In recent weeks, we've talked about signs of toxic organizational culture and about blind spots that could be sabotaging your team culture. These are the pain points that motivate us to take a serious look at what needs to change and how we can bring that change about.
Matthew Kelly writes in his book The Culture Solution, “For too many leaders, culture isn’t important until it’s urgent.” And that’s often the case, right? Not because you don’t agree that the workplace environment is important. It’s not that you don’t see the need to invest in your team and clarify lines of communication and decision-making.
It’s simply that you are also focusing on the demands of the bottom line, strategy and marketing, stake-holder needs--and all of this in the current ever-changing social and political climate underscored by the pandemic. Take heart, though. We often encourage our clients here at 4Sight that leading culture change is patient and persistent work. Patient because it takes time. Persistent because the best time to start cultivating your culture is now. It deserves your attention every day.
When you notice toxic warning signs like gossip, cynicism, confusion or you become aware of a blind spot in your organization like a lack of clarity or eroding trust, it’s crucial to address and uproot these things so they don’t grow and spread. The good news is that toxicity isn’t the only thing that is contagious in teams. With intentional, consistent effort, you can cultivate in your team healthier habits and behaviors that, over time, catch on, spread, and lead to a thriving team dynamic.
Here are 3 culture builders to cultivate so that they DO grow and spread:
1. Shared Values
There are few things that build healthy culture with as much stability as clear values to align around. Team values are simply agreements about what matters most. When clearly articulated, values give your team guardrails to operate within in decision making, in their interactions with one another, and in their approach to their contribution to the mission. Clear values provide a lens through which to filter any circumstance or challenge--saving precious time and energy while focusing the efforts of the team. Megan Hyatt Miller shares some really practical insights about how Michael Hyatt & Company make their core values operational in this week’s episode of the Jenni Catron Leadership Podcast. (We also have some helpful resources for writing values on our website.)
Cultivating a culture of openness and honesty, one in which constructive feedback is both given carefully and received humbly, is a breeding ground for flourishing. Often the quickest way to encourage the healthy interchange of feedback is for you, as the leader, to model it. Ask for feedback, listen to it, and apply it. It won’t take long for your team members to see your example and follow suit.
If there’s a shared value of growth, development, and improvement, then the mechanism to achieve it includes both organic, in-the-moment tweaking AND systematic evaluation (like weekly one-on-one meetings and annual performance reviews.) These are opportunities to ask the questions and peel back the layers that eventually lead to growth, both for employees and for results. The giving, receiving, and application of feedback is a tell-tale sign of a healthy organizational culture.
Foster an environment in which team members know and value each others’ strengths and expertise and are willing to engage those toward a shared goal, and watch how moments of collaboration become the norm. There’s both a humility and an ownership involved in inviting different perspectives into a project and admitting that someone else’s contribution could make it better than an individual effort. When cross-team, cross-project collaboration is both encouraged and rewarded, the collective unity around your organization’s mission grows.
It’s as important to notice and nurture the healthy aspects of our culture as it is to weed out the unhealthy. Tending to both with diligence is the key to stepping toward the extraordinary culture you are building. Keep up the patient, persistent work, leaders!
About the Author
Jenni Catron is a writer, speaker, and leadership coach who consults churches and non-profits to help them lead from their extraordinary best. She speaks at conferences and churches nationwide, seeking to help others develop their leadership gifts and lead confidently. As Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group, she consults with individuals and teams on leadership and organizational health.
Jenni is the author of several books, including Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence and The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership.