How to Improve Workplace Culture

We all want a high performing workplace.

And most of us want a healthy workplace culture along with it.

But if you’re a business owner or CEO, have you ever thought about the impact your own attitude and behavior is having on the people around you?

Culture, whether good or bad, flows from the top and affects everything in your business.

People want to be inspired by leaders with a clear vision, someone who can point in a particular direction and show the way. People also need leaders they can trust and respect, someone who has not only defined their values but actually lives by them.

And that starts at the top – with you.

Think about a typical day at work:

  • Do you come in stressed and agitated?
  • Is your office door open or closed most of the time?
  • If it’s open, how often do employees come to talk to you? If they do, how are they received?
  • Do you appear welcoming and eager to hear from them? Or are you barely able to contain your irritation at being interrupted?
  • How often are you behind closed doors in meetings?
  • How often do you get out from behind your desk to walk around and chat with employees?
  • If you’re in a family owned business, what are your interactions with family members like? Better or worse than with non-family staff?

You may think to yourself… well, I’m busy. I’m working or… I’m stressed. That’s the way it is. People understand.

Well, actually, they may not.

They may see a boss who comes across as detached at best, or someone who says one thing and does another at worst.

How well are you modeling the behaviors you expect from your employees?

Think about what you expect from your employees:

  • Do you expect a friendly manner, a positive attitude, a respectful tone?
  • Concern for others, teamwork, open communication?
  • An orderly work environment?
  • A sense of urgency?
  • Projects that are managed on time?

Does this describe you?

Whether you want to accept it or not, no matter where you find yourself in any organization, if you supervise people you are on display.

And not only are you on display, you need to model the kinds of behaviors you wish to see in others. Anything less is just a double standard, plain and simple – and everyone hates double standards. Wherever they exist in your organization, they will guarantee that your efforts at creating a great culture will ring hollow.

How you behave and what you focus on has a profound impact on the culture and output of your department or company.

I simply cannot emphasize this enough.

In fact, when I coach young or newly promoted managers, one of the first things I emphasize is that when you walk through that front door in the morning… “It’s Showtime!”

The person hearing this usually smiles but it really is true and it’s part of being a great boss. No matter what’s going on in your personal life or how many pressures you are facing at work, when you walk through that door, employees will compare how YOU behave with the values and behaviors you say you want from THEM.

In addition, it’s important to understand that as you rise in any organization, what you do and how you do it will be scrutinized in direct proportion to your rank. What I mean by this is your words and behaviors have more power, either to lift up, encourage and motivate or to tear down and destroy the relationships you have with the people who work for you.

So here are 5 things you can do at the top to improve the culture in your company:

  1. Define the values that matter to you in your business and live by them. You need to be clear – these things need more than lip service.
  2. Be crystal clear about your vision and strategy and what you are trying to achieve.
  3. Recognize that you are being scrutinized at all times. Act accordingly.
  4. Be more available to everyone, at all levels of your organization. Open and honest communication is an absolute requirement for a healthy culture.
  5. Care about your people and their problems.

The Bottom Line:

If you want a great workplace culture, you are the key. It all starts at the top.

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Brian Oken has helped dozens of business owners and CEOs become better leaders, build more effective teams and grow bottom-line profits.

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