We Do That: Building Great Leaders and Great Culture
By: Jessica Gendron
A gentleman recently asked me what The Center for Leadership Excellence does. I enthusiastically explained that we are leadership experts and culture strategists who are driven to make organizations great places for people to work. The gentleman leaned in. I continued to explain that we work to build great leaders through coaching, training, and speaking, as well as work with companies to build strategies for and execute on building great culture. I further elaborated that we specialize in working with companies to collect data and build strategies on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
He leaned back, cocked his head, and said surprisingly, “That’s a really niche business.”
I responded, “Yes,” and politely smiled.
Something about that response irked me for days. Frankly it still irks me a bit. Yes, we are a very niche business, but that is by design. I don’t want to do everything and I don’t want to do a lot moderately well. I want to be exceptional at something very specific – making workplaces better, more respectful, inclusive, and safe. I believe that better leaders and better culture do that.
I think many of us have experienced (or are currently experiencing) bad leadership where we aren’t provided adequate feedback, direction, support and mentorship, and opportunities to learn and grow. Meetings are painfully frustrating. Although we may love the work, the clients, or the company, bad leadership can tarnish all of it. There are countless studies that show people leave jobs most frequently for more money or because of a bad boss / bad culture.
Culture is often on the mind of executive leaders, but not high enough of a business priority to warrant a lot of effort. There’s bottom lines to consider and clients to serve and contracts to win. At the end of the day, “culture” keeps getting pushed further and further down the to-do list. As a result, the organizational culture is created by itself, often settling toward the lowest common denominators. Yet, culture impacts everything from business outcomes to employee experience to attrition to performance. However, I don’t blame executives for the lack of attention to organizational culture. It’s a really abstract concept that’s hard to wrap your head around. Most leaders don’t know what steps to take to intentionally build the culture they desire for the organization. As a result, the organization focuses on profit, business outcomes, and the bottom line (these are not bad things to focus on).
The consequence on inattention to culture, however, is that there is lots of bad behavior and business practice that is unchecked and generally accepted as the status quo. There’s employees that don’t feel psychologically safe at work because of bias, discrimination, microaggressions, harassment, or abuse. There are employees that are disengaged and underperforming because they lack belonging and affinity for the organization. There are people in your organization that don’t love coming to work everyday.
I say all this because, this was me, at various points in my career. I’ve worked for bad bosses. I’ve faced discrimination, bias, and mircoaggressions. I’ve experienced bad culture and bad leadership. I’ve dreaded going to work. I don’t want people to feel the way I have. I want people to love going to work. I want organizations to genuinely be great places for people to work.
If any of this resonated with you, I’d love to talk about how we can help. We’re laser focused on building great leaders and great culture, so your organization can truly be a great place for people to work.
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