You Get the Culture You Allow

By Tom Davidson

Sometimes what you don’t do can be just as important as what you actually do! In business, it’s what you’re not doing that matters! See what I mean in the article below: 

It’s what you’re not doing that matters.

An organization’s culture is the collective set of norms and behaviors exhibited by its members, and it’s the job of every leader to shape that culture in the way that is most beneficial and productive. The leader’s to-do list is a long one in this regard.

1. Do develop a shared vision
2. Do review roles, goals, processes and procedures to make sure they align with the vision
3. Do get involvement at all levels in how to improve the organization
4. Do hire talent and promote leaders who will emulate and promote the desired culture
5. Do measure progress from where you are to where you want to be

But there’s only one item on the to-don’t list and it’s rarely talked about.

1. Don’t allow behaviors to continue that are the antithesis of the culture you want.

Culture change is one of the hardest parts of leadership. In many ways, it’s easier to start an organization from scratch than change an existing one, because you can shape the culture from the outset rather than overcome history, modify norms and ask old dogs to do new tricks. However most of us are tasked with the latter while we wish for the former. In either case, shaping culture is as much about what you don’t do as what you do.

If you’re ignoring it, you’re approving it
Leaders already have an uphill battle for earning followers, especially with today’s “volunteer workforce” and one that has plenty of reason to be skeptical and cynical about people in authority. They take notice of everything you do and don’t do, say and don’t say, and say and don’t do. Most are giving you a small, short-lived benefit of the doubt but will flush your credibility in a heartbeat if they perceive you as being incongruent, inconsistent or insincere.

This is why what you don’t do is as important as what you do.

1. Don’t talk about an egalitarian workplace and then allow big shots to keep their private parking spaces
2. Don’t talk about belt tightening and then allow lavish travel perks and benefits for a few executives
3. Don’t talk about being stewardship leaders and then allow arrogant, patronizing, bullying or sycophant managers to get away with their same old behaviors

By ignoring these behaviors, you ensure that they remain. You undercut every chance you might have had, discount every effort you might have made, and waste many dollars you might have invested in creating or changing you desired culture.

What are some examples of things you’ve seen ignored that hurt an organization’s chance to change?

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