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How Great Leaders Use Their Natural Curiosity to Transform a Broken Culture


By Marla Tabaka, Inc.

Ditch the stress and judgment. View your culture problems differently to find the answers--and the solutions.

I've always said that if you aren't intentional about building your culture, it will build itself, and you won't like the results. Creating a company culture from the ground up is one thing; repairing a broken culture requires in-depth exploration, a significant shift in perspective, and commitment. To see things from a broader perspective, you must release your stress and judgment, and step back to view things from a mindset of curiosity--a quality that's innate to entrepreneurs, but often underutilized.


The exploration begins within you, the leader.

Your values, integrity, commitment, level of confidence, and the effects of your overall mindset will trickle down into your organization. An evaluation of the current condition of your company culture is not about placing blame; it's about personal growth. Observe your thoughts and behavior. How have you contributed to a damaged or even toxic culture?


Explore your values; what is most important to you?

If you are living in integrity with your values (especially your top three), they should dictate just about everything you do. When there's an imbalance in your life, reviewing your personal values will typically reveal that you're not living in a way that represents them well.


Which values will you introduce to your culture?

If your ideal customer got an inside peek at your daily operations, what would they say to others about it? When someone asks one of your employees what it's like to work for you, how do they respond? When people talk about your product or service, would you feel proud or embarrassed by their assessment?

Thinking from your customer's point of view, write your ideal product testimonial or review. Think about the values, actions, structure, and philosophies that must be applied to live up to such a review.


Your attitude runs through your culture.

The stress of running a business that is not functioning well (because if your culture is imbalanced, it won't) is overwhelming. Add personal issues to the mix, and it can become more than you can bear. You have to be super-human to leave the stress behind when you come to work, but that's what a great leader does. Otherwise, you become a part of the problem, and your team follows suit. Much like a parent/child relationship, if you aren't safe and secure, neither are your employees.

Don't shoulder the burden alone. Take steps to build an inclusive culture and work together as a team to brainstorm and implement changes. Ask others for help: mentors and coaches are a great place to start.


Ask, rather than assume.

What do your customers want? Making assumptions based on your perspective alone will surely lead you down the path of destruction. Did you know that most companies fail due to a lack of market need, not lack of funding? Do your market research--and I don't mean asking friends and family.

Likewise, what do your employees want? Not everyone is motivated by money alone. Gallup's study shows that employees who receive praise and recognition are more engaged, committed, and productive.


Your employees need things that you don't understand.

Entrepreneurs and employees have very different personality types. Business owners often tell me that they don't understand why they should have to hand-hold (at least that's how they view it) their employees. They wonder:

  • Why do they need praise? After all, they do get a paycheck.
  • How come they can't follow instructions and do it my way?
  • Why do they have to ask so many questions?
  • Why aren't they more reliable?

The answers to these questions go deep, but to touch on the surface, remember that if everyone were like you, your company would not grow. You've heard the saying about too many cooks in the kitchen? If you listen to your employees and construct a culture that feeds and challenges them while showing appreciation for their contribution, your company will thrive.


Begin here to improve or repair your culture.

Once you've explored these questions and insights, begin the work to your culture by learning more about your team members. Countless assessments are available to identify their strengths, learning and communication styles, as well as personality types. Make sure that each employee holds a job that leverages their strengths and keeps them engaged. Work together as a team and offer incentives that mean something to them.

Final thought: The investment of your valuable time and money will reward you by reducing payroll expenses and employee turnover. It will improve your product and customer service. It can increase customer retention rates and improve your public image. And you'll love this: you will have fewer headaches.

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