Every organization has a culture. In the vast majority of cases that culture is simply a default culture because leaders have not created a preferred culture.
Organizational culture is the combination of its people's attitudes, practices, relationships, leadership style and values. Think about the implications of those five areas. When healthy, they reflect a good place to work but when unhealthy they can be toxic. Culture matters a lot.
Default cultures are highly problematic because they simply reflect the aggregate character and practices of those in it - good and bad. They reflect the habits of the organization. The problem is that while there may be many good things about the people and organization, there are also unaddressed habits that hurt the organization whether in attitudes, practices, relationships, leadership style or values.
Transformational leaders do not settle for a default culture. They intentionally create a culture that reflects the health they want to see. Organizational health is after all the key to organizational success. In the long run, it is also the key to retaining and attracting the best people. By far, the culture a leader creates is an indication of their true leadership commitments.
So where do we begin?
First and foremost company culture will reflect the leadership culture. In my work I see more unhealthy verses healthy leadership cultures. I would love to reverse that order. It is truly a gift to work in a healthy environment and can be a curse to work in an unhealthy one. Here are some of the components of a truly healthy leadership culture.
Leaders who are open, humble, non-defensive and collaborative.
An environment where robust dialogue is welcomed and encouraged, along with unity once decisions have been made.
Having the right people in the right seats.
High EQ (Emotional Intelligence) among staff members and leaders.
Clarity of direction as to where the organization is headed.
Having clarity in one's role and the necessary tools to accomplish one's job.
A collegial open atmosphere from the leader on down.
The ability to speak into things that impact one's job.
Candid, honest dialogue and conversation in an atmosphere of respect.
High in both empowerment and accountability.
It is my conviction that the most neglected component in creating culture lies in the choosing, training and placement of managers with a healthy emotional intelligence (EQ). The majority of the problems that organizations face revolve around individuals who have poor EQ - causing significant health issues for the organization.
Think of these traits and their impact on healthy cultures:
Inability to forgive and move on
Holding onto hurt
Assuming poor motives of others without trying to clarify with them what their motives actually are
A propensity toward negative attitudes
Difficulty in accepting those whose views differ from theirs
A need to have their own way
Difficulty in maintaining positive relationships with others
Paternalism in dealing with direct reports
These are examples of poor emotional or relational intelligence (EQ) and any of these traits compromise the health of teams who often need to work together. If you are a leader or manager and have ever encountered these issues you know how toxic these attitudes can be and how much emotional energy is expended in dealing with them.
EQ is the ability to understand ourselves, know what drives us, accurately see how we are perceived by others, and know how we relate to others. EQ also measures whether we have the relational skill to work synergistically with others while being 'self defining' and allowing others to speak into our lives or work without defensiveness.
In their drive to grow their business many owners gloss over these issues and accept candidates with poor EQ. The same can be said for managers who are not perceptive in who they promote.
The result is a significant lack of health on teams and great pain caused to other team members who are healthy. Poor EQ can ruin culture.
Good EQ includes openness to the opinions of others, lack of defensiveness, awareness of who we are and how others perceive us, sensitivity to others, the ability to release others rather than control them, allow for constructive and robust dialogue, and the ability to abide by common decisions.
It is my conviction that organizations are better off with fewer but healthier managers than to compromise on issues of emotional intelligence. Surprisingly, there are ways to measure these.
Where health is problematic those issues ought to be addressed before candidates are accepted. Where they exist in the organization , they need to be addressed for the health of the individual, the team and the culture.
Not addressing these issues is unfair to the healthy and productive employees that sustain your business. When owners do not make healthy decisions a priority, it is the healthy personnel who suffer and its toll on teams is huge.
Again, this priority of health is up to the owner. Delegating theses decisions will only exasperate the problem. Becoming engaged with talent acquisition and team design is critical for the owner who wants to create a healthy and productive culture. The determining factor for the company's profitability is held by those who understand how talent selection and alignment solves real business problems and creates a culture of profitability.
Frank Heegaard advises and empowers business leaders who want to grow their business, solve problems, and the maximize the potential of their organizational culture.