Aligning Management With Culture
We’ve said it again and again in different ways: culture doesn’t build itself; culture requires teamwork; and, most importantly, culture starts with leadership. But even though your management team knows it’s responsible for building culture, that doesn’t always mean they know what to do about it. And while sporadic culture-building efforts might be better than nothing, a concentrated, collective effort by your team is much more effective. Let’s be honest. Sometimes the culture problem can be your leadership team (click here to find out if that’s happening in your organization now). But other times, it’s simply a lack of organized effort. To that end, here are three questions your management team can ask itself on a quarterly basis to make sure it’s contributing to a healthy workplace culture:
1. Do I model healthy work-life balance?
It’s hard to take your boss seriously about work-life balance when they email you at 9 PM and expect a reply before open of business the next day. So, if your company culture promotes work-life balance, you need to verify that it’s not just lip service. Do managers turn their phones off at healthy intervals? Do they take time off? And when they’re “off,” do they turn off their phone and work computer to reap the benefits of truly unplugging? If your managers don’t have good work boundaries, be on the lookout for similar behavior among team members. Left unaddressed, a workplace culture that doesn’t support rest and strategic disengagement will show signs of chronic stress, burnout, and high employee turnover.
2. Do I make time in my schedule (and in my employees’) for culture-building events?
As your company sponsors relationship-building activities throughout the year, take a count of how many managers and executives show up to participate. And then face a tough question: how valuable can an event be if it won’t provide enough insight for your leaders to show up? Yes, managers are busy, and yes, it may be too much to ask that the CEO come to every company lunch. But if your management team never participates in these kinds of opportunities, don’t be surprised when employees try to get out of them, too. Culture-building events are like parties: they’re only fun and worthwhile if a lot of people show up. If you can’t generate interest or attendance for the events you put on throughout the year (from management or employees or both) you need to re-evaluate the events you’re hosting and how you’re promoting them. It may be that your team would respond better to more informal events like management lunches or a number of new team-building ideas.
3. Do I give employees enough emotional bandwidth to be interested in their co-workers?
Have you ever had to attend a co-worker’s birthday lunch when you feel pressed about a pending deadline? It’s hard to feign interest in the people around you, let alone forge the kind of deep personal connections that lead to a better workplace culture when your mind is somewhere else. When employees are overwhelmed by their workloads, the experience increased stress and diminished emotional intelligence. They simply don’t have the intellectual or emotional energy to engage in relationship-building, and that’s something managers can directly manage.One vital management skill is knowing your employee’s production capacity and not overwhelming them to the point of burnout. But if company culture is a priority, managers should also consider setting aside some of that bandwidth specifically for relationship-building activities. Employees that are challenged by their work but not overwhelmed by it will have the necessary emotional availability to participate in the company culture and build genuine friendships with coworkers.
Your management team has a responsibility to set and enforce the cultural tone for your organization. But building a healthy culture doesn’t require a constant onslaught of big, bold gestures. Instead, use these three quarterly questions to gauge whether or not your management team is doing its best to consistently support a healthy workplace culture.