#It’sAllAboutTheLeader – Culture Revisited

I’ve been thinking lately about how organizations (universities, businesses, and even countries) have their culture shaped and set by the person at the top. (Think Theo Epstein, Adolph Hitler, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Angela Merkel) If you’re the president, CEO, executive director, or director/manager you are the primary reason the culture is as it is. You need to own that, because culture propels or destroys your strategy.

Two very close friends of mine are retiring this spring. Coincidentally, they’ve worked in the same niche. Another coincidence is that, years ago, both had remarkable bosses that were culture builders, and then both ended their careers with bosses that are culture busters. Well, actually they are culture builders, too. They are just either clueless or don't have it in them as to how to create a healthy culture.

What’s really sad and frustrating is that both of my friends are highly talented, motivated, passionate, and love, yes love the people they impact, and, and … are retiring feeling unappreciated and feel invisible to their superiors. It’s nearly impossible to stay motivated while working in this environment.

Just think of how much more motivated, effective and fulfilled they would be if they worked in a supportive culture! So bosses, here are a five tips for creating a healthy, supportive culture.

  1. Wherever you are, be there. While you’re with your team members…be present. Pay attention! Really listen. Make eye contact. Ask questions. Tell your brain to slow down and observe the entire situation. What’s happening in the visual, auditory and kinesthetic environment?
  2. Management by walking around. (Credit to Tom Peters, In Search of Excellence for making this phrase popular) One person told me the only time their boss shows up is when they want something from them. How special does that make you feel? Get away from your desk regularly and make it your primary objective to affirm, or listen or genuinely learn something you didn’t know about the people you manage.
  3. Let people fail. Yes, let your colleagues have enough freedom to do things their own way, even if they mess up. Then come back and ask, “How might you have approached this differently?” or “What did you learn from this attempt?” or “What’s good about what happened?” Then lend your own experience to improve the situation. Obviously, if you work for the bomb squad, you should take this suggestion with a grain of salt.
  4. Big Picture. People need to know how their work fits into the bigger picture. They may “just” be doing data entry, so help them see that the quality, accuracy, and speed of their work is vital to the larger picture. You’ve probably heard the story, but it bears repeating, about two men who used a sledge hammer all day long to break rocks that would eventually be used to build a cathedral. When asked what he did, one man said, “I just break rocks all day long.” And the other said, “I’m part of a team that is building a magnificent cathedral.” He saw how his “menial” work was part of a very important goal.
  5. Vulnerability. If you practice these ideas as “technique” you will fail! People, particularly millennials, can spot a fake a mile away. Being an effective leader in 2017 requires transparency and vulnerability. If you don’t know how to get through a problem, don’t pretend, just because you’re the boss. Ask for help. What really troubles me about my two friends is that their bosses would never dream of asking for help. They think that would be seen as a sign of weakness, but it is just the opposite. It is a sign of trust.

Remember boss, you are the primary reason the culture is as it is. You own it, so make the changes needed to create a better culture. One that is filled with meaning, power and hope.


This blog shares my perspective on how you have the ability to create new story endings that are meaningful, powerful and filled with hope. I facilitate transformational change processes helping organizations achieve maximum mission impact. Also, I provide leadership coaching to help executives and aspiring leaders become the fullest expression of who they’re intended to be. @beckerbits #aboutleadership www.leadersedge.me