A Culture of Silence is one where employees willfully withhold important work related information. This is not because they are bad people but because there is something inherently wrong with the leader/employee relationship. It may sound like a dull cliché to say, “it starts with the leader” but in the case of Cultures of Silence, research shows that this is usually the case.
“On a (football) team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.”
Whether you like them or not, it is hard to deny that the New England Patriots have cracked the success code. In the 2016 season alone the Patriots scored nearly twice as many touchdowns and nearly 30% more field goals than their opponents. Are they simply a better team when compared to others? Is their success a matter of luck? Is it the coach or the quarterback? These five quotes from coach Bill Belichick illustrate a winning leadership philosophy.
The issue of Accountability often comes up in leadership discussions. In many organizations there isn’t agreement about what it is, how to get it and how to keep it. Many leadership discussions sound like this, “We need an Accountability Culture” and “We need Accountability Training”. When I ask leaders to explain why they believe they need this type of culture and training, three common responses emerge:
First, memorize the words to this song by Sting.
Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you
So, what will it be this year? Better communication? More development? Operational Superiority? All of the above? These are all good New Year’s resolutions and they are larger than life. For example, what does ‘better communication’ actually mean? To whom will we be a better communicator? What kind of communication will be better: face-to-face, email communication, texting, telephone communication? How will you know that you are a better communicator? What verbal and non-verbal queues will you see that indicate improvement?
Millennials, according to the National Center for Health Sciences, will exceed the 100 million mark due to the highest birth rate since the Boomer generation. This means that the millennial population will become a force to reckon with in the work place.
“Creating and integrating new products and services
within an existing structure doesn’t have to be impossible”. - R. Bogosian
How to Make it to This List:
Start With Employee Engagement
Achieving this exclusive rank means that your leadership practices must be perceived as fair, just, and caring. Companies on the list most likely have high employee engagement levels. Employee engagement is mostly a state of mind—the employee’s mind.
Many leaders can easily wrap their arms around fairness and justice but may be challenged by the caring aspect of their responsibility. Caring should probably rank number one on the list because of three essential human needs: (1) the need for belonging, (2) the need for significance, and (3) the need for self-esteem. When leaders demonstrate that they care about and for their employees, it shows and employees pay a dividend of reciprocity. I often tell leaders, “Your employees will have your back at the exact moment in time when they know for sure that you have theirs and not one second before”. Demonstrating that you have the backs of your employees is not about being nice to them (although not a bad idea), it shows that you genuinely have their interest in the front of your mind.
How to Demonstrate Caring
You can demonstrate caring for employees when you know what they care about and why? If you know for certain what each employee cares about, great. If not, start by asking in one-to-one meetings. There are two, wide-open questions that can start the conversation:
- “What aspects of your work do you feel good about”?
- “What aspects of your work do you struggle with”?
It’s very important that you listen carefully to the answers without interrupting, hijacking the conversation, discounting your employees' thoughts and ideas. Listen as though you have everything to learn and not as though you know everything.
Case in Point
Working with a management team at a national automobile wholesaler ranked in the top 100 companies to work, I listened to one executive (I’ll call him Ben) share his philosophy for employee care. He follows faithfully three rules that contribute to the companies unwavering rank in the top 100 “Great Places to Work”:
- The 10 Card Rule:
- Every week Ben thinks of two employees who have demonstrated exemplary work. He writes each one a hand-written note, not email or text. He describes what they did, how it contributed to an end result and why it was significant. Ben was surprised to see the cards proudly displayed in offices and cubicles. “The cards are not difficult to write nor time consuming, so if it means so much to so many, why stop”?
- Fill my Office Rule:
- Ben knows that succession is critical in any business. He views his employees as potential replacements for his role and acts on development of each one to make sure they are constantly learning and growing in their current jobs, as well as preparing for upward mobility.
- Feedback Friday:
- Ben picks two associates who have “hit the ball out the park” and calls them to offer feedback and express his gratitude.
Ben believes that strict adherence to three leadership rules contributes to the company’s high-ranking, high engagement levels and gridiron commitment. Ben follows the company philosophy, “Let those who build the well drink from it”. Ben is one example of many executives at this company who follow the three rules.
Many leaders might say, “That kind of practice would be frowned upon in my company” or “I could never do that, it’s not me”. Okay, in that case, roll the dice and hope for the best.
Strong employee engagement is possible in every company. Each leader must have the courage to show they care and demonstrate that they have their employees’ backs. Try it for one month and track the results. See if you get an uptick in effort and reciprocal caring that could improve process results, client interactions, and increased discretionary effort.
A Culture of Voice: Every Voice Matters
Think of the best person for whom you ever worked. What did they do that worked so well for you? When did they screw up? What happened after they screwed up? Chances are you have had both good and bad “Boss” experiences.