Last post, we looked at the first three “commandments” of building a great culture:
1. Create Safe Spaces
2. Direct Intentional Conversations
3. Manage Anxiety Levels
Today, we’ll look at commandments 4-6.
4. Use The Water Cooler. Leaders who are crafting winning cultures and managing change are by definition busy people. But the good ones know that even in the business they have to carve out time to listen to their people and to communicate personal care and concern.
The very best leaders we know schedule unscheduled time.
Read that last sentence carefully!
These leaders build into their calendar time for no formal meetings, calls, or paperwork. They simply get out into the field – whatever their ‘field’ is and hang out with employees and/or volunteers. They have quick, unscripted conversations which end up being impactful moments. The leader becomes a visible, incarnational, reassuring presence.
5. Reward Risk Taking
When anxiety is high – like it is during times of transition and culture change – tolerance for risk tends to be low. Both leaders and people are anxious, knowing their own jobs and maybe even the survival of the enterprise may be on the line. But the very best leaders we have worked with know that this is the time to say “You can risk and experiment. We won’t just tolerate you doing this – we want to encourage it. As a matter of fact, you will be rewarded for trying new things and taking risks.” This serves as an anxiety-reducer, truth be told.
6. Resist Consensus Building
It’s important to engage people in conversations, but not for the sake of consensus. Engage people in conversation to gather the best information relevant to the decisions you need to make. Engage people in conversation to build a guiding coalition which can push change forward and influence others.
But know that not everyone will buy in, at least right away. Crafting a culture should involve bringing as many people along as possible but it’s not about a vote. The conversations that come in the course of crafting change are about a respectful asking for wisdom earned from experience that will help the leader be the best steward possible as the cultural change is implemented.
One phrase we use all the time is “Leadership involves disappointing people at a rate they can tolerate!”. You do want to maximize the buy-in and minimize the disappointment, but disappointment will come. The decision made through an insistence on consensus is often a lowest-common-denominator sort of decision.