5 Ways You Might Be Sabotaging Your Culture


You may be sabotaging your culture and not realize it! Save your culture from destruction by avoiding these 5 ways that guarantee failure.

Reposted – Article | Accountability Insights by Mattson Newell | Sep 28, 2016

“Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the leaders.”

David Cummings

Co-Founder, Pardot

From day one, people show up asking the question, “How do things work around here?” They seek answers from their leaders and co-workers on how to be successful. The answers they get, either directly or from non-verbal cues, quickly condition them on how to think and act.

Yet, despite its importance and prevalence, too often I have seen leaders give lip-service to culture while inadvertently causing tremendous damage. Here are five of the most common ways leaders accidentally sabotage their own culture: 

1. Talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.

When leaders ask their employees to do something but aren’t willing to do it themselves, it undermines their credibility. Leaders lead by example, whether they realize it or not. When they say one thing and do another, they set a dangerous precedent for those around them to do as they do, not as they say.

2. Have an unclear direction.

A ship with no rudder would never leave the harbor, yet many organizations lack a clear direction of where they are headed. Leaders may have resources available and talent on board, but without a strong vision, clear results and a sense of purpose, their organization will flounder. Confusion is the great defender of the status quo, while clarity breeds confidence, purpose, and growth.

“A company’s culture and a company’s brand are really just two sides of the same coin.  What goes around the office comes around to the customer. We wanted employees that really believed in our long term vision and really felt like this was the right culture for them. It encourages people to go home, talk to their friends and family and ask themselves, “Is this a company I really believe in? Is this a culture I really want to be a part of and contribute to?”

Tony Hsieh

3. Lack consistency.

One day the leader shows up and they are maniacally focused on driving sales at all costs; the next day, the leader shows up and says, “We need to focus on operational efficiency, no matter the expense;” and the next, day turnover is too high. When leaders become too reactionary and inconsistent in word and action, it creates a culture of uncertainty; a culture where no one wants to do anything because they aren’t sure what mood or focus the leader will have that day.

4. Place blame, rather than seek solutions.

When leaders try to place blame for problems, rather than seeking solutions, the culture quickly becomes a toxic “no-accountability” zone where everyone is constantly gearing up for missed results and deadlines, rather than innovatively driving toward achieved results and earned success.

5. Hire, fire & promote the wrong people.

All team members you bring on board–with their unique backgrounds, personalities, strengths, and weaknesses–have a profound impact on your culture.  Make sure you are selecting the right people, getting rid of those who don’t reinforce your organizational values, and shining a spotlight on those who do.

“The only competitive advantage we have is the culture and values of the company. Anyone can open up a coffee store. We have no technology, we have no patent. All we have is the relationship around the values of the company and what we bring to the customer every day. And we all have to own it.”

Howard Schultz,

CEO, Starbucks

As leaders, we can avoid these pitfalls by fully embracing our role in establishing our organization’s culture. We begin to shape the right environment when we lead by example, communicate a clear direction, maintain consistency, seek solutions not blame, and make sure we have the right team in place. A great culture requires more than lip-service. It takes ongoing work and mindful action. Remember, either you will manage your culture, or your culture will manage you!