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Compensation Cafe: It’s All About Finding Balance

By Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – Work styles and culture are more effective when they can each offer something unique, rather than being in full alignment.

Some interesting dynamics can be found in the ways that executive leadership styles and culture interact to influence firm performance.  In fact, there are two diametrically opposed ideas on the issue. One suggests that similarity or fit between culture and style is more beneficial, while another suggests the opposite- dissimilarity- might be better.

In this recent post on Compensation Cafe, I take a look at some research that weighs in on this debate. The evidence tends to support the latter idea, finding that companies performed better when the leadership style differed from the culture.

As I write in the post: “The results point to the value of seeking to create balance and complementarity instead of overemphasizing alignment (and at the extreme, redundancy).”

Research like this helps us to better understand dynamics at the top of the organization, and it also allows us to ask some interesting questions as we look further down into the organizational hierarchy. Here are just a few of the questions we can begin to examine:

Do we expect workers to perform better when their own style differs from the culture, or when there is greater alignment? Is the company culture or team culture going to play a larger role, and how might they even fit together? Where is that sweet spot and is it different across levels of the organization?

Knowing the answers to some of these questions can offer some practical insight into how best to motivate individuals, in light of their work styles and the culture of their teams and organizations. Until additional research can provide those answers, however, organizations are well-advised to pursue flexible solutions that begin to address a diversity of complementary styles. For example, as I elaborate in the full post:

On a practical level, one of the best techniques may be through a well-designed rewards and recognition program. Cast within the scope of the research cited above, effective rewards and recognition can help call attention to and motivate behaviors that add something different, yet complementary to the existing culture.

How have you seen your own style complement the culture of your organization?