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Sunday, 24 February 2019

Tolerating Bad Behaviour? Watch Out, It Can Be Catching!

"The culture of a business is defined by the worst behaviour that the leader is prepared to tolerate"

The implication is, of course, that the leader of any business defines the culture of the business and is the champion and driver of that culture.

Unfortunately not every leader realises this and the culture can develop of itself, either benign and positive or malign and negative.

The point is that every business has a culture that effectively says "this is how we do things around here" and then leaders seem surprised if it is better or worse than they expect or want.

I have seen businesses that reflect the attitude of the leader to a remarkable extent and once again this can be anywhere on the positive to negative continuum.

In one case the leader openly took liberties with expenses and then was astonished that fiddling was rife in the business.

On a positive note, in another case, the leader was dramatically and visibly innovative and that attitude became endemic throughout the business.

The point that leaders need to realise (if they don't already) is that their attitude and behaviour is almost inevitably mirrored throughout the organisation. In fact, one of the most important functions of the successful leader is the development of a defined culture that includes a statement of purpose and then to drive it into the business so that if asked, any employee should be able to recite it.  The culture is not just a statement; it has to be a living organism.

That is a tough call because it demands consistency of the visible attitude and behaviour from the leader and that says that the leader isn't allowed any variance in their public face.

That is, of course, nonsense because the implication there is that leaders have to be some sort of automaton with an outward personality without variation.

People will always accept variations in the leader's behaviour unless it becomes the norm against which people rebel either openly or covertly.

The natural consequence is a probable deterioration in morale and a reduction in performance often to the surprise of the top team.

Leaders don't always realise or understand the power that they weird; the power of benign influences that lead to a positive ethos or the power to depress and upset the team.

Does this mean that the leader has to be an actor exhibiting only positive behaviour without any thought of personal feelings?

Not at all. What the people want and indeed need from the leader is honesty, openness and above all, fairness.

Back to the opening statement.  Tolerance of unacceptable behaviour by the leader can and does lead to unacceptable attitudes and behaviours that if not caught at an early strange can spread with surprising speed.

Leaders cannot and must not tolerate negative and malign behaviour and must take immediate and visible action.

The leader is the champion and driver of the culture and it is entirely in the province of the leader to make it positive or negative.

Think carefully about which one you are consistently exhibiting to the team.  Be the thought leader in the business and make it positive.

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