The "creating a culture" series (Part three)
Over the past couple weeks, we’ve explored effective leadership and how to define a mission for your organization. In our final installment of our series, we are going to look at accountability and how to maintain the standards within your organization. We want to understand what accountability looks like and why you need it.
It’s one thing to talk about the type of company you are, it’s another thing to live within your mission every single day. It's not easy but it’s definitely possible. If you’ve put the pieces in place and are actually committed to maintaining the culture that your mission states, then it becomes easier and easier as your organization grows.
The organization is only as good as the people that are running it. The employees are the ones who help to create and maintain the culture within a company. In order to hold a company accountable, the individuals within that organization have to first take a long hard look in the mirror. Individual honesty is one of the most important aspects of culture creation.
We’ve all heard the phrase.
“You’re only as strong as your weakest link.”
If your target is to create a more inclusive and empowering atmosphere within your workplace, then it requires buy-in from everyone involved. It puts the onus on individuals to check their biases and prejudices and realize how their thought processes impact the overall environment within an organization. Every individual is different and has different experiences. Certain people will be at various stages in their learning process.
Looking in the mirror is hard sometimes. Recognizing how your actions, feelings, and statements impact an environment can be one of the biggest barriers to an inclusive space. Not everyone is willing to admit how they contribute to toxic environments because honesty can hurt. But it’s necessary. You first have to figure out how you contribute to a company’s culture and see if that is a positive or negative impact. Do your values align? Are they displayed on a consistent basis? It’s not just about how to contribute to the bottom line.
Accountability looks like maintaining the standards that your core values and mission have put in place while working to get all employees to the level of understanding necessary to uphold those values. It means not ignoring microaggressions that don’t align with the company values. It also means not turning a blind eye to co-workers’ actions that don’t mesh with the company mission. It’s not easy upholding standards with your peers but that is what is required in order to maintain the proper organizational culture.
Plenty of companies like to use catchy buzzwords to describe their culture and what they are all about. Transparent. Progressive. Inclusive. Empathetic. Those are just a few common ones that come to mind. The problem with using these words is that your organization has to actually be committed to the true meaning. If not, then your environment is nothing like your sales pitch.
What does it mean to be a “progressive” organization? From my experiences, it often means adopting culture in your organization just enough for you to point to it whenever someone brings it up. Throwing up a pride flag in the company break room. Acknowledging Juneteenth just before it became a national holiday. Extending maternity leave from one week to two weeks. Little gestures that show you aren’t oblivious and allow you to do the bare minimum.
This isn’t what commitment looks like. This isn’t how you hold yourselves accountable as an organization. Accountability looks like addressing the policies and practices in place in your organization that don’t promote growth. Taking a serious look at your hiring practices to understand why the executives page on your website looks like the local country club luncheon. Recognizing inequity issues within your organization and implementing policies that address these issues; that’s accountability.
It goes beyond race. It goes beyond gender. It goes beyond sexuality. These are just the tip of the iceberg. How else can you create an environment that is truly empathetic and accepting? Go beyond what is the most popular trend on social media. Understand and listen to your employees and their needs. That is the best place to start. Commit to changing your environment for those who experience it every day; that’s when you’ll truly start to see the results.
Let the outsiders in
It’s not always easy holding yourself accountable. Both as an individual and as an organization. Sometimes it is best to bring a third party in to help with this. Whether it is a consulting agency or simply an individual that can provide outside perspective, it may be beneficial to utilize these resources. You can be too close to the situation to really analyze issues and figure out solutions.
When you look at different types of organizations, oftentimes, it is the consumer that does the job of holding them accountable. Whether it is sports fans of a particular team or unhappy customers that buy a certain product, the louder the noise the more often a company tends to listen and make changes. Unfortunately, it usually has to reach a certain level of discomfort before organizations are willing to respond.
The customer is always right? There will be plenty of business owners that would debate that statement, but it does have some validity. Consumers play a big role in an organization and their perception. A part of that perception is the culture that is created by the organization and conveyed through marketing. Businesses want to make money, so they often cater to their customer and their needs. As we discussed in our last article, sometimes it is hard to navigate the fine line between employees and consumers.
Regardless, organizations should be focused on creating cultures that are diverse and inclusive. The benefits far outweigh any possible negatives. You won’t have to consistently react to issues like inequity or discrimination because you’ve built a culture that addresses both daily. Attack the roots of the issues so that you have room to grow an environment that is positive and impactful.
This was the final of my three-part series on “Creating a culture” within an organization. You can learn more about the mind behind the writing and more of my thoughts on leadership HERE. Check out all of my insight on leadership, mental health, professional sports, and more on my medium channel now!