Why does building a leadership culture matter?

Leadership is a contact sport. (Too many leaders treat it like a spectator sport.) When you’re the coach you might think your job is on the sidelines – after all, the team puts the points on the scoreboard. But leaders who avoid full contact with the game can plan on staying in the amateur leagues.

These days no one will win in a fierce global economy with remnants of a 1950’s Mad Men  corporate culture – driven by power, money, control, or game-changing moves leaders think up for others to execute.  You say your company culture is about collaboration and innovation – but do your employees believe it, live it, breathe it?  Are they feeling the love that fuels excitement and engagement?

Talented people choose where to expend their life energy. Asking one simple question can help you discover if you are a worthy recipient:

“Why should anyone work for you?”

Ask sincerely – Really ask. (Not yourself – your people! If you’ve never asked for input, start with a less personal version: “Why would anyone want to work here?”). Take the real answers to heart (not the ones you make up in your head) – and do something with the input. Make one small connection or change every day to show your team you’re in the game with them – not a spectator.

The question “why would anyone want to work for you?” when taken to heart by a leader, will generate responses like what these real employees have said:

1)      “He doesn’t just pay lip service to my ideas – he changes things because of them.”

2)      “She teaches me something every day about how be better.”

3)      “I know I can trust him: He’s always got my back.”

4)      “She makes it clear what winning looks like.”

5)      “He never throws me under the bus: Mistakes are treated as normally as email around here.”

6)      “She reminds us often about our strategy and priorities – in terms I can relate to.”

7)       “I’m never taken for granted – I know I’m appreciated and I know my place on the team.”

8)      “I have personal interaction with him every single day that lets me know I count.”

9)      “She links me up with people I need to know to help make my job easier.”

10)   “He asks how he can help me.”

As a leader, never forget personal connection and relationships are the most important element of your job.  Building a workplace culture of committed, engaged people means taking the spotlight off brilliant strategy and status updates, and putting it on leaders who feed people a daily diet of meaningful discussion and encouragement. This is not a sideline game played via email, management-by-spreadsheet, or fire-hose staff meetings in which 90% of the airtime is occupied by … you.

Get curious about something besides your numbers. Ask the talented people why they should stay at your company … and learn something invaluable about your leadership in the process.

Lisa Jackson and her partner Gerry Schmidt are corporate culture experts. See them on the web at www.corporateculturepros.com or follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/corporatecultur


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