Fiona Robertson (main photo) is the former head of culture for the National Australia Bank and a sought-after culture change and leadership speaker, facilitator, coach and author of the book Rules of Belonging – change your organisational culture, delight your people and turbo-charge your results. In this guest post, Robertson gives expert tips on how to bring real change to an oragnisation without upsetting its apple cart…
Have you ever wondered why so many change efforts fail? This is why. Maslow was wrong.
Humans want to belong. In fact, humans want to belong so strongly that they will do almost anything to ensure they do. Recent research by Professor Mathew Lieberman, who heads the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at UCLA’s Department of Psychology, Psychiatry and Biobehavioural Science, suggests that Maslow’s celebrated hierarchy of needs is wrong. It turns out that belonging is actually more important to human beings than food, water or shelter. How can this be true? Because in a social species, of which humans are the ultimate example, belonging to a group is a precondition that ensured we received food, water and shelter in our distant past – and our brains haven’t changed for 80,000 years.
So we are hard-wired to make sure we do what we need to do to belong. As far as our brains are concerned, this is interpreted as literally a matter of life or death, even if food, water and shelter are abundant. And most people have no idea this is going on.
We behave our way to belonging – there are five steps
When we join a new group or organisation, first we watch. I call this the ‘examine’ phase (step 1). We watch what others do and say, what they wear, what time they arrive and leave, how they speak in meetings, the kind of work outputs they produce, what they say in front of senior people, how they lead their teams and who they eat lunch with. The better we are at noticing the behaviours of others, the more chance we have of working out which behaviours are important.
After we’ve watched others for a while, we decide which of their behaviours gains them more status and belonging and which gains them less. I call this the ‘evaluate’ phase (step 2). We see how those with power react to the behaviours we’ve been watching. When someone arrives at 7 am do the people who matter admire their hard work and dedication or do they talk about what a ‘try-hard’ that person is and how neglected their family must be?
When we’ve seen enough of a certain behaviour to believe that it will be met with approval and will enhance our status and belonging, we try it out ourselves. I call this the ‘experiment’ phase (step 3). We try it and see what happens. In a culture where a 7 am start gains the respect of the right people, we start arriving earlier and earlier.
If a behaviour we adopt is met with the approval and belonging we hoped for, we will keep doing that particular behaviour. I call this the ‘embrace’ phase (step 4). This is where we slowly adopt a set of behaviours as our own that makes us blend in with the norms of the group we have joined. We start to seem more like ‘one of us’ instead of ‘one of them’ and feel a stronger and stronger sense of belonging.
And, over time, ensuring that we have more and more to lose if the norms of the group were to change.
This is vital. If the norms of the group start to change, then the things that have made us successful, the things that have made us belong and be welcome and accepted here, might start to be frowned upon. If that were to happen, then we may risk losing the belonging we have worked so hard to earn. This is interpreted by our brains as a significant threat to our survival.
New people and new ways of doing things threaten our belonging. They threaten our status and our safety. So, knowingly or unknowingly, we work individually and collectively to ensure that things stay more or less the way they were. I call this the ‘enforce’ phase (step 5). It’s all about self-protection. So it isn’t as simple as ‘people don’t like change’. Resistance to change is actually a perfectly rational response to a threat that feels very real. Culture is the rules of belonging – and cultures fight for their own survival.
Please login with linkedin to commentFiona Robertson
With Google abolishing third-party cookies and Apple continuing to push privacy-first solutions, marketers are on the lookout for new ways to reach engaged customers, while remaining compliant with rules and regulations. To help these marketers, Australian data commercialisation company smrtr has recently released a new whitepaper Through the Looking Glass: The Rise of Hypothesis-based Marketing. The whitepaper looks […]
We’ve dished out plenty of reminders, but believe us when we say that NOW is the time to submit your entry for B&T’s Women in Media Awards 2021, presented by Are Media. On-time entries for this year’s Women in Media Awards close TODAY (Monday 21 June at 5pm AEST). And, while you can submit entries after this date for […]
A recent report by reviews.org has found that 46 per cent of Australians say they are addicted to their phones. Reviews.org also found that Australians spend 17 years of their life, and an average of five hours a day, staring at their phones. 1,000 Australians were interviewed for the report, which found some startling insights […]
Wales has proven itself the surprise package of EURO 2020, advancing to the final 16 over the weekend over more fancied rivals. It was the team’s 2-0 win over Turkey last Thursday that caught everyone’s attention and gave the Welsh enough for-and-against points to advance through to the semis. Welsh TV station S4C also got […]
celebrity chef Manu Feildel, best known for hosting My Kitchen Rules, will see his contract with Seven end this month. My Kitchen Rules, initially a ratings juggernaut for Seven, ended in 2020. Despite persistent rumours that the show would make a comeback in 2022, in a May interview with TV BlackBox, Seven’s director of programming Angus […]
Zurich has been co-principal partner of Melbourne Football Club since 2018 and the sponsorship arrangement broadened in 2020 when Zurich also became Co-Principal Partner of the club’s AFLW team. CEO of Zurich life & investments, Justin Delaney, expressed his excitement at being able to continue the successful partnership. “We’re thrilled to extend our partnership with […]
ARN and The New York Times have reached an agreement for ARN to become the advertising sales representative for The New York Times’s podcast portfolio in Australia. The deal will enable Australian brands to connect with Australian listeners to The New York Times’s most popular podcasts, such as The Daily, Serial and This American Life, […]
Cost continues to hold considerable influence on brand loyalty, yet emotional connections and ethical values are also becoming key loyalty drivers, according to new consumer research commissioned by Emarsys. Emarsys has launched its first annual Loyalty Index which seeks to understand whether ‘true’ loyalty still exists and what it looks like today. The company surveyed over […]
Nine dominated Sunday night, with the launch of Australian Ninja Warrior netting 795,000 viewers as per OzTAM’s metro data. It is the program’s fifth season, showing the Australian public’s apparently unwavering passion for watching incredibly fit people fall off tall objects. The top watched program was Nine News which had 1,064,000 viewers, as compared to Seven […]
The Heart Foundation’s new campaign – Saving Hearts – is a poignant reminder of what heart disease takes away from families while reminding the community that investing in research brings improved outcomes for survivors and their families. Created by DDB Group’s specialist healthcare agency, DDB Remedy, Saving Hearts captures the reality of the life-long impact […]
Verizon Media’s talent program has come to an end for the third year, closing with a hybrid pitch-off event for Musicians Making A Difference (MMAD). The Verizon Media Academy class of 2021, made up of 44 emerging leaders from across Australia and New Zealand media, advertising and marketing industry, were given just one hour to […]
Social purpose organisation UnLtd’s Big Games competition has raised a combined $85,000 for children and young people at risk. Running over five weeks, the competition involved 32 teams from across the advertising, marketing and media industries battling it out virtually for a chance to qualify for the Rocket League final. The tournament culminated in a […]
Stan has announced that the Stan Original Film Transfusion commenced filming in Sydney earlier this week and will premiere on Stan in 2022. Transfusion is a taut, muscular thriller starring Sam Worthington (Avatar) as Ryan Logan, a former Special Forces operative, who is battling to cope with life after the loss of his wife and is thrust […]
According to a decade of data collected by iStock, Australian brands turned to imagery depicting outdated gender stereotypes during the pandemic. Tracking the keyword ‘women’, iStock by Getty Images found that in 2020, ANZ brands and businesses reverted to gender stereotypes. Images of mothers home-schooling were used at almost twice the rate of images of […]
Schwartz Media is congratulating Maddison Connaughton on her three years as editor of The Saturday Paper. Connaughton has decided to finish up her editorship this month. “It’s been an honour to edit the paper,” Connaughton said. “The Saturday Paper is one of the brightest voices in Australian media and I have been happy to see […]
Research from EdBbirdie using Spotify data has identified the most popular songs to study to. After analysing thousands of studying and homework playlists on Spotify, American singer Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘drivers license’ came out as top song to study to. It featured on 48 study playlists, while other top songs included ‘Ophelia’ by The Lumineers, ‘Falling’ […]