As a member of the executive team, you have influence. It could be over the entire organization or over a department, but the fact of the matter is your influence matters to everyone at the company as they watch and sometimes emulate the behavior they see at the top. If you and your team are mindful of the level of influence and demonstrate positive interaction, excellent. If you’re not thinking about the impact you and the other executives have on the rest of the company, you could be creating a toxic culture.
No one sets out to create a toxic culture at the office. Yet, many companies operate with this problem for years at a time. This year both Nike and Lululemon have experienced headlines due to the toxicity of their culture. Recent articles indicate that bad behavior in the executive ranks is on the rise.
There are reasons we are experiencing this increase. Technology has created an always on, around the clock economy. Along with increased workloads, stress levels have risen due to expectations of real time decision making and full time accessibility. Making matters worse, social applications for communicating have resulted in far less in-person meetings, where relationships are created and interactions are more empathetic.
The results of working in a toxic environment are not always readily apparent. Over time it undermines performance, reduces productivity, stifles creativity, and impacts both decision making as well as the desire to put in the extra effort.
For executives, self awareness is a key factor in mitigating bad behavior. Unfortunately this is easier said than done. Recognition of our own actions is already difficult, and as we climb the professional food chain, we tend to focus on our own needs and forget about the feelings of those we manage.
It’s human nature to miss our own shortcomings. We all tend to think of ourselves as good leaders, a positive self image bias. We dismiss negative inputs, unless they come from someone in an authority position, which becomes fewer and fewer people once we’ve reached an executive position. If you’re not regularly looking at your leadership approach and assessing areas for improvement, there is a good chance you are demonstrating some toxic traits.
To ensure you’re not creating a toxic culture, you need to create a policy of open dialog, transparency, constructive debate, and mutual respect. The ability for executives, as well as their managers, to be honest with each other without the fear of repercussions builds a stronger more tight-knit organization and facilitates better decision making.
In addition to creating constructive policies, you must also be open to feedback you won’t always like to hear. This can be a difficult skill to adopt, but is critical to avoid a toxic culture. If you can’t hear the truth, how can you expect others in the company to adopt the practice? By being open to feedback from trusted colleagues, you are able to reflect on your actions, understand what is triggering your bad behaviors, and lead by example by apologizing when necessary. Showing vulnerability in this way is a powerful motivator for others to see.
To ensure your new hires don’t bring bad behaviors with them, retained search firms are experts at identifying the types of behaviors that could be destructive. Good recruiters can also provide objective assessments of your current culture and work with you on improvements. At Sheer Velocity, we partner with Hogan Assessments to provide industry leading insight into personality and workplace performance. From candidate identification to onboarding to ongoing training and development, we are here to work with you in creating the best possible executive team. To learn more and speak with us about your situation, send us a note.