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What you can do…

Six steps to avoid the Marie-Antoinette Complex

... if your management team is delusional about workplace culture?

A healthy culture acknowledges personal core values and builds shared beliefs and a narrative that makes sense of the organisational values. Leaders who expect everyone will use the values to build standards, reward and recognise positive contributions from their teammates and use their initiative will build and maintain a healthy culture.

The simplest definition of culture is “how things get done around here”

Building a winning culture starts with understanding:

  1. Culture-building is a constant activity
  2. Feelings and emotions impact performance more than any other factor at work
  3. Everyone has their own core values – help them discover these and connect them to your companies values
  4. Culture-building requires a dedicated budget, both time and money
  5. Being optimistic is essential, contagious, and builds hope
  6. Humility enables personal growth
Brilliant leaders understand that values and purpose are leadership tools used to help their people maintain focus on the company’s goals.

1. Constant Attention

Leaders that that continuously place culture on their agenda build cultures that last. They understand that creating a place where people excel is not about offering mindful classes, yoga lessons or putting free food in a kitchen. Great company cultures are built when all leaders in the business focus on the attitude people demonstrate as they go about their work, the processes that they build, and the environment they create. How things get done is as important as what get done.

2. Feeling and Emotions can be detected using words

Ask people to report the adjectives they use to describe how things get done, and you will gain insights into management and leadership practices and what people have come to accept as normal. Just as a buildup of toxins is deadly to the human body, a workplace can quickly deteriorate if the culture becomes unhealthy. If the adjectives people use sound toxic, take action fast. Encourage people to say what they see and help leaders to embrace feedback and make decisions that are good for the health of the whole system. This strategy eliminates toxicity before the damage is done.

3. Connect People

The best way to build a strong and healthy culture is to open a dialogue about personal values and beliefs. There is no better foundation to culture building than allowing people to express the beliefs they hold dearly. When people engage in this process of discovering their core values it always evokes powerful feelings of personal worth. As people share their perspectives and tell their stories a positive social connection occurs between those involved in this process. This is often described as vulnerability followed by an increase in trust of others, this simple process lays the ground for creating psychological safety; the feeling we get for being accepted for who you are and what you believe.

Psychological safety is the belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. It is present when a team shares the belief that others on the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish you for speaking up.

4. Keep your eye on the prize

Budgeting allows you to create a culture-building plan and forces you and your team to consciously consider the time and money required to make your plan a success. When you fail to consider time, in particular, you set yourself and your team up for failure. Work tasks will always receive priority unless you create a program to ensure that you always have enough time and money for the things you need.

5. Be optimistic

Building a healthy culture that generates extraordinary results is a kin to building a movement. To get the movement started you have to begin with a small team of like-minded people willing to step up and do things differently. Believe in yourself, believe in your team and believe people will join the movement when they see others participating. Honest relationships take time to build. Being optimistic gives others hope, it helps others to take steps and make changes. You know you can’t turn around culture in one day, people have to learn to trust your intentions.

A cultural movement takes time, you will see immediate results, but celebrating small wins and remaining open to feedback is key to your success.

6. Being humble

Leaders need humility to accept that their way may not be the best way.

Imagine the transformation that could take place when a senior leader makes an active choice to be open, humble, and reflective about workplace culture. To ask themselves:

How could my workplace culture have a negative impact on my team? What do I need to learn? What changes do I need to make to improve their experience? What are they saying to me about this, and am I listening?

The best leaders, where I have become close enough to them to know their personal values and beliefs, demonstrate humility in some form. Some have self-doubt driving them to improve; others have enough self-awareness to know that no senior team is perfect, and no organisation experiences a constantly positive culture.

By “best leaders”, I mean those who build highly effective organisations that deliver, financially and operationally, without incurring a debt of dissatisfied workers.

Leaders need humility to accept that their way of doing things can always be improved

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