What goes into creating a healthy organizational culture?

Are you creating a healthy organizational culture? Are you checking in with your team members about their well-being? 

Unfortunately, according to a Limeade Institute survey, many leaders may be missing this mark. 77% of managers said that they were genuinely caring for their employees, whereas only 55% of employees said the same.

71% of managers said that they agreed with the statement that ‘the one-on-one check-ins were focused on their employee’s well-being,’ whereas only 33% of employees felt the same. That’s a significant disparity since far fewer employees feel like their managers are checking in about their well-being.

Building a culture of care within an organization is important because ultimately an organization's biggest resource is its humans. 

You’ve likely heard the maxim - people quit their bosses, not their jobs. One's job satisfaction is highly correlated with the relationship with their boss. 

And as humans, we're contagious - our emotions are contagious. 

You know what it looks like when someone's in a bad mood. They come into a meeting, and they radiate an energy that they do NOT want to be there. As a colleague, you can attempt to match their energy with positivity. 

However, if it’s the boss holding that energy, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to change the dynamic. Others will begin to feel the stress, and the energy of the room will go down. This isn’t healthy.

Google conducted a study - Project Aristotle - to determine what set healthy and productive teams apart. What made certain teams shine, be collaborative, and successful? 

And the results may surprise you. It actually surprised me because I assumed it would be the hard and technical skills that won out.

Instead, the number one dynamic that set a successful team apart from the others doing okay was psychological safety. 

Teams that felt safe were able to take risks, to be vulnerable, and to see each other's humanity. These teams had the edge as they were able to achieve amazing results within a large organization.

So check in about your team culture - do they feel safe to share their feedback, to have the tough conversations? 

Before I get into the ideas, I want to make a disclaimer. Just because you have a leadership role, like a director or manager title, doesn't automatically make you a leader. 

Because leadership is earned. Trust is earned. Loyalty is earned. 

Often, folks come to these roles and assume that people are just going to listen because of the title. People will listen and follow if you take the time to build psychological safety.


Now, on to the list of ideas … 



The biggest thing everyone has to prioritize is self-leadership, self-regulation. It's a crucial ingredient. Deepen your own self-awareness about what it takes for you to show up as your best self. 

What is it that you need in order to be primed, to be that person that is embodied in your values? Who’s excited for the day? The person bringing the energy into a space?

We all have different requirements. 

Fundamentals include sleep, hydration, movement, and stillness. Stillness is a big one. Are you cultivating enough time throughout the day for stillness? To be alone with your thoughts? Do you understand what sets you off? Do you know what stresses you out? 

Do the fundamentals so you can respond effectively instead of reactively. 


Being Engaged

Engage in the behaviors that were highlighted by Project Aristotle. The study found the elements to create psychological safety were active listening and being curious. These are not brand new ideas, however, common sense isn’t always common practice (a phrase popularized by Brendon Burchard).

We can know all the ‘right’ behaviors and what we’re supposed to do, but how many of us engage in that behavior?

Observe yourself the next time you're in a meeting. 

Are you distracted? Are you on your phone? Are you checking emails? 

Or are you present? Are you being engaged in the conversation? 

Being present is crucial for people to feel like they’re being heard, which is part of building trust. 

And staying present is determined by how regulated you are - the first point.


Ask Good Questions

It's easy just to keep things on the surface. A quick “how was your weekend?” and move on. “Ok, cool, now let’s get to the agenda.”

Instead, try asking what does support look like for you? Did you sleep well? 

During these stressful times, take time to check in how people are sleeping because at night when we don't have the distractions of TV or phones, that's when stress and anxiety bubble up and disrupt our sleep. 

Be curious about their answers because it’ll help you gauge how they’re doing and to go deeper as needed.

And so go two or three levels deeper. How was your weekend? How are your loved ones? How are you sleeping?


Be Generous

Be generous in your praise. It's easy to nitpick on the things that go wrong. Instead, strive to be your team’s biggest cheerleader. 

I'm not saying go overboard because then it'll come off as inauthentic and performative. 

Look for those opportunities where you notice them and be quick to praise, “Good job. That was awesome.” 

We're so used to being criticized. 

Let’s elevate the best in each other and play to each others’ strengths, instead of solely focusing on the weaknesses. And again it comes to our own self-regulation because when we’re stressed out, we tend to be reactive.


Be Collaborative 

When things do go wrong, don’t be quick to blame others. “Hey, what happened? What did you do?” This line of questioning automatically puts someone on the defensive. 

Instead, try asking “what happened, and how can we do this better?” Emphasize the 'we' part versus you and me

In order to get to this space where people are able to share real constructive feedback, it builds upon the first four ideas - self-leadership, being engaged, asking good questions, and being generous. Creating psychological safety.

People will not be honest in their feedback if there’s no safety. It's the breakdown of communication that leads to teams becoming toxic. A culture where people are talking behind each other's back.

Safety is important for teams to be honest, vulnerable, and not worried about repercussions. They can share about how the organization can do better. The tough conversations can be had.

When this openness is set in place, then it’s a healthy organization.  

So I hope these five ideas serve you. And I wish you luck because it’s not an easy task to hold space for your teams. 

Please prioritize the first idea of taking care of yourself because then the rest will follow. 

As always, be gentle and kind to yourself.


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