Sometimes I hear Leaders complain about the culture in their firm or one of their teams. They don’t like some aspect of it. They want it to change, and may task line managers or HR to change it.
It’s not always easy for these Leaders to grasp that they created what they are unhappy with. They are the biggest influence on what goes on in their firm. How they behave, plays a big part in creating the unspoken norms, rituals, myths, jokes etc., that make their culture. Their behavior is being watched all the time in the flesh, over video, on the phone, in emails and online. It sets the tone from the top that their staff follow or rebel against each day and express in their own behavior.
Leaders, all your behavior matters!
Watch how people respond to you. Listen to feedback.
Do an audit. Decide what you want to change.
You cannot change everything at once. It helps to start with a small step. So let’s look at what you do when you enter the office in the morning.
Be visible in the morning
Greet all of your direct reports face-to-face each morning when you’re in the office. Try to greet everyone who works for you. Don’t be the Leader who builds a bunker around him by heading straight to their office and closes the door. That behavior drives the perception of stress and withdrawal.
“Good morning. How are you doing?”
“I have so much to do today…” is not a good reason to avoid your people.
As a Leader, you will need their attention and engagement to achieve, so make time to acknowledge and greet them. Saying “Good morning” is not only an extrovert activity; it’s equally valuable for Introverts. It’s an excellent listening opportunity to pick up on what is going on - what you need to know for the day.
Take a minute and ask, "Good morning, how are you doing?". This should not be a one-off. You are not making a royal visit. Make a habit of it. If you are an early starter, then take a few minutes when the office has filled up and walk the floor. When you do it each day, your team will come to expect it. They will experience a deeper and direct connection with the Leader.
You don’t have build elaborate personal relationships or memorise family trees to make a personal impact with everyone who works for you.
Be in tune with the pulse of your business
Look them in the eye. Be present. Experience the connection.
Be attentive to what they say and their mood. Show interest.
Notice how the tone changes day by day. Maybe it follows the business cycle, project plan milestones or sales cycle. Notice the highs and lows. Is it time to bring the team together? Is it time to celebrate success? Is it time for lessons learnt? Is it time to reconnect the team with why we are here? It’s better to pick up this way than wait until your managers can see it or the business breaks.
You are making a new ritual. When you begin, the team will notice the change. After a few weeks it will become part of the culture and they will notice if you miss a day. Some people will mirror you and follow a similar behavior. Others will not, though they may need to do it to connect better with their co-workers. So you can share you experience of “Good morning. How are you doing?” and reflect with them about how it may help their professional practice.
That’s how you change a culture: one behavior at a time.