My dad and I had an insightful conversation when I was eighteen. I started wearing glasses when I was in sixth grade, long before it was cool to wear the black frames and look all hipster. Every year my sight became increasingly worse, finally leveling off around age thirty. Frustrated and annoyed with the whole contacts, glasses, and back to contacts circus, I asked my dad if I could have some of my inheritance early to get LASIK eye surgery.
“I just can’t see that happening.” He responded.
Thanks Dad. Good one.
It’s been said that “without vision the people perish”. Nothing could be more true. It takes a great leader to blaze the trail by providing a compelling vision with absolute certainty of it’s fulfillment.
But news flash to the visionaries of this world: CULTURE eats vision for lunch.
“Culture eats vision for lunch.”
I’ve seen many an organization with an irresistible vision and a captivating story behind the vision. They get a great start and take off like a horse at the races. Their leaders are fearless, confident, and fully convinced that nothing can stop their mission because they have possess something so valuable and so unique that no one before has ever attained! They have…vision.
Quite frankly, I’m over it. Great vision isn’t everything. Culture is.
A great vision can never be carried out if the culture surrounding it is toxic. Fear, distrust, negativity, lack of buy-in, all research and no development, these are all characteristics of toxic culture.
What’s creates a toxic culture? Here are just a few thoughts on that…
Leaders Who Hide and Don’t Have Accountability
A great article by Employee Engagement Expert, Glenn Elliott, says it best. When prepping for an open forum with questions from all levels of his organization, he refused to read the questions before going live. “If you’ve nothing to hide, there’s nothing to rehearse.” So true. Everyone in the organization feels it when leaders hide what they do, won’t answer questions head-on, and don’t have accountability in place. Without proper accountability it is too easy for leaders to step out of influence and into dictatorship. Once that shift happens, the culture shifts, and not for the better. Once trust has been breached, team members won’t get behind the vision and the vision begins to perish as well as the people.
A System That Encourages Jockeying for Position
Do you shift your team members responsibilities because they complain about their boss, rather than nurturing a culture of honesty and openness? Small businesses fail in this area all the time. They lack a proper HR department so the head of the organization becomes the acting HR manager. Employees start going over their bosses heads to complain because where else would they go? Could we get back to the system where bosses and owners respond to those complaints by saying something like, “Have you talked to him/her about this matter? What was the result?”. Even better…why not bring the offender in the room IMMEDIATELY and get it out in the open? You’ll send the message that in this organization we care enough to confront, if you’re going to complain without seeking out that person first get ready to be humbled, and no…you cannot get a new position without going through the process of restoration and conflict resolution! Maybe I’m delusional but the opposite is worse. When team members realize they can complain in private and get what they want, a culture of manipulation and sideways jockeying begins. They think, “Wow, if I just go throw my boss under the bus I can get her job!” Wow. It’s the playground all over again.
A Sense of Entitlement
This one is especially difficult in non-profit organizations. Leaders often lead from a spirit of entitlement and convince themselves that because the work (or vision) is making a difference in people’s lives, team members should gives their lives to the mission no matter what they are asked to do and now matter how that ask is delivered to them. They problem is, people don’t buy into vision if they don’t buy into the leader.
“People don’t buy into vision if they don’t buy into the leader.”
Leadership takes meekness. Not weakness. Meekness. Strength under control.
It takes a great amount of strength to hold oneself accountable to those who are smarter, stronger, and wiser than you. But good leaders do it anyway.
It takes a great amount of inner humility to refuse to hide in order to save face. But good leaders do it anyway.
It takes a great amount of courage to require team members to confront their offenders face to face. But good leaders do it anyway.
It takes a great amount of meekness to value nurturing a successful culture that vision can flourish in rather than demanding that the vision be carried out by sheer, brute, force. But good leaders take the time do it anyway. Because vision, no matter how big, ultimately stalls out if there’s not a healthy culture or people to see it through.