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3 min read

Lessons in Leadership: Are YOU the Company Culture Problem?

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Your team is uninspired, they lack the fire and passion that you feel they should have to perform their job at the highest level and you can’t understand why. You’ve done the StrengthsFinder, Meyers-Briggs, Enneagram and even made changes in your leadership team and still you sense it. In fact, you can smell it.

Distrust and suspicion is like a green mist through your office. The culture is stifling and you can’t seem to put your finger on it. And speaking of fingers - you’ve pointed yours at everyone in the company, except yourself. Has it occurred to you that maybe YOU are the culture problem in your business?

Maybe you’re not ready for the conversation with yourself just yet. On the other hand, if you’re up for some tough introspection, you might be surprised with what you’ll discover. I know I was. After struggling with our company culture for years and trying to pin the blame on employees and a number of outside factors, I ended up finding the problem right in the mirror. Actually, I had help getting to the mirror, and here are some of the steps I took and you may want to consider as well if you think you may be the force behind your culture challenges.

1. Acknowledgement 

Acknowledge the fact that you may be the problem. Just like the first step of a 12-step program, make sure you’re not in the denial phase and that you may need some help.

2. Get help

If you think you may be the source of the trouble, find a professional coach who can help you identify your blind spots. We all have them, and none of us is perfect. A good coach will have the tools, experience and compassion to help you see that you’re not alone and that you possess the ability to make the change.

3. Commit to a plan

Like therapy, changing your approach to leadership is not something that gets “fixed” in one meeting, or even a few meetings. It’s a process that takes time, practice and patience. Nearly 3-years removed from my first interaction with my coach and I’m starting to feel more command over my leadership style. 

4. Be open about it

If you’re truly committed to making a change, let your employees know what you’re up to. Tell them that you’ve recognized that you may be part of the problem and that your goal is to make your business dynamic and successful. Let them know they are valued and that you’re making a change. Then, most importantly, work like heck to fulfill that promise.

5. Ask for feedback

Ask your team what they believe you could do differently. Offer your leadership team and/or trusted employees “permission” to help you with ongoing feedback and dialogue. Remember, there’s a good chance they share your same passion for creating outstanding culture.

6. Practice, practice, practice

If you’re like me, you’ll have new skills that need to be practiced. New ways of communicating and receiving and providing constructive criticism. I found it useful to use my new approach with my family and friends and it turns out my relationships with both improved! Just like in sports, you'll get better the more you practice, as long as you're working on the right things.

All this to say, we are not perfect, and I continue to work on my approach every day. My coach, Kate Larsen, is my trusted advisor and friend. Each time we get together, she opens my eyes to better ways of communicating with my employees, clients, friends and family. As she would say, the road to leading at a higher level is about progress, not perfection. However, the first step begins with identifying an issue and finding the right person to help you create the business you envision.

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