You Can’t Stop Rotting Wood

Have you ever felt like the company you are working for is like a ship that has sprung a leak, taking on water and gradually going under?

At first you put a wrong decision, behavior or action down to a mistake or an interesting choice, but after it is replicated many times, it feels like you are on a runaway train with no brakes.

Once a negative culture or behavior becomes ingrained it is like wood in that when rot sets in there is no way to stop its progress.

ruben-bagues-716364-unsplash

Photo by Rubén Bagüés on Unsplash

I have found that a dysfunctional company or team culture starts from the leader or leaders of an organization lacking the necessary skillsets to one, set a positive culture, and two, have the ability to manage the direction of the culture created.

The demise of many teams and companies can be directly related to the environment created by a leader, leadership team or a group of people who are able to use their influencing abilities in a negative manner.

As is often noted in business circles, ‘the fish rots from the head down’, meaning that the when a team or company fails, it is the leadership that is the root cause.

Why is culture so important to a business? Here is a simple way to frame it. The stronger the culture, the less corporate process a company needs. When the culture is strong, you can trust everyone to do the right thing.

BRIAN CHESKY, co-founder and CEO, Airbnb

Deloitte completed a Global Human Capital Trends survey in 2016, which found that 82 percent of respondents believe that culture is a potential competitive advantage as it drives people’s behavior, innovation and customer service. (Kaplan et al. 2016)

Ashworth (2015) noted that, “a company’s culture is the only truly unique identifier. It is like a fingerprint. It may be similar to others, but is uniquely distinct to your business”.

Iannarino (2012) pointed out that, “if leadership doesn’t establish and protect a healthy culture, some unhealthy culture will fill that vacuum… If a pocket of negativity or cynicism exists, it’s because leadership hasn’t cut it out of the organisation – especially when the pocket of negativity comes from the leadership ranks”.

Culture is like the wind. It is invisible; yet its effect can be seen and felt.

BRYAN WALKER, Partner and Managing Director, IDEO

There was this one time when I was working for a start-up company who over-hired during the pre-opening phase due to the ambitious large scale of the operation.

As the company moved into the opening and post-opening phases they had to reduce the size of the team to improve financial and operational efficiency.

The problem was is that the leadership team continued to down-size more than once and the leadership team continually change over a period of three years, which resulted in a lack of trust and the development of an unhealthy culture.

An unhealthy culture then began to spread external to the company into the community, like a plague of locusts, creating negative brand image and consumer distrust that resulted in members leaving.

Today I want to share with you three ways that you can be in more control of your culture and ensure that a positive environment exists in your team or company:

  1. You must live and breath the values, lead by example, be a positive role model, and show your team members what the right or acceptable behavior is.
  2. Communicate regularly with your team members, get to know them in both a formal and informal setting, and be curious by asking questions that allow the team members to feel valued and know that their work matters.
  3. Empower team members, motivate and inspire them to do their best work, and recognize and reward them for positive behaviors that continually strengthen the culture.

It is important that you protect your wood, ensure that it is watered, has adequate nutrients and is protected from the harsh elements.

Resources:

Ashworth, P. (2015). Why Company Culture is So Important to Business Success. BrightCoach LinkedIn Article. link

Iannarino, A. (2012). A Fish Rots from the Head Down (A Note to the Sales Leader). Iannarino Company Website. link

Kaplan, M., Dollar, B., Melian, V., Van Durme, Y., Wong, J. (2016). Shape Culture Drive Strategy. Deloitte Insights. link

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