When You Resist, It Persists

By Chris Chittenden

At Talking About, we often use Human Synergistics' profiling tools to help our clients develop interpretations of their situation. The beauty of these tools is that they provide a consistent language to observe individuals, teams, leaders and organisations.

At their recent conference, Human Synergistics provided a snapshot of their current dataset that highlighted a couple of very interesting aspects of management and culture in organisations in Australia and New Zealand.

Firstly, the most prevalent style amongst managers in terms of how others see them is avoidance. This comes from a dataset of 225,766 individual records, so there is considerable evidence to support this assessment. Avoidance speaks to a management approach with a predilection to being risk averse and non-expressive. In other words, a large proportion of people in management roles in Australasia seek to avoid confronting situations. One of the key outcomes of such a style appears to be an abdication of accountability; particularly the accountability of holding others to their commitments.

The second interesting aspect of this snapshot lies in the predominant style of the culture that operates in organisations - oppositional behaviour. Again, we are talking about a large dataset of 132,543 individual responses in nearly 10,000 organisations; so once more there is considerable evidence to support this view. Organisational culture speaks to what is seen as the style of behaviour needed to fit into an organisation. Oppositional behaviour, to the level described in the Human Synergistics' report, can be seen as somewhat antagonistic and obstinate behaviour that is often indirect.

What can we make of all this? There are certainly a wide range of conclusions that could be drawn but the one that stood out was there could well be many organisations in Australia and New Zealand where the culture is resistant to change and where there are people in leadership roles who do not want to deal with this resistance.

Based on our experience coaching in organisations this makes a great deal of sense. We could certainly speak anecdotally of oppositional culture and leaders who avoid dealing with various situations, however the information from the Human Synergistics' report would have us believe that this state of affairs could be quite widespread.

All organisations have constant need for effective change processes in order to meet the relentless shifts in the environment in which they exist. Many organisations seek to implement those change processes by the introduction of new systems and pay little or no attention to the culture and leadership style into which that introduction will be made. Accordingly, many change initiatives are not as successful as is first envisaged.

We believe that effective change lies in an effective understanding of an organisation's culture and leadership and the development of those aspects to support change initiatives. So, if change initiatives are not going as well as you would like, we invite you to look at how you can enhance your awareness of the culture and leadership of your organisation.

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© 2004 Chris Chittenden