Naturally a good leader inspires and helps develop a good and effective culture in their organisation.
Edgar Schein famously said ‘Culture is the way we do things around here’. Most importantly this often includes poor behaviours that we tolerate.
The breaches that a leader tolerates and overlooks in their organisation becomes the hidden cultural messages about the way we do things around here. Like the zero tolerance policy, minor breaches of cultural attitudes, values, and behaviour gradually undermine stronger features of our culture.
Faced with the many day-to-day demands inherent in our working lives it’s sometime tempting to ignore or overlook minor cultural divergences. ‘It was just a joke…’. ‘It was only a small thing…’. ‘It doesn’t really matter does it?…’. It’s almost an imperceptible drift from a sexist joke into sexual harassment. A small step from a critical snap at someone into a bullying complaint.
Ultimately zero tolerance is an excellent risk management strategy for good leaders.
Kathy Bourque offers an excellent difficult conversation opener for such cultural conversations. She suggests the following:
‘I may have let you think that some behaviours were acceptable’.
In this way the effective leader takes some ownership of the problem and addresses the behaviour not the person.
Given leaders are human, we might occasionally also engage in unacceptable comments ourselves. The best modelling is to correct ourselves and apologise immediately. Be open to praise for all good behaviours and confront, not tolerate, poor behaviours.
If you would like any help with your more difficult leadership conversations please give me call me on 1300 856 480.