How Strong Leaders Set The Tone For a Wealthy Culture (Without Magic)
Leaders are central to a culture of engagement. It’s their duty to stay strong and set the tone for a wealthy workplace culture (without magic). A thermostat is a device that controls the heating and cooling of equipment. Being a thermostat leader means that you can set the tone, mindset, and temperature of your team.
You want to have an impact. You want to show up well.
And you want to influence whomever you’re meeting with in a way that helps you create connection and gets you your desired outcome. What you say and do matters and how you show up is what truly creates your impact.
As a leader, your behavior sets the tone for your entire organization.
People are watching you if you’re in a leadership role, and every word, action, deed and facial expression has a ripple effect. The way leaders behave is not only noticed, it also sets the bar and has the potential to galvanize the team.
Employees’ perceptions about their work culture hinge on leaders’ actions and words.
In turn, employees’ perceptions sway their own engagement — for good or ill. Some workplace cultures motivate employees and fuel performance. Others drain employees’ motivation and make employees feel as though they have no control over their environment nor any incentive to perform.
Roughly 70% of how employees perceive their organization’s climate is attributable to the actions and behaviors of their leader.
A leader creates the environment that determines people’s moods at the office and their mood, in turn, affects their productivity and level of engagement. So what is the major factor that drives the climate of an organization? It’s the leader!
Although it is not always easy to set a positive tone within your organization here are seven things I’ve learned that can provide a good foundation for establishing a culture of success.
Setting the tone is imperative when you hold a leadership position. Here are seven things you can do to let people know what type of leader you are and breed a wealthy company culture. Let’s find out!
Tip #1: Fine-tune Your Attitude
When setting the tone for your organization always remember to put yourself in your team’s shoes first. If you’re a leader who people look forward to coming to work with each day, you’ve taken a great first step in establishing a culture of success. If the opposite is true your cultural climate might not be headed in quite the right direction.
Your minimum behaviors will be your team’s maximum performance.
If you expect people to be on time, you need to be on time. If you expect managers to get out of their offices, you need to be out of your office. If you expect people to wear their safety equipment, you need to wear your safety equipment. It’s simple. Just as children follow a parent’s lead, your team will take cues from you.
Being a role model means demonstrating your integrity through your daily actions.
It’s about aligning what you say with what you do. It’s easy enough for someone in a leadership position to make promises; it’s quite another to actually accomplish it. Organizations are dynamic, full of bureaucratic politics and one-upmanship, where people strive to build their careers so that they can advance. We’ve all heard of the boss who serves upwards to senior management, stepping on employees while climbing the corporate ladder.
Work ethic can never be overemphasized.
If you habitually arrive at the office late and leave early, you’re setting a standard for everyone else to follow. If you ask people to be thought leaders, you have to be a thought leader too. If you ask people to bring in new business, you must bring in new business as well. If you’re at the top, you’re paid to be the hardest-working, most engaged individual on the payroll.
Understand that perception is reality. We live in a world of extreme transparency and winnowed privacy.
There are cameras everywhere. Anything can be videoed. Bad behavior is likely to be captured and published. Do not put yourself in any inappropriate or compromising situation. If you are in a position of power it does not matter if you didn’t “do” anything. Even the appearance of doing something will be harmful.
We all know attitude is contagious. Regardless how you feel, you need to be upbeat and optimistic around your team.
You still need to be empathetic when you have serious issues to deal with, but if you are consistently upbeat and in good spirits, the team will demonstrate the same. In the same respect, if you are quiet, unresponsive, angry, abrasive, sarcastic, or hidden, the life will get sucked out of your team.
Accountability starts with clear performance standards that apply equally to everyone — including leaders.
If leaders don’t model desired behaviors, employees get the idea that those rules are arbitrary. Leaders also need to ensure that accountability doesn’t become synonymous with punishment. Employees need consistent feedback from leaders that emphasizes their strengths and recognizes successes.
Tip #2: Give Brownie Points
Putting in a lot of work and getting recognition for the extra effort you put in is an important factor when it comes to happiness on the job. Employees who work under a boss who praises and motivates, rather than constantly finding faults are a lot happier.
Recognition and feeling seen is as important as salary and benefits to many employees, especially those just getting started in the corporate world.
Leaders don’t need to become best friends with employees. But even with subtle outreach and interaction, leaders can dramatically shape their culture. Trust can be established by connecting to people on a personal basis, speaking words of life into them, accentuating the positive, and being present with them by giving them your full attention.
Go to where your people are. Greet them every day.
Show interest by actively listening and being open. Engage them on the subjects they care about. Your team will see you care and are interested in their thoughts and opinions. They will see you as open and willing to listen. They will be more likely to share their true feelings about the challenges they face.
When people look to a leader, they look not only for guidance and reassurance, but also for recognition.
Leaders often focus on what’s considered their primary responsibility, which is helping their team figure out what to do next. However, encouraging pride and recognizing success for a job well done is equally important. Leaders reap in numerous benefits when they recognize excellent work.
Smiling and saying hello to co-workers takes little effort and could have a big effect.
One person’s body language and facial expressions also can affect a group’s emotions. Being nice to other people also helps develop a culture of reciprocity, where everyone tacitly agrees to return the help and emotional support they receive.
What gets recognized gets repeated.
When we acknowledge specific good work by employees and teams, we set expectations for performance. The recognition says “this is what right looks like.” This tells employees what the standard is. Reward and recognition also engage employees in their work.
Average managers recognize an occasional good performance from an employee. Great leaders do it every day without diluting its value.
Do not praise ordinary performance. You set the expectation too low when you praise average performance. If you praise employees for doing routine tasks, they won’t be encouraged to do better. Raise your standard so that your praise will be of value to your employees when they do exceptional work. Then they will look for ways to win your approval and excel in their jobs.
Tip #3: Trust Is a Must
I know that as a leader, you spend a lot of your energy building strong relationships with your team. Strong relationships often result in better performance, less stress, and a better workplace experience. But, you cannot have strong relationships if your team doesn’t trust you.
Long story short, trust is not rapport. Trust is not team-building.
It’s not about getting people to like you. And it’s not about getting people to just “feel good” about you or the company. Trust is your intention and behavior. It’s making it clear why you’re doing something, being honest about it, and then following through with it.
It takes a lot of effort to create and preserve trust in a professional environment.
Usually, the members of a team will need to see for themselves that their leader can perform before they’re able to trust their abilities. In other words, it’s not enough for a leader to tell their team that they’re competent in their role. Instead, all sectors need to be able to see that leader proving their competency.
Note that, as a leader, the last thing you want is to work in a vacuum of your own thoughts.
You have much more to gain by hearing other people’s perspectives than you have to lose. The best organizations are ones where the employees feel comfortable giving their leaders direct feedback. You better create a feedback loop by fostering a nurturing environment where an employee telling their boss something they feel, or something that bothered them, or something they noticed, is received.
Treat the staff under you like they are the key parts of your organization.
The vital factor to build employee engagement and trust is to show them support. Always be the first to back up your staff in case they have been falsely accused. These little actions will help in doubling trust. When trust is built in a team, employees know they can rely on each other to do the right thing, and have people’s backs when they step out on a limb, take a risk, or make a mistake.
Sometimes accidents happen, plans don’t work out, and mistakes are made; that’s just the way life works.
However, by feeding into a culture that allows others to point fingers at one another, your workplace will quickly become toxic. Rather than allowing employees to blame each other for downfalls, try encouraging constructive criticism and brainstorming ways your team can move forward in a beneficial way.
Trust is a key ingredient of successful leadership. Trusted leaders are the guardians of the values of the organization.
Trust can release the energy of people and enlarge the human and intellectual capital of employees. No heroic leader can resolve the complex challenges we face today. In a trusting environment when we are committed to our shared purpose we play active roles both as leaders and as followers.
Tip #4: Stick To Your Mission
As the leader of any organization you have the power to inspire the team. around you and one of the most powerful ways to do this is to be able to articulate the mission you’ve undertaken and what it contributes to the world around you.
Understandably, today’s workforce wants to feel like their work has meaning and purpose on a larger scale.
Whether its business, government or any other organization when the team fully understands the lasting impact their efforts will have there’s a buy in and a passion for fulfilling the mission which goes a long way towards creating a sustainable culture of success.
The necessary passion and energy needed to lead transformation, organizational or personal, comes from being committed to something bigger than yourself.
This very commitment to something larger than your own concerns generates the enthusiasm and energy essential to providing transformational leadership. The task for the leader is to frame a common purpose in a manner that is clear, and that touches the organization’s heart, mind, and soul.
The idea of a common purpose is a simple idea, but it is one of the most important responsibilities of a leader.
If done correctly, it moves a team from “me” to “we.” It puts a stake in the ground for how the team will collectively be evaluated. It empowers everyone to bring their most innovative ideas to the table in service to the broader mission. And through the journey, it brings the best out of everyone and the organization, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Great leaders regularly bring people closer to their purpose and the purpose of their work.
If the vision for the organization is not inspiring, it is pretty challenging to inspire others and get them to rally around it. When people are able to connect the dots from what they do each day to how it impacts the customer, they are much more engaged and concerned for what they do and how well they deliver it.
Purpose is what drives us forward — both in personal and professional plans.
Companies where employees have a common purpose are easy to recognize — their employees are happy, have high energy and morale, and speak the same organizational language. Common purpose defines the quality of leadership that impacts a company’s culture and spirit — its soul, if you will. This drives success beyond financial statements.
Teams want to know what it takes to be successful.
They also want to know how well their company is doing in terms of achieving its goals. While every organization is different as they disseminate information, giving a kudos to well-deserving team members and celebrating company wins can go a long way in making everyone feel connected to a common end goal.
Tip #5: Never Leave The Battlefield
It’s a given that every organization is going to be hit with adversity. However, maintaining an eye to the future, a positive outlook and realizing that every setback is only temporary in a leadership position has a direct impact on how the team around you reacts to it.
During a crisis, a leader might as well be a dartboard.
When people are frustrated, scared or angry, they often direct those emotions as people who hold leadership roles. If you react to such a dart by blowing a gasket and tearing into someone under your leadership, the shadows of that outburst will cloud the relationship moving forward. They will remember the outburst, not the crisis context in which it happened. Fear of how you will respond is a powerful de-motivator.
When a problem arises, it’s the leader’s job to repair the situation.
Leaders need to uncover the roots of any problematic situation, even if it stems from their own behaviors. It never works to accost employees and demand, “Why is this happening?” That makes it seem like the leader assumes that team members are in the wrong, and puts people on the defensive.
There comes times in the lives of all great leaders when they are pushed to their physical, emotional, mental or spiritual limits.
Fatigued, exhausted and drained by their experiences, they still relentlessly pursue their journey. They never give up. It is their attitude and mindset to hold on to their hopes, dreams, determination and life’s purpose.
Maintaining your composure at all times is a key component to setting a positive tone for any organization you may be a part of.
If the leader of any organization is constantly giving in to the pressures around them and losing their composure regularly, you can bet the team around them will follow suit. A cool and level headed leader helps to foster a calmer more serene culture within the organization.
You cannot be a thermostat for someone else until you can be one for yourself.
One of the most important things that any leader must do is to find the truth and reality of each situation. Not allowing ourselves to be emotionally hijacked gives us the mental strength to discern the truth and find solutions to our problems. Once everyone sees that their leadership is clear and calm, then everyone will feel the security to allow them to take another step.
Determination is a refusal to quit or give up. It means not giving mental recognition to the possibility of defeat.
If you absolutely refuse to accept failure, you have virtually guaranteed your success. When you face adversity, you use your full potential, you become more creative, more intense, and more confident that you can keep moving toward your goal. By looking at adversity in this way, you ensure that when you encounter it, you will not run or give up.
Tip #6: Play Ball
The most difficult challenge a leader faces is to drive internal alignment around vision, compliance with processes, and execution of the business plan. You can’t default to communications about the team or “family” if you’re seen to be authoritarian.
The cooperative leadership style is appreciative, positive, confident and flexible.
This means the change leader fully appreciates what people are saying and has sufficient self esteem to hear critical feedback. As such, they are flexible and open in their approach, and are equally happy to follow as to lead. Today’s leader has to be inclusive, has to bring people into the decision-making process, and has to be prepared to alter his views if it helps build internal alignment.
Most executives agree that collaboration is more important than ever in today’s turbulent business environment.
In fact, a company’s very survival may depend on how well it can combine the potential of its people and the quality of the information they possess with their ability — and willingness — to share that knowledge throughout the organization.
Collaborative leaders understand that allowing others to weigh in and offer their ideas results in better solutions.
They also know that imposing a direction, sharing pre-formed solutions or being the “early anchor” can rob others of engagement and ownership. Such leaders create communities where people unite around a common purpose and values, working collaboratively to accomplish a shared vision that makes a positive impact.
The beauty of collaboration is that it gives everyone on the team a voice.
And as the old saying goes two heads — or better yet, a whole room full — ultimately leads to better ideas, solutions and decisions. Team members feel empowered to contribute their thoughts and ideas, because their leaders are genuinely open to it and strongly encourage cross-pollination.
Collaborative leadership truly requires a manager to let their guard down a little and offer a little bit of vulnerability.
By collaborating, what the manager is saying, essentially, is ‘I don’t have all of the answers; please help me.’ True collaboration must involve a managerial willingness to set aside ego, and to listen to and incorporate others’ ideas.
Tip #7: Open Your Doors
Be particularly mindful of how you manage emotions if your organization is undergoing change: how you handle emotions during these crucial times can help or hinder the change process. It’s a known fact that if the resistance to change is emotional, it is the hardest form of resistance to overcome.
As the leader handling a change initiative, don’t avoid the emotions that accompany the change process. Set the mood and manage the emotions — or they will manage you.
During a crisis, people have a natural tendency to think those in leadership roles are either hiding something or withholding key information. Being transparent about how the crisis is affecting your organization — and how it could affect those you lead — is critical, even if the news you are sharing is challenging.
Openly shared information can help avoid many misunderstandings and quarrels.
Leaders should encourage teams to take care of the information flow. In the past, some essential pieces of information were kept only to boards and managers. Nowadays, in a collaborative ecosystem, transparency of information as well as mutual trust and respect, are important to keep the company healthy.
Vulnerability is approachability. Yes, I know that it can feel counterintuitive, at first.
However, by making yourself vulnerable, you’re also making yourself more approachable. Sometimes, the image of the unshakeable boss can cause your employees a great deal of anxiety at the mere thought of interacting with you. Admiration will go much further in building bonds with your team than worry, anxiety, or fear will.
Open-door leadership is not just good for the people being lead, it’s good for the leader!
When you are loyal to the growth, and fulfillment of each of your employees, they in turn will be deeply loyal to you. And when they are loyal to you and the goals you’re pursuing, your chances of being successful will go way up. Remember, the folks you’re leading are the folks who will determine whether you’re successful as a leader. You want to be successful, right? Then start opening doors for the people you lead!
Being transparent is more than good policy. It’s a way of ensuring your employees stay satisfied.
You trust them with the information and in turn, they reward you with loyalty. Organizational transparency creates trust among stakeholders, informs decision making, and fosters greater participation. And as consumers demand increased accountability, organizations that choose to pursue transparency will be rewarded.
If you’re a leader in your organization then you’re setting the “tone” for the entire organization. Now, you can be a leader because of your title or position or you can be a leader in your organization because you influence other people.
The tone you set will likely determine the success of those you lead and if your influence is great enough, perhaps the entire organization.
If you’re a leader in your organization and you don’t like the tone, feeling, atmosphere, whatever you want to call it, then look in the mirror for the source. The change you are looking for in your organization most likely must begin in you.
If a leader isn’t setting the right tone, it’s just a matter of time, no matter how effective the business plan, before results begin to erode.
At the end of the day, it’s the leader’s tone that drives the organizational culture, which in turn drives the excellence that produces financial results. Be judicious about whether or not to engage in a public dialogue on an issue; not every battle is worth fighting. Be conscious of the words you choose and how they might impact the mindset of those under your leadership.
Show up, set the tone, and get after it.
There’s no one recipe for engaging employees. But leaders who focus on their workplace culture can deepen buy-in at the local level and participation in an engagement initiative. In doing so, they set the stage for world-class engagement. I’d like to hear more about you; How do you set the tone in your organization? Share your own experience in the comments below!