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Inspiring workplace cultures to thrive, and the role of leaders.

Late 2023, I presented on this topic at the SA Women's Summit. Having spent all my life in leadership roles in corporate, 8 years ago I left, to be more purposeful in my craft.  Today is the culmination of those 20 years of lived experience and the last 8 years in search of what it takes to create a workplace culture that thrives.

Culture is often referred to as things that are more often felt rather than seen, it sits underneath the surface.  As people join and leave, dynamics change, shifting culture.  It’s unconscious, invisible, intangible, multifactorial.

Culture is not a project; we all have a role to play.  I often see culture treated as a tick item on an organisation’s governance list.  And maybe that’s the case if you’re starting the culture journey.  But culture requires continuous effort to uplift, and a company’s guiding values, purpose, structure and power distribution can all have an impact on workplace culture.

Why is it important to focus on culture?

A UNSW study in 2011 that looked at low performing workplaces (LPWs) versus high performing workplaces (HPWs), discovered that HPWS are more likely to have higher productivity, are better at achieving their financial targets, have higher profit margins and are more efficient at converting their inputs and for every $1 invested in the company, generate more revenue.

And, for senior leaders or business owners, a thriving workplace means having a positive impact on other humans, that is a great reason why we should all aim to cultivate a thriving workplace culture.

I use the words high performance and thriving interchangeably.

High performance has received much attention over the decades and there is significant research describing what it is and isn’t, thriving workplaces is relatively new with research spanning a decade or so.

We view thriving as a level above high performance, the key differences being purpose, meaning, belonging and personal growth.   

The positive psychology movement inspired by Dr Martin Seligman in 1998 promotes the benefits of flourishing and meaningful work, inspiring frameworks, ideas and theories that are infiltrating our workplaces, AND placing pressure on HOW leaders lead.

The Future of Work Institute at Curtin University, defines thriving as Promoting Purpose and Growth; Connection; and Personal flourishing  In 2005, Spreitzer defined thriving at work as the state in which individuals experience both Vitality and Learning.  Spreitzer also went on to say that a thriving workplace fosters heightened job satisfaction, increased engagement, and enhanced overall well-being.


At PeopleQ, we see thriving workplaces as simple as this.  Whilst high performing teams are good for business, thriving workplaces are good for business, good for customers, good for the community and good for people

We also took to the streets to ask leaders what they think.  We’ve been asking since October 2021 and with over 300 responses to date, whilst the percentages might vary, the outcome is always the same.  Leaders felt a positive workplace, trust, meaning, and belonging are the top 4 indicators of a thriving workplace, followed by teamwork and communication.  And so the researcher and leaders are aligned!  

There’s decades of research on high performing teams, thriving includes all this + the idea of feeling alive, energized, growing and confident. 

We all understand leaders play a role in culture and are central to cultivating a thriving workplace, but how much of a role do they play?

Read part 2 to find out more.



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