As I write this, it’s spring cleaning time at our house. Here at 8400 feet above sea level in the Rocky Mountains, we’re thrilled to see warmer temperatures and to spot plants blooming through the remaining snow. We’ve put the snow blower back into the shed. Geese and mallards are roosting on our pond. My wife is anxious to start planting bright flowers in our backyard.
Spring is also a good time to reflect on how well your culture is operating in your work team and company. As a leader, you’re responsible for the quality of workplace relationships. Leaving your culture to chance – paying attention only to production metrics – is a sure pathway to workplace frustration.
Our workplaces are not great places to hang out in. Engagement data from Gallup shows that only about 32 percent of U.S. workers are actively engaged. Worse, only 13 percent of global workers are actively engaged!
Meanwhile, TinyPulse’s 2014 engagement and culture report found that only 21 percent of workers feel strongly valued at work. That means 79 percent don’t feel strongly valued. That’s dismal.
The problem is that leaders spend the majority of their time and energy in the workplace on products and services, not culture – yet culture drives everything that happens in an organization, for better or worse.
The good news is that leaders can take charge of the quality of their work cultures. Here are three ways leaders can boost workplace sanity:
1. Pay Attention to the Quality of Workplace Interactions
Observe workplace interactions in team meetings, on the floor, in the office, in the hallways, in the break room, and everywhere else people interact. Look and listen to learn how people treat each other. Do they listen to each other? Do they praise each other for effort and accomplishment? Do they tease each other – kindly (that’s okay) or meanly (that’s not okay)?
Observation will give you some excellent data. Interviewing others will give you more excellent data. Ask people how they’re treated, and just listen. Don’t defend. Just listen. Ask people what frustrations they experience daily. You’ll get a long list!
2. Start Small
Set meeting norms and hold everyone accountable for them. Rather than building a more formal organizational constitution – a more involved process – create ground rules for meetings. Meetings are often seen as wastes of time, rather than as sources of clarity and enthusiasm! Create ground rules that specify how you’d like people to behave in meetings. Focus on what you’d like team members to do rather than not do. Say “Be on time” rather than “Don’t be late.” Say “Review the agenda in advance” and “Come prepared.” Say “Debate ideas while honoring peers’ efforts and accomplishments.” Say “Honor confidentiality.” Have no more than five ground rules. Keep it simple.
Setting these ground rules won’t, by itself, ensure everyone aligns with them. Model these grounds rules yourself. Hold people accountable. Praise aligned behavior while redirecting misaligned behavior.
3. Don’t Tolerate Bad Behavior
The benefit of setting ground rules is that doing so clearly outlines desired behavior. Any behavior that is contrary to these ground rules or to the spirit of team cooperation and validation needs to be examined carefully and promptly. If team members (or leaders) dismiss, demean, or discount others’ ideas or contributions, quash that behavior pronto. If team members withhold information other peers need, quash that behavior. Temper tantrums? No go.
Any misaligned behaviors that go unchallenged erode the quality of your team’s operations, and they erode trust, respect, and dignity between all leaders and team members.
Start spring cleaning your team’s poor practices today with ground rules and accountability. What do you have to lose?
S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and executive consultant who is the founder of The Purposeful Culture Group and author of the Amazon best-seller The Culture Engine and five other books. Follow him on Twitter: @scedmonds.