Co-Creating Healthy Cultures

“The most important thing I’m looking for in my next position is a healthy leadership culture.” As I listened to these ‘early career’ individuals talk about what they’re seeking as they explore transitioning from their first position to their next, I was fascinated with their priorities.

In my experience things such as gift/talent fit, compensation, support for work-life balance has historically taken center stage. However, navigating professionally through the ongoing pandemic has clearly caused many to reconsider what they value most in their work-a-day world.

In an article for Forbes, Jacob Engel writes, “Peter Drucker was famous for this alleged quote: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” In working with many entrepreneurs, I have found this to be very true, as the culture is the secret sauce that keeps employees motivated and clients happy. In fact I recently read a great quote that said, “People do not just quit companies or leaders … they quit organizational cultures.”

In probing a little further with the ‘early career’ folks I asked, “What does healthy leadership culture look like for you?” Without little hesitation they fired back, “Honesty,” “Mutual accountability,” “Clear boundaries,” “Direct and reciprocal constructive communication.”

Every context has a culture. Values, norms, behaviors that make up any given culture are driven by influence. Leaders, because of their position, have significant opportunity for influencing culture. Yet every person in that culture also has a level of agency in influencing the culture.

In his seminal work, “Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development,” psychologist Bruce Tuckman outlines the four phases of group development: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. Embedded in each one of these phases is the shaping of culture. These are scripting points that determine the values that impact behaviors. And these are the times when the health of a culture can be created.

One of the earliest and most challenging lessons I learned as a leader (that is clearly applicable in all aspects of life) was how critical it is to create a healthy culture. Great visions, aspirations and ambitions need healthy cultures in order to reach their potential. And in my experience healthy cultures are co-created. When every phase of development is intentionally approached as an inclusive invitation for cultural input, the outcome is inevitably healthier.

I’m very grateful for the conversation with these ‘early career’ individuals. They reminded me yet again of the importance and impact of a healthy culture. At their core healthy cultures value and respect both the humanity and the gifts and talents of an individual.

2 thoughts on “Co-Creating Healthy Cultures”

  1. So true. When I departed my congregation that was healthy on all the fine measures, I spoke of the culture more than anything else. No surprise to those who know me, I referred to several baseball teams that have a culture conducive to success year after year.

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