaborative innovation takes place.
The learning potential within an organisation where challenge is encouraged is much higher than that where a harmonious culture is favoured. Whilst harmony can be a good attribute, it also means that people try and avoid conflict where possible, and difficult topics can go unchallenged, this can limit performance potential and agility.
Encourage the view where experimentation and failure is seen as a learning process rather than a setback. This leads to greater accountability and empowerment to attempt improvement even if it is not guaranteed to succeed, however, this constant striving for new and exciting developments is what keeps dynamic businesses ahead of the curve.
Culture15 is your complete toolkit for tracking culture change. CEOs and Exec Teams at world-leading organisations use Culture15 analytics to ensure success by aligning their culture with what they need to execute their strategy. If you’d like to find out how to define the culture and values you need, diagnose the culture you have and close the gap, talk to our team.