Apples | High Performing Cultures

“The Culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.”*

By Al Curnow, Senior Consultant

Never have these words rung more true than today. It’s nearly impossible to pick up a newspaper (for those of us that still do that) and not see another example of a high profile news anchor, politician, executive, or major college sports coach being implicated in some type of inappropriate (or worse) behavior. One can only imagine what must be going on in the executive suites of NBC News, CBS News and the numerous other organizations caught in the eye of this hurricane as they try to repair and rebuild both their image as well as their culture.

It makes me wonder, is this daily barrage of accusations the result of tolerance on the part of leadership or could it have been a lack of clarity of expectations? Was the line between appropriate behavior and inappropriate behavior somehow blurred? We may never know the answers to these questions. Yet, what is obvious is the need for organizational leaders to become incredibly clear and intentional in defining, shaping and reinforcing the culture that they do want.

It can come in all shapes and sizes.

While these recent examples in the news may seem extreme, it takes far less than headline-grabbing behaviors to wreak havoc on an organization. Think of the impact of such common offenses as poor communication, lack of clarity on expectations or gossiping. Or consider the damage one “toxic” employee can impart on the rest of the team. It takes far less than felonious actions to create enormous damage.

It starts (and ends) with leadership.

Great leaders of great organizations understand that it all starts with them. As our founder, David Friedman suggested in an earlier blog post, “CEO sponsorship is the single biggest factor” in successfully driving an initiative to drive culture. Leadership must be able to articulate what is expected and walk the talk in terms of their own behavior. Further, they must be willing to hold people accountable to living to (or not living to) those expectations.

If you’d like to learn more about being clear, consistent and intentional, just give us a call or shoot us an email.

*Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker, School Culture Rewired, ch. 3 (2015)

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