We all want a successful workplace culture. But “successful” is a highly subjective term – ask Melanie Perkins and Elon Musk what it means, and you’ll get different answers.
But poll enough executives, leaders and employees, and you’ll find common qualities like mutual respect, open communication, and collective purpose.
Sadly, many workplaces embody the opposite of these values. And if these “anti-values” stay entrenched long enough, they will bear bitter fruits.
Eventually, some leadership teams realise they’ve lost their way. But when one is stuck in the muck, it can be very difficult to escape.
In situations like these, it’s beneficial to get an outside perspective. Here’s why: when leaders spend years in one environment or even a toxic work environment, it colours their views. And thanks to these ingrained biases, it’s often impossible for leaders and leadership teams to fix their workplace’s problems.
However, outside help isn’t cheap. The average qualified leadership or business consultant charges $250 an hour (or more) for their time. Corporations have no issue paying these rates – but for many businesses, every nickel counts.
But if a business lacks capital, there are several things they can do to get started on culture change. First, they should define their company’s core values. These values should emphasise mutual respect, open communication, and honesty.
But values mean nothing if leaders don’t live them. If they want positive behaviours to take root, leaders need to lead by example. For instance, to stop bullying behaviour among employees, leaders mustn’t berate workers who make honest mistakes.
Leadership teams could also establish an open-door policy. During these meetings, superiors should practise active listening. And no idea should be derided as a “stupid” idea.
Eventually though, leaders will need outside eyes to flag issues hidden by internal biases. So they should leverage every free or low-cost resource they can find. Reaching out to fellow leaders through business networks, or having a mentor or a leadership coach is a good start, but they should also take advantage of government resources, too.
For example, the Government of Queensland currently offers courses focusing on leadership, effective communication, and cultural inclusiveness. And if you need specific business advice, you can call Australia’s small business ministry at 13-28-46, or by visiting them at business.gov.au.
But despite all this, leaders may need the advice of an expert. Yes, their time is pricey, but if the issue is well-defined, engagements can be relatively short.
However, if funds are tight, consider hiring an intern. MBA students, eager to prove their worth, can offer valuable insights – and at a discount relative to more experienced leadership experts and consultants.
Consultants see things leadership teams cannot. But their recommendations won’t stick without a plan. Setbacks are inevitable – without countermeasures, businesses can easily fall back into old habits.
For example, what happens when an employee-led initiative doesn’t get results? For leaders who may not have agreed with these initiatives, are tempted to say say “I told you so”. Sometimes leadership teams do not have a foundation of trust, and therefore issues go hidden, and show up in problem behaviours. Leadership teams can get swept up in the ‘cyclone’ unable to get to the eye of it, where there is clarity and calm.
To avoid communication breakdowns, external culture experts can coach leaders on how to give constructive (rather than destructive) feedback.
It shouldn’t sound like a lecture – instead, leaders with their years of experience, should provide guidance. By doing this, the likelihood of positive results going forward will be higher.
Culture change can be tough to achieve. But by leveraging abundant online and governmental resources, leaders can get the ball rolling. And when they get stuck, outside consultants can help push them over the hump.
Margie Ireland is the author of The Happy Healthy Leader – how to achieve your potential even during a crisis.Margie is a registered Psychologist, Leadership Coach and Workshop Facilitator, highly sought after to help Leaders and their teams navigate stress and change with healthier coping strategies, leading to happier, healthier and high-performing teams. For more information visit www.margieireland.com